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Massage Therapist

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QUICK FACTS
Massage Therapist
2010 Median Pay $34,900 per year
$16.78 per hour
Entry-Level Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2010 153,700
Job Outlook, 2010-20 20% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 30,900

What Massage Therapists Do

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Work Environment

Massage therapists work in an array of settings, both private and public, such as private offices, spas, hospitals, fitness centers, and shopping malls. Some massage therapists also travel to clients' homes or offices to provide a massage.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program that can require 500 hours or more of study and experience, although standards and requirements vary greatly by state and locality. Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certificate.

Pay

The median annual wage of massage therapists was $34,900 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of massage therapists is expected to grow by 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists.


What Massage Therapists Do

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Duties

Massage therapists typically do the following:

Massage therapists use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes feet to knead muscles and soft tissue of the body to treat injuries and to promote general wellness. A massage can be as short as 5–10 minutes or could last more than an hour.

Therapists also may use lotions and oils, massage tables or chairs, and medical heat lamps when treating a client. Massage therapists may offer clients information about additional relaxation techniques to practice between sessions.

Massage therapists can specialize in many different types of massage, called modalities. Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, and sports massage are just a few of the many modalities of massage therapy. Most massage therapists specialize in several modalities, which require different techniques.

Usually, the type of massage given depends on the client's needs and physical condition. For example, therapists may use a special technique for elderly clients that they would not use for athletes. Some forms of massage are given solely to one type of client; for example, prenatal massage is given to pregnant women.


Work Environment

Massage therapists held about 153,700 jobs in 2010. The majority of massage therapists were self-employed in 2010. Others worked mainly in personal care services and various healthcare industries.

About 60 percent of massage therapists were self-employed in 2010, the majority of the rest worked in the following industries:

Massage therapists work in an array of settings, both private and public, such as private offices, spas, hospitals, fitness centers, and shopping malls. Some massage therapists also travel to clients' homes or offices to give a massage. Most massage therapists, especially those who are self-employed, provide their own table or chair, sheets, pillows, and body lotions or oils.

A massage therapist's working conditions depend heavily on the location and what the client wants. For example, a massage meant to help rehabilitate an injury may be conducted in a well-lit setting with several other clients receiving treatment in the same room. But when giving a massage to help clients relax, massage therapists generally work in dimly lit settings and use candles, incense, and calm, soothing music.

Because massage is physically demanding, massage therapists can injure themselves if they do not use the proper techniques. Repetitive-motion problems and fatigue from standing for extended periods are most common.

Therapists can limit these risks by using good techniques, spacing sessions properly, exercising and, in many cases, receiving a massage themselves regularly.

Work Schedules

Many massage therapists work part time; only about 1 out of 4 worked full time in 2010.

Because therapists work by appointment in most cases, their schedules and the number of hours worked each week vary considerably. In addition to hours giving massages, therapists may also spend time recording patient notes, marketing, booking clients, washing linens, and other general business tasks.


How to Become a Massage Therapists

Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program that can require 500 hours or more of study and experience, although standards and requirements vary greatly by state and locality. Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certificate.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Massage therapists need to listen carefully to clients to understand what they want to achieve through massage appointments.

Decision-making skills. Massage therapists must evaluate each client's needs and recommend the best treatment based on that person's needs.

Empathy. Massage therapists must give clients a positive experience, which requires building trust between therapist and client. Making clients feel comfortable is necessary for therapists to expand their client base.

Physical stamina. Massage therapists may give several treatments during a work day and have to stay on their feet throughout massage appointments.

Physical strength and dexterity. Massage therapists must be strong and able to exert pressure through a variety of movements of the arms and hands when manipulating a client's muscles.

Education

Training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality. Education programs are typically found in private or public postsecondary institutions and can require 500 hours or more of study to complete.

A high school diploma or equivalent degree is usually required for admission. Massage therapy programs generally cover subjects such as anatomy; physiology, which is the study of organs and tissues; kinesiology, which is the study of motion and body mechanics; business management; ethics; and the hands-on practice of massage techniques.

Training programs may concentrate on certain modalities, or specialties, of massage. Several programs also offer job placement and continuing education. Both full-time and part-time programs are available.

Licenses and Certification

In 2011, 43 states and the District of Columbia regulated massage therapy. Although not all states license massage therapy, they may have regulations at the local level.

In states with massage therapy regulations, workers must get either a license or certification after graduating from an accredited training program and before practicing massage. Passing an exam is usually required for licensure.

The exam may be solely a state exam or one of two nationally recognized tests: the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB). Massage therapy licensure boards decide which certifications and tests to accept on a state-by-state basis.

Those wishing to practice massage therapy should look into legal requirements for the state and locality in which they intend to practice. A fee and periodic license renewal also may be required.


Pay

The median annual wage of massage therapists was $34,900 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,970, and the top 10 percent earned more than $69,000.

Most massage therapists earn a combination of wages and tips.

Many massage therapists work part time; only about 1 out of 4 worked full time in 2010. Because therapists work by appointment in most cases, their schedules and the number of hours worked each week vary considerably. In addition to hours giving massages, therapists may also spend time recording patient notes, marketing, booking clients, washing linens, and other general business tasks.


Job Outlook

Employment of massage therapists is expected to grow by 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists.

The number of spas, which employ a large number of therapists, has increased in recent years. The number of massage clinic franchises has also been increasing, many of which offer more affordable massages than those at spas and resorts, making them available to a wider range of customers.

In addition, as an increasing number of states adopt licensing requirements and standards for therapists, the practice of massage is likely to be respected and accepted by more people as a way to treat pain and to improve overall wellness.

Massage also offers specific benefits to particular groups of people, whose continued demand for massage services will lead to overall growth for the occupation. For example, as workplaces try to distinguish themselves as employee-friendly, providing professional in-office, seated massages for employees is becoming a popular on-the-job benefit.

Older people in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities also are finding benefits from massage, such as increased energy levels and reduced health problems. Demand for massage therapy should grow among older age groups because they increasingly are enjoying longer, more active lives.

Job Prospects

In states that regulate massage therapy, opportunities should be available to those who complete formal training programs and pass a professionally recognized exam. However, new massage therapists should expect to work only part time in spas, hotels, hospitals, physical therapy centers, and other businesses until they can build their own client base.

Because referrals are a very important source of work for massage therapists, networking will increase the number of job opportunities. Joining a professional association also can help build strong contacts and further increase the likelihood of steady work.

Projected Employment by 2020

184,600 (20% growth from 2010)

 Search jobs for "Massage Therapist"


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition

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