Massage therapists treat pain and overworked or injured muscles, and provide stress relief, by manipulating and working a client's muscles. Requirements for massage therapists in most states include completion of a training program and state licensure. Learn more about the work that massage therapists do, as well as the requirements and job outlook for this career.
Massage therapists manipulate soft-tissue muscles for the purposes of treating muscle pain, decompressing overworked muscles, rehabilitating injured muscles and reducing stress. To practice massage therapy in nearly all states, candidates must complete a training program and acquire state licensure. Candidates for licensure must pass an exam and a background check, and sometimes CPR certification is also needed. Licensed massage therapists must complete continuing education to maintain their credential.
|Required Education||State-approved massage therapy program, with 500 or more hours of training|
|Other Requirements||Background check, CPR certification in some states|
|Exam Requirements||Mandatory exam, offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage or the state in which a therapist works|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||22% for massage therapists*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$41,420 for massage therapists*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Massage Therapy Certificate Information
In order to enter into a certificate program for massage therapy, institutions generally require candidates to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. These programs are primarily offered by community and technical colleges, as well as by a variety of holistic health schools. Most massage therapy certificate programs can be completed in 9-12 months.
Massage therapy coursework covers such topics as organ and tissue anatomy, motion and body mechanics, physiology, kinesiology and ethics. Additionally, students learn various massage techniques, including Swedish massage, reflexology, sports massage, acupressure and neuromuscular massage. Certificate programs in massage therapy generally involve lectures, readings and theoretical work, as well as labs and clinical practice. Upon completion of the program, students will have accumulated between 500 and 750 hours of hands-on and didactic instruction.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2014, 45 states and the District of Columbia required massage therapists to be licensed in order to practice. To qualify for licensure, candidates must have graduated from approved or accredited programs in massage therapy. Additionally, they must pass an examination on massage therapy techniques and practices. Aspiring massage therapists generally take a state exam or an exam offered by such recognized organizations as the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage, whose exam most states administer for licensure.
According to the BLS, about 50% of massage therapists in 2014 were self-employed and worked either as contractors or through their own businesses. Massage therapists were also frequently employed in private doctors' offices, spas, fitness centers, hotels and resorts. The BLS indicated that in 2018, massage therapists made a median salary of $41,420 per year.
The BLS also reported that as of 2018, massage therapists held about 159,800 jobs in the U.S., and it projected that employment opportunities would grow by 22% between 2018 and 2028. Much of this growth was attributed to the increased demand for massage for both personal luxury and medical reasons. Furthermore, it was expected that an increased number of spas, resorts and personal service centers would offer massage, making it cheaper and more accessible to a wider variety of clients.
Massage therapists must complete a state-approved training program and attain a license in most states. They can work in a variety of settings, including doctors' offices, fitness centers, resorts, hotels and spas, and half of massage therapists are self-employed. Demand is high for massage therapists, with job growth projected to rise 22% through the year 2028.