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Massage Therapy Career

Career Description

A Massage Therapist massages customers for hygienic or remedial purposes.

Common Work Tasks

  • Conduct an informal interview with the client to find out about the person’s medical history and desired results from the massage
  • Discuss which techniques could be beneficial to the client and which could be harmful
  • Alter their approach or concentrate on any areas of particular discomfort as necessary
  • Use massage oils, lotions, or creams to massage and rub the client’s muscles
  • Confer with clients about their medical histories and problems with stress or pain to determine how massage will be most helpful
  • Apply finger and hand pressure to specific points of the body
  • Massage and knead muscles and soft tissues of the body to provide treatment for medical conditions, injuries, or wellness maintenance
  • Provide clients with guidance and information about techniques for postural improvement and stretching, strengthening,  relaxation, and rehabilitative exercises
  • Assess clients’ soft tissue condition, joint quality and function, muscle strength, and range of motion
  • Develop and propose client treatment plans that specify which types of massage are to be used

Other Job Titles

Massage Therapists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Masseuse
  • Physical Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Home Health Aides

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by State and locality. There are roughly 1,500 massage therapy postsecondary schools,  college programs, and training programs throughout the country. Massage therapy programs generally cover subjects such as anatomy; physiology, the study of organs and tissues; kinesiology, the study of motion and body mechanics;  business; ethics; as well as hands-on practice of massage techniques. Training programs may concentrate on certain modalities of massage. Several programs also provide alumni services such as post-graduate job placement and continuing educational services. Both full- and part-time programs are available.

These programs vary in accreditation. Massage therapy training programs are generally approved by a State board, and may also be accredited by an independent accrediting agency.  In States that regulate massage therapy, graduation from an approved school or training program is usually required in order to practice. Some State regulations require that therapists keep up on their knowledge and technique through continuing education.

Certification and Licensure
After completion of a training program, many massage therapists opt to take the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB). Many States require that therapists pass this test in order to practice massage therapy. The exam is administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), which has several eligibility requirements. In States that require massage therapy program approval, a candidate must graduate from a State-approved training institute or submit a portfolio of training experience for NCBTMB review to qualify for the test. In locations that do not require accredited training programs, this is unnecessary.

  Both strong communication skills and a friendly, empathetic personality are extremely helpful qualities for fostering a trusting relationship with clients and in turn, expanding one’s client base. Massage can be a delicate issue for some clients and because of this, making clients feel comfortable is one of the most important abilities for massage therapists.


The median annual salary for a Massage Therapist is $35,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $71,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $16,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of massage therapists are:

  • Personal Care Services- $39,490
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners- $45,120
  • Traveler Accommodation- $36,420
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $39,490
  • Offices of Physicians - $40,290

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  20%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 24,000
  • Employment 2006 : 118,000
  • Employment 2016:  142,000
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