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Career Information for a Degree in Massage and Related Therapy

The massage and physical therapy programs outlined in this article culminate in associate's and doctoral degrees, respectively. Continue reading for an overview of these programs, as well as employment and salary info related to some career options for graduates.

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An associate's degree is required for individuals interested in a career as a massage therapist. Massage therapists may work in spas or resorts, or with individuals who have been injured in an accident or are physically incapacitated. Physical therapists are required to have a doctor of physical therapy degree; they treat patients with the goal of developing, restoring or maintaining the patients' movements and functional abilities.

Essential Information

Massage therapists use muscle manipulation techniques to treat clients' injuries or relieve stress. An associate's degree is the typical academic requirement for aspiring massage therapists. Licensure is necessary for these professionals in most states.

Another career path related to massage therapy is physical therapy. Physical therapists typically have more expansive duties that include setting up long-term treatment plans for chronically injured patients and using targeted exercises or specialized equipment on patients. Prospective physical therapists must have a graduate degree, and they also must be licensed.

Career Titles Physical Therapists Massage Therapists
Education Requirements Doctor of Physical Therapy Associate's degree in massage therapy
Licensure / Certification State licensure required; voluntary specialty certification State or local licensure required in most states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 34% 22%
Mean Annual Salary (May 2015)* $85,790 $43,170

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Massage and physical therapy degree programs are designed to prepare students for careers as massage therapists and physical therapists. Although the road to becoming a physical therapist requires far more education, both professions help to ease physical ailments in the body.

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists work with clients or patients in spas, resorts, clinics and other physical rehabilitation settings. Increasingly, hospitals and other conventional medical institutions are recognizing the value of massage therapy for accident victims and those who are otherwise physically incapacitated, making hospitals and clinics a growing source of employment for these workers. Some therapists may specialize in techniques such as chair massage or deep tissue therapy.

In massage therapy associate degree programs, students learn about anatomy and physiology, infection control and massage techniques. These 2-year programs often require at least one semester of practical massage training. They are commonly the minimal education requirement for this field; however, students may wish to apply their credits toward earning a bachelor's degree in a related physical science field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with a growth rate of 22%, massage therapy was a quickly growing field that should offer positive job prospects from 2014-2024. The mean yearly wage for massage therapists as of May 2015 was $43,170. Most massage therapists earned between $18,860 and $74,860 per year.

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist provides services that help people develop, restore and maintain movement and functional ability. A physical therapist works with people of all ages, from infants to geriatric clients, who experience threat or impairments to their physical independence because of pain or disability. A physical therapist can focus on one of four areas: promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Physical therapists may focus on areas like sports physical therapy.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy is typically a 3-year program that includes an internship and various clinical education opportunities. In required classes, students learn about popular ways to promote healthy lifestyles; they also study medical screening techniques and pharmaceuticals. Other required courses include anatomy and physiology, physical movement and how to work with patients of all ages.

Physical therapist positions were expected to grow 34% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS, which was much faster than average. In May 2015, the BLS reported that physical therapists earned a mean annual wage of $85,790. Those workers in the 10th-90th percentiles earned between $57,060 and $119,790 annually.

Massage therapists need an associate's degree and most states require massage therapists to be licensed. Physical therapists need to complete a doctor of physical therapy degree and must be licensed. The BLS predicts strong job growth in both of these fields from 2014-2024, with jobs for massage therapists increasing by 22% and a 34% increase in jobs for physical therapists.

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