Clinical Massage Therapist Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a clinical massage therapist. Learn about education requirements, licensure, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Holistic Health Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Clinical Massage Therapist Do?

A clinical massage therapist is a massage therapist who specializes in treating clients who are looking to use massage to help them recover from or manage diseases, disorders and/or injuries. They can work in healthcare settings, like hospitals, doctor's offices and other types of clinics, or they can take clients at spas and salons. Depending on the patient's condition, they may choose from a variety of massage modalities to help accomplish medical goals like alleviating pain, reducing symptoms of depression and improving blood flow to injuries.

A summary of career info is detailed in the table below.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate
Education Field of Study Massage therapy
Key Skills Communication, physical strength, physical stamina, listening
Licensure Required in most states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% (for all massage therapists)*
Median Salary (2015) $38,040 (for all massage therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is Clinical Massage Therapy?

An informal term, clinical massage therapy is defined as a form of massage practiced for health reasons as opposed to relaxation. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage can be used in a variety of health care settings to treat medical conditions, such as depression, insomnia and pain (www.amtamassage.org). It can also aid in recovery from burns and injuries, and ease cancer related pain and fatigue. Clinical massage can help lower blood pressure, relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or osteoarthritis and reduce pain after an operation.

What Skills and Education Do I Need?

Because clinical massage is not its own field, there is not a specific clinical license that you'll need to work in the field. You do, however, need to be authorized to practice massage therapy in your state. Most states require massage therapists to be licensed, while others simply recommend it. To be certified nationally, you'll need to take the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage, administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB).

To be eligible for the NCTMB exam, you must have graduated from a massage therapy program consisting at least 500 instructional hours. Coursework must have at least covered anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, massage assessment, supervised application, pathology, business and ethics (www.nctmb.org). Many hospitals and hospices would also prefer you have some health care training, such as a four-year nursing degree. Others may specify that you have a few years of prior massage experience.

How Much Can I Earn?

In 2016, the AMTA reported that massage therapists in health care settings are generally paid by the hour. Those who worked in spas averaged about $39.18 per hour, while hospital massage therapists made $45.33 per hour. The average for workers in all health care settings was $45.91. The AMTA further reports that while you may find a full-time position, most clinical massage therapists work part-time and may even be independent contractors who ineligible for benefits. As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average hourly wage for all types of massage therapists was $20.76 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another job where you could provide supportive care in a clinical setting is a job as a medical assistant. These professionals divide their time between performing administrative tasks in the offices of clinics and helping doctors with patient examinations and taking vital signs. For this job, you would need to complete a postsecondary certificate program. You might also want to consider becoming a physical therapy aide, where you would assist physical therapists by setting up equipment, cleaning treatment areas, direct patients around the clinic and scheduling appointments. You only need a high school diploma for this job.

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    • Maryland: Linthicum
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