The Advanced Guide to Massage Therapy Careers

The Advanced Guide to Massage Therapy Careers

Massage Therapy is a profession that serves consumers in medical environments, sports medicine, and salon and spas. Professional massage therapists as educated and certified through the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and/or the National Examination for State Licensing (NESL). If you are planning to enter this expanding career path it means accepting some challenges in developing the physical, technical, and academic skills to make you a pro. Any advanced guide to massage therapy careers answers some key questions…

What’s the future?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for qualified massage therapists will increase by a significant 23% by 2022. That is 30,000 more jobs across the country.

The 2012 median wage was $17.29 per hour or $35,970.00 per year. While the lowest 10% of the jobs reporting made $18,420.00/year, and top 10% earned an impressive $70,140.00 per year. And, some collect tips for the work done.

Work schedules are flexible because most therapists work by appointment. While they may spend time doing paperwork and scheduling appointments, they may also wash linens, maintain an inventory of supplies, and travel to locations. But, most massage therapists enjoy the freedom and ability to even work part-time to keep their life-work balance in place.

What’s the job like?

By manipulating the body’s soft-tissues with trained and calculated touch, the massage therapist works to help clients relax. In doing so, they relieve pain, increase blood circulations, and help rehabilitate injuries. Some clients come to get better, and some come for the soothing relaxation.

Massage therapists will:

  • Discuss symptoms and applicable treatment with clients or medical professionals.
  • Use touch to determine weak or tender muscle or joint areas: hands, fingers, elbows, shoulders, back, and so on.
  • Use hands to sooth and manipulate soft tissues.
  • Coach clients on therapies, including stretching, posture, and muscle strengthening.
  • Document and report on client’s condition, treatment, and progress.

Massage therapists use lotions, oils, and/or topical medications to work into the skin and muscles for up to an hour or more. Some therapists specialize in modalities. These are specific schools of treatment, such as Swedish, deep-tissue, pre-natal, or sports massage.

What’s expected of candidates?

Most employers do not require a college degree, and, of course, many massage therapists are self-employed. But, any action that would treat clients’ muscles, joints, and nerves presents significant risk to the customer. So, states set up standards and requirements for candidates to demonstrate their training and skill. Candidates are likely to get paid according to the evidence of their abilities through certification and/or licensure.


Candidates qualify only after 500 hours of study to complete and may be able to complete short certification programs to get the job.

But, an Associate Occupational Science Degree in Massage Therapy will assure a more comprehensive experience. It will likely include courses in physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, and pathology. It may include electives in small business marketing and management, medical ethics, and more.


Any course of study must prepare students to pass state licensing requirements. In states requiring licensure, it is illegal to practice without passing the licensing exam.

  • State licensing may also make therapists renew their licenses regularly after completing continuing education requirements.
  • Some states require an additional certificate in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • And, some states or employers may insist on a background check.

General Skills and abilities

  • Communicative: Professional massage therapists have to demonstrate the ability to listen well to clients/patients to be able to grasp their service needs.
  • Decisive: Therapists will have to evaluate individual client needs and determine the best course of treatment in light of the client’s input or doctor’s advice.
  • Strong: Massage therapy is physically demanding work. Candidates must work to maintain their upper body strength, dexterity, and stamina.
  • Empathetic: MassageTherapists often work with suffering or damaged clients who need to trust the massage therapist’s decisions and treatment protocols.

Massage Therapy Schools

People interested in a career as a Massage Therapist may find necessary training at a local community college or a local vo-tech school. But, if they want an education that provides them with the physical, technical, and academic skills, they need to look into a school that offers an Associate of Occupational Science Degree in Massage Therapy that provides a balance of course work and hands-on therapy experience. A well respected and accredited program will assure passage before the NCBTMB and NESL exams. And, it will publish its graduation rates and the median debt incurred by students completing the program.

All Massage Therapy schools are not the same, so research into programs, performance, and outcomes is vital to any investment in education and career. With this kind of income potential on the line, a quality school, perhaps one with in-class, online, and flex courses, makes all the difference.

UPDATE:  10 Facts About Massage Therapy Schools

We hope you enjoyed this advanced guide to massage therapy careers article!  Please feel free to share this with friends and family or comment below!

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