How to Become a Professional Masseuse in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a massage therapist. Learn about job duties, education requirements and certification 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 Masseuse Do?

Masseuses, also known as massage therapists, help to heal injuries, relieve stress and alleviate pain through therapeutic massage. This process starts by talking with clients to assess their needs and determine their therapeutic goals. There are a number of different modalities in which masseuses can choose to specialize, each using different techniques for different reasons. Massage itself, no matter the type, involves manipulating muscles and soft tissue in a systematic way.

Many masseuses are self-employed, so their job duties also include scheduling appointments, managing finances, buying supplies, and other business-related tasks.

Read over the table below to get an overview of this career field.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree
Key Skills Endurance, communication skills, compassion, agility
Certification Required Certification is required in most states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22%* (For massage therapists)
Median Salary (2015) $38,040* (For massage therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Masseuse?

Often referred to as a wellness professional, the masseuse is responsible for giving massages that soothe tired muscles and helping clients reduce pain caused by a traumatic accident or injury. Masseuses also give massages that are designed to aid in relaxation and ease anxiety. Massage therapy is thought to help with conditions like asthma, headaches, insomnia, and depression. The work takes place by appointment within medical facilities, shopping and fitness centers or clients' offices. Self-employed masseuses may also work from their own offices.

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of a Masseuse

The masseuse interviews his or her clients, determines their physical ailments and implements a treatment plan. Depending on the client's condition and the specialty of the masseuse, he or she may use hand or finger techniques to apply pressure to the soft or deep muscle tissues. Various forms of therapy may be given, which can involve the use of whirlpool baths, ice packs or heat lamps. Other areas of responsibility include billing clients and keeping complete treatment records. When traveling to the clients' locations, the masseuse must set up equipment, such as chairs or tables, and provide lotions, pillows and sheets.

Step 2: Complete a Massage Therapy Program

With a high school education behind you, enroll in a formal, accredited training program in massage therapy. A certificate-granting program will take about a year to complete, while an associate's degree program can last two years. These programs may be offered at local community colleges. Your program of study should include courses like human function and structure, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, therapeutic massage and clinical massage applications. Depending on the program, your curriculum may include Eastern as well as Western approaches to massage therapy.

Step 3: Obtain Certification or Licensure

Most states have laws governing massage therapy, which means you'll need credentials in order to practice. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers a national certification. In some states, this certification is optional, but other states require that a masseuse pass the exam before being allowed to practice. To become certified a masseuse must demonstrate a thorough understanding of massage therapy skills, complete at least 500 hours of training and pass the NCBTMB's examination.

Some states may require that you obtain a license, and they may use the NCBTMB certification test as a criterion for licensing. Other states have their own state test. You may have to fulfill educational requirements, a certain number of hours of training and massage therapy coursework. In addition, completion of continuing education courses may be required to keep your license. Your individual state's licensing board will have all of the pertinent details.

Step 4: Obtain a Business License

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, business licenses may be required in states where massage therapy isn't regulated. This may be a necessary or voluntary step, depending on where you will be doing business. Business license requirements vary from state to state, so you are encouraged to check with your state for local permit and licensing requirements. If your massage therapy business expands to include employees, then you will also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Although there are limited opportunities for growth in the field of massage therapy, with experience and a growing clientele, you can start your own practice. By going this route, you can may increase your earnings substantially. Alternatively, you may teach massage therapy to others, or you can become the manager of a massage therapy office.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Masseuses must enjoy interacting directly with clients, and offering therapeutic treatment. Other occupations to consider, with similar educational requirements and job duties, include athletic training and physical therapy. Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses, often specifically sports-related. Physical therapy assistants work directly under a physical therapist to help patients manage pain and regain movement after injury or illness.

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