Massage Therapist: Career Profile & Occupational Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a massage therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Massage therapists treat the muscles of a client through the use of touch. The treatments they offer may range from a simple massage for relaxation to more advanced forms that provide other benefits, such as injury healing. Earning a certificate or degree in massage therapy may be achieved in less than two years. Nearly all states require licensure or certification in order to work. Therapists are expected to see employment growth, although many of these professionals will be self-employed.

Required Education Certificate programs are most common, although associate's degrees are also available
Licensing and Certification Licensing is required in most states; some states use certification exams offered by the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23%*
Median Salary (2013) $35,920*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Massage Therapist Career Profile

Therapists typically specialize in several forms of massage, also referred to as modalities, which require different techniques. Common modalities are Swedish, sports, deep-tissue and neuromuscular.

Although massage therapists may be employed by a gym or spa, many are self-employed, practicing in their own studio or traveling to a client's home. Muscular stamina and hand steadiness is important, especially when handling multiple appointments in a day. Massage therapists need good communication skills so they can interview clients to determine their needs and market their services to gain new business. Many of these professionals work less than 40 hours a week.

Educational Requirements

To become trained, massage therapists typically enroll in postsecondary educational programs that may be completed in a year or less. The curricula may include coursework in kinesiology, first aid, hygiene, anatomy and physiology. Hands-on learning is a significant portion of programs and many schools have clinics that allow students to practice techniques on people.

Licensing Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 44 states and the District of Columbia had regulations for massage therapists as of 2012 ( While the requirements may vary, most states mandate the completion of an approved program and passing a qualifying exam. Some states have their own exam, while others may require therapists to pass either the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination. These exams may cover areas in professional standards, body systems, massage assessment and application.

Massage Therapists Occupational Outlook

The BLS indicated that employment for massage therapists was expected to increase by 23% from 2012-2022. The projected increase is spurred by a growing number of spas and massage clinics. Increasing awareness to the advantages of massages and a large population of active senior citizens will also influence growth. New massage therapists may not be able to work full time until they have built up their clientele.

Salary Information

As of May 2013, the BLS reported that the median salary for massage therapists was $35,920 annually. Most massage therapists earned between $18,280 and $71,020 per year. Those employed in Alaska, New York and Oregon received the highest average salaries, earning $88,500, $53,070 and $52,850 per year, respectively (BLS).

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