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A massage therapist is someone who has not only power in their hands to manipulate muscles to ease the pain but must have the knowledge and understanding of how the muscles and nerves work and connect to prevent further damage. Massage therapist jobs are more than just knowing how to massage muscles and soft tissues, but continuously grow and use different forms of massage depending on the needs of the patient being massage. 

This type of work requires professionalism and experience. Gender plays a significant factor in finding and successfully getting work as a massage therapist. This primarily because of the closeness they have with the clients they massage. Although there are many male massage therapists, it is more difficult for them to find work in venues that are primarily used by women


About Massage Therapist Jobs


What do massage therapists do?

Massage therapists have the critical job of easing their client’s pain by using their hands, elbows, forearms, fingers, and even feet to knead muscles and soft tissue to reduce and alleviate pain, release stress, and improve general well-being. Before they begin they discuss the symptoms their clients may be experiencing and learn about their medical history and the results they are seeking. With this information they can determine the best techniques and modalities they must use to achieve decided upon results. 

The jobs for massage therapists encompass many different types of modalities. Many specialize in several modalities, while others focus on specializing in one. Some of the most common ones include sports massage, rolfing, deep-tissue massage, and Swedish massage. The type of massage also determines the setting they will work in. For sports massage, they will work in brightly lit environments, while for others they may incorporate other therapies as well such as color or light therapy, aromatherapy, and music for easing stress.  

Massage Therapy Jobs Duties

There are several duties that massage therapists have, and not all consist of the power they hold in their hands to massage. Some of their most important responsibilities are:

  • Discuss the symptoms their clients are experiencing and get an in-depth understanding of their medical history and the results they desire following the treatment. 
  • Do a full evaluation of their clients to determine the muscle or soft tissue that requires treatment. 
  • Provide information and guidance on how their clients can improve their posture and reduce future pain through stretching, strengthening of the muscles, and relaxation of the body. 
  • Properly document the client’s conditions and their progress throughout the treatment.

A massage therapy career consists of making clients feel at ease not only by relieving pain in their muscles, but through understanding, proper communication, and empathy. It requires that the massage therapist is always open and ready to grow to further improve the lives of their clients. 

The job of a massage therapist may require the use of a unique massage table or chair. They may also incorporate a variety of oils and lotions depending on the required treatment to ease their pain. Depending on the massage type and necessary treatment, a massage may be very short between 5 to 10 minutes or can last well over an hour. 

The jobs in massage therapy go beyond just the initial treatment. A massage therapist may have to do followup massages as well as provide their clients with additional techniques for relaxation they can practice between sessions, stretches, and more. 

There are many types of massage modalities. Most specialize in more than one, and continuously learn new ones that encompass different types of techniques to better help their clients. Each client requires special attention and not all types of massages are perfect for everyone. Certain massage modalities are specific to one particular kind of client, such as the prenatal massages done only on pregnant women. 

Work Environment of the Massage Therapy Job

As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 159,800 jobs filled by massage therapists in 2018. Personal caregivers were the biggest employers of massage therapists at 33%. Self-employed therapists matched them in the lead. Massage therapists working in offices of other health practitioners were just 12%, while those working in chiropractor offices were 8%. Massage therapists working in the accommodation industry were only 6%. 

The job of a massage therapist may require some travel as some may offer services in their client’s home or office. Some jobs for massage therapy specialists may require the therapist to work from home. This is especially the case for those that are self-employed. They generally have a unique environment set up in their home for their clients and provide their own specialized massage chair or table and any other necessities such as oils, lotions, sheets, pillows, and more. 

The working conditions of a massage therapist vary greatly depending on the venue they work in, their employer, and the requirements of the client. There are many examples of this, but the most significant contrast is between say massage therapist jobs on cruise ships where the massage therapist works towards relaxing the client in a dimly lit room, aromatherapy, and with the goal to reduce stress and a rehabilitating massage. A sports massage or a rehabilitating massage requires good lighting, may mean other individuals are getting a massage in the same room from other professionals, and is focused on treating the muscles and soft tissues alone.  

Injuries and Illnesses 

Although working as a massage therapist isn’t at all dangerous, it is very physically demanding. Licensed massage therapist jobs require physical strength. The professional may injure themselves if they do not apply the correct techniques while working. The position requires a lot of repetitive motions and long periods of being on their feet, which leads to fatigue, back pain, and muscle tiredness. 

A massage therapist often requires a taste of their own medicine. They need to get regular massages due to the aches and pains they experience in their upper body from the work they do and legs due to extended periods on their feet. A registered massage therapy specialist must use proper body mechanics, exercise regularly, and have excellent time management to prevent sessions being set too close together.

Work Schedules of Massage Therapists

Most massage therapists work by appointment only. Considering this and the physical exertion of being a massage therapist, they generally work part-time. Their hours vary depending on the number of scheduled massages they have for the week. 

Many massage therapists do not work a regular 8 hour day, five days a week due to the exertion of massaging for long periods. Some work on a monthly set salary, but scheduling is done carefully to allow enough rest between massages. 

Those working massage therapist positions often need to do more than just massages. This is especially the case for those that are self-employed. They also need to master recording of clients’ progress, scheduling, marketing themselves, washing linens used for clients, bookkeeping, and other business tasks. 


How to Become a Massage Therapist?


Becoming a massage therapist requires that you complete a postsecondary education program consisting of 500 or more hours of combined study and experience. Every state has different requirements and jurisdiction for those interested in going down the massage therapist career path, the more education, certification, and experience you have, the higher the chances of getting a job. Regardless, most states require that before a massage therapist can work they must have either a certification or a license. 

Essential Qualities of Massage Therapists

There is a number of qualities an individual must have before they even consider going down the path of becoming a massage therapist. They must have more than powerful hands and back to handle the long hours on their feet and constant use of their hands to ease their client’s pain. 

Before checking out the available massage therapy job openings, make sure you first have the following qualities:

  • Communication Skills – Communication is a critical factor for being a successful massage therapist. It is essential to be able to listen to clients’ needs, aches, and pains to better understand what results they seek and what techniques need to be applied.
  • Decision-Making Skills – Once the massage therapist has evaluated the client and determined what their needs are, it is crucial they can recommend a proper treatment to get the desired results. 
  • Empathy Skills – Massaging goes beyond just kneading muscles. The client must have a positive and relaxed experience. Getting a massage is very intimate, and the client must feel comfortable and trust their massage therapist. The massage therapist career longevity and client list depend significantly on this critical skill. 
  • Integrity – Just like a doctor, a massage therapist often has access to very delicate client information, both personal as well as medical. They must be honest and 100% discrete by honoring and protecting their client’s privacy. 
  • Physical Stamina – Massages can last anywhere between 5 minutes to well over an hour. A massage therapist must have the physical stamina to do several massages a day.
  • Dexterity and Physical Strength – A massage therapist must have a strong upper body to be able to provide the necessary pressure to ease their client’s aches and pains. A career in massage therapy requires a variety of movements of the hands and arms for proper manipulation of the client’s muscles. 
  • Time-Management Skills – Each appointment needs to be carefully managed to provide their clients with the best results depending on their needs. Time management also extends to organizing their day for adequate rest between massages if they are self-employed. 

Education Requirements to Become a Massage Therapist

It is imperative to understand that the requirements for becoming a massage therapist vary greatly depending on the state you are located in. For those interested in the massage therapy career paths, there are numerous education programs available in both public and private postsecondary institutions. Depending on the program, to become a massage therapist there is a requirement of at least 500 hours of study, while some programs may require 1,000 or more. 

Generally, those looking to become a massage therapist will need to provide a high school diploma or equivalent to be admitted to an education program. The programs incorporate a combination of classroom study and hands-on practice so they can master massage techniques. 

The programs that lead to massage therapists jobs may cover physiology, which is the study of tissue and organs, anatomy, and kinesiology, the study of body and motion mechanics. They may also study business management, ethics, and pathology, the study of diseases. 

Also, future massage therapists may sign up for programs concentrating on certain types of massage, specialties, and modalities. Depending on the education program, there may be job placement services available, as well as continuing education and specialization. A future massage therapist may sign up for a part-time or full-time education program. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Massage Therapy Opportunities

As of 2016, there are 45 states, including the District of Columbia, that regulate massage therapy. Though not all US states may require a license to practice massage therapy, there are generally set regulations for the practice at a local level. 

Before a massage therapist may practice their skill, they must first become certified if they plan on working in a state that has massage therapy regulations. The regulations vary from state to state, but they usually require that they first graduate from an approved by the state massage therapy program and pass a licensing exam for them to become a registered massage therapist

Each state may have its own specific exam or may have the standard Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) exam for licensing. This exam is designed and set by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. 

Other requirements for a massage therapist to practice may also include passing a background check, have CPR certification, and have up-to-date liability insurance. Furthermore, the state may require that they renew their license periodically through the completion of continuing education credits. 

Anyone interested in practicing massage therapy must first do proper research into the legal requirements in the state they wish to work. 

Advancement in the Massage Therapy Career Path

There are many advancement opportunities as a massage therapist, especially if you are willing to go through additional education to get further specialization. The growth of the massage therapist depends entirely on their desire, hard work, and the path they wish to take. Aside from building a regular pipeline of clients, there are other ways to advance further. 

Specialization is one of the best ways to advance. Mastering one or several modalities, working with a specific group of clients, such as pregnant women, children, or elderly, or setting their sights working in a chiropractors office are all potential options for career advancement. 

If working for a registered massage therapy office, a therapist may advance within the company to be promoted as a manager, giving them many networking opportunities and potential for further growth. This can lead them to the next step in advancement, being a self-employed therapist.

Expected Pay for Massage Therapists

As of May 2018, the median salary for a massage therapist was $41,420, with the lowest 10% earning $21,340, while the highest 10% earned $78,280. It is important to note that the massage therapist salary varies greatly depending on their specialization, their employer, and the number of hours they work. 

The top industries for massage therapists in 2018 were chiropractor offices with a median wage of $51,690, other health practitioner offices with a median salary of $44,560, and personal care services with a median salary of $39,740. The industry with the lowest pay in 2018 was $28,020.

Keeping these median wages in mind, it’s also important to note that most massage therapists also earn tips and may also receive free or discounted massages as further compensation. 


Job Outlook for Massage Therapists


The massage therapy career outlook is very positive, with an expected 22% growth for the ten years between 2018 and 2028. This is a much faster growth than the projected average for all occupations. This continued progressive growth will result in new job openings for massage therapists

As massage therapy continues to grow in popularity, healthcare providers begin to see the numerous benefits presented by massage therapists. This will result in more healthcare providers recommending massage therapy as part of their treatment plans and patient health. A fantastic example is the use of massage therapists for many sports teams to aid in the rehabilitation of injuries as well as pain relief and management. 

Certified massage therapist jobs have increased in recent years as more massage clinic franchises have opened. These franchises offer clients more affordable treatments than those that can be found in resorts and spas, where massages are usually available. This has made getting a massage treatment more affordable for clients, thus allowing for further growth.

Job Prospects for Massage Therapists

Although a massage therapist can work once they have completed their educational program and passed the exam to get licensure in the states that require it, they can work, it is important to note that it takes time to build a client base. 

Massage therapy career options will be broadened by having excellent marketing skills alongside experience, knowledge, and education in massage. Most massage therapists build their client base through referrals, word-of-mouth, and direct marketing. Another way to increase the chances of getting steady work is through joining a professional association, building reliable contacts, and specializing in multiple modalities through continued education. 

For those currently considering working as a massage therapist, or in the future, the prospects are good. There are many job and growth opportunities available and will continue to be in the future. 


Massage Therapy Career Pros and Cons


There are more pros than cons when it comes to choosing massage therapy as your career, as long as you have the necessary qualities to become one. 

Pros of Being a Massage Therapist

  • Working as a massage therapist is very gratifying as you help ease your client’s physical pain, all the while reducing emotional and mental stress. 
  • Massage therapists have additional earning potential through upsells in massage packages and tips by offering superior service and care.
  • As they work on an appointment basis, they generally have flexible schedules depending on their employer.
  • The massage therapist career outlook is positive and will continue to grow. They are in demand and will continue to be, making finding work easier than with other careers. 
  • Many therapists work in spas, which usually means free use of the services and premises of the resort. Many also receive massages as an addition to their salary.

Cons of Being a Massage Therapist

  • Being a massage therapist is physically demanding and often results in fatigue in the upper body and leg pain due to standing up for long periods. 
  • Working with a variety of clients and personalities may be difficult, which is why customer service is an integral part of their training. 
  • The massage therapy salary varies significantly from month to month, as they generally work on an appointment basis. While some employers pay a monthly salary, for the most part, they earn depending on the number of massages they’ve done.
  • Unrealistic expectations from clients is another problem some therapists may face. In many cases, serious injuries or aches may require more than one treatment, or may never entirely go away, resulting in customer disappointment. This is why the massage therapist must be able to communicate the possible results accurately and how long it will take to see them.

Frequently Asked Questions


How much do massage therapists make?

How much a massage therapist makes depends significantly on their experience, their employer, and the number of massages they do a month, or their client list. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 massage therapists made an average of $41,420, with the top 10% making almost $80,000.

How to become a massage therapist?

Becoming a massage therapist requires enrolling in a specialized education program for massage therapist training. Upon completion, depending on the state you are located in, it may be necessary to pass a licensing exam to be able to practice as a massage therapist. Make sure you research your local requirements. 

What jobs are related to massage therapy?

There are several jobs related to massage therapy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with additional training or professional education, a massage therapist can also pursue a career as an athletic trainer, an exercise physiologist, or a physical therapist, assistant, or aid career. 

Where to find massage therapy jobs?

With the growth in trust and interest in massage therapy, more positions are becoming available outside of the standard spas and resorts where massage therapists were once exclusively found. Today they can be found in a variety of healthcare practitioner offices, chiropractor offices, sports clubs, and more.  

What degree obtainable jobs are there in massage therapy?

With over 350 massage modalities listed by the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, there is a wide range of possibilities and opportunities available for specialists working in massage therapy. 

What jobs overlap nursing and massage therapy?

Holistic nursing is the leading job that overlaps both massage therapy and nursing. This is a job recognized with a specialty status by the American Nurses Association


Conclusion

Whether you are already a licensed massage therapist or considering it as a career in the future, it is a fantastic choice as long as you have the necessary qualities. It is a gratifying job that has a very high level of satisfaction. With most massage therapists very happy with their job and satisfied to continue working as such, it is the ideal career choice for individuals eager to help others and work with their hands to do so. 

There are many massage therapist jobs available as the profession is in high demand and will continue to grow in the future. Used as a means to relax and spoil yourself in the past, getting a massage is gaining recognition in recent years as a means to further aid patients in reducing aches and pains, all the while relieving stress to support traditional health treatments. It is a career choice with many growth opportunities and a very bright future ahead.