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Body Therapists: Career Information & Requirements

Read on to see the career options for body therapists. Learn about the education and training requirements. Get the details about career opportunities and earning potential to see if this field is a good fit for you.

Career Definition of a Body Therapist

A body therapist uses natural healing methods characterized by a mind-body approach to wellness. Body therapists may use a number of different techniques, including acupressure, massage therapy, reflexology, and shiatsu or sports massage to relieve stress, alleviate muscle and joint pain, enhance emotional and mental well-being, and boost immunity. Body therapists conduct a brief interview with their clients and then perform bodywork to meet the client's needs. They generally work in a quiet setting and often use oils, lotions, or scented candles to enhance the experience. Body therapists' other duties may include billing, networking, marketing, and scheduling. Part-time work is common among body therapists. Most specialize in one or more of the dozens of approaches to body therapy. Body therapists can work in a doctor's office, fitness center, spa, rehabilitation center, individual or group practice, or see clients at their home or office.

Education Degrees in massage therapy, physical therapy or related alternative health fields
Job Skills Excellent health & physical stamina, good communication, business and networking skills
Median Salary (2017) $39,990 per year (all massage therapists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 26% growth (all massage therapists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A body therapist can earn a diploma or certificate after about one year of study and is prepared for national certification and entry-level employment. Body therapists may also earn associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in massage therapy, physical therapy or related alternative health fields. State licensing requirements vary, although national certification through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB, www.ncbtmb.org) requires coursework and clinical practice and must be renewed periodically. Body therapy students learn the theory and practice of therapeutic massage and related bodywork topics, ethics, business and law, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology.

Skills Required

Working as a body therapist is a highly physical job, so practitioners need good health and physical stamina. Body therapists need good communication, interpersonal, business, and networking skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), body therapists with formal training, state licenses, and great networking skills are most likely to develop strong careers. Annual salaries earned by body therapists vary depending on the specific field practiced. The BLS reports that massage therapists earned a median annual salary of $39,990 in May 2017, while chiropractors earned $68,640 per year. The job outlook for careers in alternative body therapies is good, as the BLS projects growth in employment ranging from 26% for massage therapists to 12% for chiropractors from 2016-2026, depending on the specialty.

Alternate Career Options

Other related career choices for this field may include:

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers work for sports teams, rehab centers, doctors' offices, schools, and related organizations; they care for athletes and the injuries or illnesses affecting bones and muscles. Athletic trainers provide guidance on injury prevention and diagnosis and treatment as needed, such as with tape or braces. They are also sometimes first on the sports field to administer first aid to an injured athlete. A bachelor's or master's degree in athletic training from an accredited school is typically required for employment. Professional certification and state licensing are usually required, although qualifications vary by location. The BLS reports that jobs for athletic trainers are expected to increase by 23% from 2016-2026. The BLS also reports that athletic trainers earned median annual pay of $46,630 in 2017.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists aid people with injuries, illnesses or chronic conditions in regaining range of motion and pain relief. They evaluate pain and develop treatment plans using techniques like heat or cold, hands-on massage, or devices like braces. Although it is possible to earn a Master of Physical Therapy degree, a 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy is commonly required by employers. While state licenses are required, physical therapists may also pursue voluntary board certification in an area of specialty. According to the BLS, jobs for physical therapists are expected to increase by 28% from 2016-2026, and this occupation paid a median salary of $86,850 in 2017.


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