Requirements for a Masseuse: Skills and Prerequisites

Sep 27, 2019

Not only does a masseuse - more commonly known as a massage therapist - need to be good with their hands, they also need some knowledge of the human body and an ability to build a strong clientele. A massage therapist also needs to meet specific certification requirements in order to practice.

Essential Information

Massage is a treatment approach that attempts to relieve muscle pain, enhance circulation, and encourage general health through the application of steady pressure and kneading motions to the body. There are several modalities of massage therapy, including acupressure, deep-tissue massage, reflexology and Swedish massage. Many massage therapists mix and match techniques. Massage therapists need to complete a training program in the discipline, which often results in the award of a certificate or 2-year degree, and they must be licensed by the state in which they work.

Required Education Certificate and associate's degrees in massage therapy are most common; bachelor's degrees are rarer, but available
Licensing Mandatory in most states; licensing exams offered by the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the state in which a therapist works
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 22% growth (for massage therapists)
Median Salary (2018) $41,420 (for massage therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Skills for Masseuses

A masseuse is a female massage therapist; a male massage therapist is called a masseur. Apart from massage technique and procedure, massage therapists need a good grasp of verbal communication to learn a client's medical history and the results they hope to get from treatment. They need an ability to develop rapport with clients in order to secure repeat business. Finally, they need a capacity to manage the flow of their work day and the spacing between sessions in order to avoid repetitive motion injuries and fatigue from standing for extended periods. If their business isn't generating enough income from operations to hire an assistant, massage therapists will have to perform a number of common business tasks themselves, such as scheduling, billing, bookkeeping, marketing and equipment maintenance.

Education Prerequisites

Private and public postsecondary schools both offer programs in massage therapy. They generally require a high school diploma or GED for admission. A few programs confer bachelor's degrees, but most are at the certificate and associate's degree level. Some certificate programs may last up to two years, but most require less than one. An associate's degree is completed in two years and a bachelor's degree in four.

Programs primarily cover the hands-on techniques of a given massage modality. Techniques can include soothing, tapping and kneading strokes as in Swedish massage, or direct pressure, friction slides and slow strokes as in deep muscle massage. Courses may also include healthy living practices, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, business management and professional ethics. Electives might include pregnancy and labor massage, sports massage, or stone massage. Some may also touch on aromatherapy, homeopathy, herbalism, meditation, tai chi and yoga.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, 45 states had some form of licensing and regulation for massage therapy. Many states require practitioners to complete a training program, pass an examination and renew their credentials every four years. The examination may be the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or one specifically developed by the state. Renewal of credentials with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork entails performing 100 hours of massage therapy and completing a continuing education program.

The life of a masseuse or massage therapist requires constant practice, continuous education and licensure renewed at regular periods. Success in this field requires a multi-faceted skill set that includes talent with hands-on techniques, people skills and business savvy.

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