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About Massage Therapist Jobs

Every day, people employed in the healthcare industry work tirelessly to help millions of injured and sick people. The healthcare industry is one of the greatest job providers in the United States. And these positions also include massage therapist jobs—which are not as easy to do as people assume. There needs to be a lot of work and practice involved before someone can become a licensed massage therapist.

Keep reading if you’re interested in becoming a massage therapist—or if you’re simply curious about the different types of massage, what it takes to get a license and become a massage therapist, how much therapists earn, what kind of duties they have, and what kind of education they need for this position.

What is massage therapy? Massage therapy can be an excellent way to improve someone’s mental, emotional, and physical state. It can be used for relaxation or to treat a medical condition. Either way, it’s very important to choose a well-trained, professional massage therapist. The job itself carries various duties, which only a highly skilled professional can perform.

What Do Massage Therapists Do?

Massage therapists help their clients with injuries, muscle tension relief, and overall wellness. Generally, masseur and masseuse jobs involve using touch to treat the client. Therapists use their hands, fingers, elbows, forearms, and sometimes even their feet to knead the client’s muscles and soft tissue. In this way, they alleviate pain and muscle soreness, improve the client’s circulation, help heal injuries, and relax and destress the client.

The great majority of therapists specialize in a number of different types of massage and modalities. Different massage types require different techniques and training, and the type of massage a client needs depends on their physical condition and overall needs. 

Any massage therapy job will include understanding which type of massage a client needs. Some of the massage varieties include a deep-tissue massage, Swedish massage, sports massage, and prenatal massage. A sports massage would not be suitable for an elderly person, for example, and a prenatal massage is only performed on pregnant women.

Massage Therapist Duties

Usually, massage therapists start the therapy first by talking to their clients about their medical history, symptoms, and the results they want to achieve. Massage therapy jobs also include several aspects that focus on client wellness:

  • Assessing the client and identifying the painful or tense areas on a client’s body
  • Manipulating the client’s soft tissue and muscles, likely with the help of massage chairs and tables, as well as the various oils and lotions suitable for massage
  • Guiding clients through proper stretching, strengthening, and general relaxation, as well as showing them how to develop correct posture
  • Suggesting personalized therapy plans to the client and delivering information about relaxation techniques that they can practice between therapy sessions
  • Finally, documenting each client’s progress and condition

Work Environment

For those considering the different massage therapists jobs out there, in 2018 alone, there were 159,800 massage therapists in the US, and the BLS states that 33% of massage therapist employers focused on personal care services. Meanwhile, the same percent represented self-employed workers. Another 12% could be found in the offices of other health practitioners.

The jobs in massage therapy all produce different work environments, which vary greatly based on their location, as well as on the client’s desires and needs. Therapists may go to a client’s house or office to give them a massage, and some even work from their homes, especially those who are self-employed. Self-employed massage therapists provide their own massage tables, chairs, body lotions, oils, sheets, and pillows.

The venue of the massage should be adjusted depending on the type of massage the therapist performs. Another element to most massage therapy jobs is to create a relaxing environment with calm and relaxing music, candles and incense, and dimmed lights if the therapist is performing a relaxing massage. If the massage is supposed to help an injury heal, it should be done in a well-lit environment, with few other clients receiving the same type of massage.

Injuries and Illnesses

Performing a massage can be a very challenging task. That’s why injuries very often are a concern with licensed massage therapist jobs, especially if the therapist doesn’t use the correct massage technique. There is also the possibility of experiencing fatigue from standing for too long, and repetitive motions can cause problems, as well.

These injuries can be limited, or even prevented, by scheduling therapy sessions properly, employing good body mechanics, exercising regularly, and, yes, getting massages.

Work Schedules

Massage therapists’ work schedules can vary greatly from one therapist to another. Many therapists work part time. Since massage therapist positions require keeping records of clients’ conditions, needs, and progress, all while booking sessions, washing linen, and actually massaging clients, which takes endurance and strength, many massage therapists can’t work with clients 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

This is the main reason for not having a fixed work schedule. Additionally, this is also why every massage therapist will have a different schedule. In the majority of cases, the therapist manages their own schedule.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

Usually, to become a massage therapist, a person has to complete a post-secondary education program consisting of at least 500 hours of experience and study. The majority of US states demand massage therapists acquire a certification or license to work.

Important Qualities

Some of the most important qualities a professional massage therapist must have are as follows:

  • Communication skills are essential for a good massage therapist. They need to be able to listen to their clients and understand what they want and need.
  • Decision-making skills are also crucial in a massage therapy career. An excellent massage therapist must be able to assess what their client needs and recommend the most suitable therapy for them.
  • Time-management skills are a must for every professional massage therapist. Massage therapists need to schedule a session that will cover all their clients’ needs and help them reach their therapy goals.
  • Physical stamina is also a very important skill. A therapist must be able to go through all their appointments throughout their workday. 
  • Physical strength and dexterity are particular requirements for massage therapy jobs in hospitals—not to mention other locations. While massaging a patient’s tissue and muscles, massage therapists must be strong enough to apply the right amount of pressure and complete all the necessary movements for an extended period of time.
  • Empathy is crucial for a rewarding interaction with a client. A massage therapist must earn their client’s full trust, make them feel comfortable, and share positive experiences with them.
  • Integrity is vital. In most cases, they will have access to their clients’ personal information. For a massage therapist, their career longevity may depend on their ability to be trustworthy and protect their clients’ privacy and medical history.


To become a certified massage therapist, a person typically must go through a post-secondary education program. These programs vary greatly depending on the state and locale, but usually they take at least 500 hours. Some even go up to 1,000 hours for completion. There are both private and public post-secondary institutions that offer this kind of education, and the programs can be full time and part time.

To begin a career in massage therapy and enroll in one of these programs, a person must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. These programs typically incorporate both classroom studying and hands-on practice. These classes usually include the following subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology – the study of tissues and organs
  • Kinesiology – the study of body mechanics and motion
  • Pathology – the study of disease
  • Business management
  • Ethics

Some programs may focus only on several modalities, or types of massage, while some go so far as to direct graduates to massage therapist jobs on cruise ships, in hospitals, and in other venues after completion or as continuing education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registration

Today, massage therapy is regulated in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Even though some states don’t require a license, there may be some regulations on the local level. However, in the states that do require a certification or license, therapists must get it before they start practicing massage therapy. 

These state regulations usually require graduation from a massage therapy program and passing the exam to practice jobs in massage therapy. This exam may be the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) licensure exam or a state-specific exam.

There may also be other requirements. For example, a future massage therapist may need to pass a background check, get certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and/or have liability insurance. 

In addition to this, many states that have massage therapy regulations expect massage therapists to renew their license from time to time, as well as continue their education in this field. People who want to get into this field are advised to acquire massage therapist career information for their state and the locale where they want to practice massage therapy.


In 2018, the median annual wage for massage therapists was $41,420. Half of the professionals from this industry earned less than the median annual wage, and the other half earned more. In fact, they might earn closer to $21,340, or they might earn upwards of $78,280. However, besides their massage therapy salary, massage therapists often get tips, and discounted, or free, massages as a job perk.

Job Outlook

Nowadays, more and more states require licenses and certain standards for practicing massage therapy. This job is becoming more respected and accepted as a way of treating pain and improving overall health. The demand for massage services is on a steady rise, which leads to a constant increase in new openings for massage therapist jobs. It’s estimated that from 2018 to 2028, the employment of massage therapists will increase by 22%, which is much faster than that of most other occupations.

The massage industry also offers various benefits for people in various fields, which keeps it growing every day. Just one example is sports teams that employ massage therapists to help their athletes manage pain and heal faster.

Massage clinic franchises also offer much cheaper massage therapies than specialized spas and resorts do, which makes massage therapy available to a greater number of people. This, in turn, further leads to more massage therapy job openings.

Job Prospects

Massage therapists who complete the required education and pass the exam should have numerous opportunities for a successful working career. However, it’s very important to understand that new massage therapists will need some time to acquire a base of clients.

Professional associations can be helpful when it comes to new massage therapy career opportunities, building a high-quality client base, and maintaining steady work. In addition to this, massage therapists should constantly educate themselves and expand their knowledge of massage modalities in order to attract new clients. Most importantly, referrals are an essential source of work here, and networking and marketing can greatly influence new job opportunities for new massage therapists.

What Jobs Overlap Nursing and Massage Therapy?

If both nursing and massage therapy interest you, perhaps you should consider a career as a home health aide, or personal care aide, since these can each include elements of massage therapy.

In either career, you will work with disabled people, those who suffer from chronic illnesses, or people with various cognitive impairments, helping patients with everyday activities. The duties of these aides include some basic health services like taking a patient’s temperature, administering massages (though not necessarily registered massage therapy), housekeeping, maintaining a patient’s schedule, and helping with bandages, artificial limbs, braces, and so on. However, in the majority of cases, a personal care aide’s duties are limited only to keeping the patient company, driving, cooking, and cleaning.

The work environment of home health aides and personal care aides include their patients’ homes, numerous day-service programs, and group homes.

Usually, people who want to make it in this career need a high school diploma, or its equivalent, just like most massage therapist jobs require. However, some positions don’t demand this. Moreover, candidates who want to work in a certified home or with a hospice agency have to go through formal training and pass a standardized test.

As the data that the BLS has collected shows, the median annual wage in May 2018 for home health aides was $24,200, and $24,020 for personal care aides. Job openings for these positions are rapidly growing, and it’s expected that by 2028, the employment for these jobs will rise by 36%.

What Jobs Are Related to Massage Therapy?

The following jobs share a great deal of similarity to massage therapy:

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing different bone injuries and illnesses. Most often, they work at universities, colleges, and elementary and secondary schools. However, they can also work in fitness centers, hospitals, or physicians’ offices or for various sports teams. 

In May 2018, the median annual wage for this position was $47,510. All athletic trainers must have a bachelor’s degree, at least. Additionally, almost all states require a license or certificate for anyone applying for sports massage therapist jobs. Demand for athletic trainers is on the rise, since the elderly are more active and aware of sports-related injuries.

Exercise Physiologist

This job centers around creating exercise and fitness programs for injured or sick people. Approximately half of them work at hospitals or with healthcare providers, while the other half is self-employed. Just like athletic trainers, exercise physiologists need at least a bachelor’s degree, which includes courses like anatomy, biology, kinesiology, clinical work, and nutrition. Exercise physiologists have a similar job outlook as that of the massage therapist career outlook. The job demand is on the rise, and the median annual wage in May 2018 was $49,270.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help ill and injured patients manage their pain and improve movement. Typically, they spend almost all of their working hours on their feet, and they usually work in different nursing homes, private offices and clinics, patients’ homes, and hospitals. 

All states demand a license for physical therapists, and they also need to have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Additionally, their median annual wage, $87,930 in May 2018, is much higher than the median massage therapist salary. It’s also estimated that the demand for this position will grow by 22% by 2028.

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides 

These employees work under physical therapists, in their offices or in hospitals. For the majority of their workday, they’re on their feet, setting up various equipment and actively helping care for patients. 

Physical therapist assistants and aides need an associate’s degree from an accredited program to work in this field. Just like massage therapist jobs, this position requires a high school diploma, license, or certification. In May 2018, the median annual wage was $26,240 for physical therapist aides and $58,040 for physical therapist assistants. It’s estimated that the demand for physical therapist assistants and aides will rise by 26% by 2028.