Medical Massage Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for medical massage. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Holistic Health Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Medical Massage Therapist Do?

Medical massage therapists use a variety of massage modalities to help people who are looking to use massage to aid in the treatment of specific medical conditions. Depending on the patient's illness, injury or disorder, the massage therapist can utilize techniques that alleviate pain, reduce stress or promote recovery. They may also keep track of the patient's progress over time so that it can be documented in their medical history. Some may also work with insurance companies to process claims and handle payments and reimbursements.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Postsecondary non-degree award
Licensure/Certification Required Available, not required
Key Responsibilities Assess clients' needs and ailments
Coordinate treatment with healthcare professionals
Track clients' progress and response to treatment
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 22% (for all massage therapists)*
Mean Salary (2018) $45,880 (for all massage therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is Medical Massage?

Medical massage is a career that allows you to use your basic medical knowledge in a hands-on relationship with clients. You apply techniques of different massage therapy modalities to treat specific, physician-diagnosed injuries and conditions. Medical massage can include the use of neuromuscular therapy, craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, cancer-specific massage and orthopedic massage.

Do I Need To Be Certified or Licensed?

As a medical massage therapist, you can become voluntarily certified in order to improve your value to clients and physicians, though licensure is mandatory. Each state has its own requirements for licensing massage therapists, so it's important to know which regulations pertain to your prospective career. Most states require that you complete a massage therapy program and could mandate a specific number of practical training hours. You might also need to submit to a background check. Your state might administer its own licensing exam or use a nationally recognized test, such as those provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork or the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

To earn voluntary certification in medical massage by the American Medical Massage Association (AMMA), you must first complete an approved medical massage or massage therapy program. You're required to take at least 490 hours of anatomy, kinesiology, orthopedic, massage theory, pathology and business classes. You'll also need to participate in a minimum of 110 hours of massage practice in a clinical setting under supervision. After you complete your study, you can then take the Massage Therapy Certification Exam through the National Board Certifying Agency (NBCA), which is the testing arm of the AMMA (www.americanmedicalmassage.com).

What Does the NBCA Exam Entail?

There are two levels to the NBCA exam. Level one is considered an entry-level exam that tests your ability to function as a medical massage therapist in a clinical setting. You also need to prove your familiarity with anatomy and physiology, bony landmarks, ethics and strokes topics and procedures. After passing this first exam, you earn a credential as a medical massage therapist.

Level two is the NBCA Board Certified Diplomate Exam in Manual Therapy. It requires at least 2,400 hours of education and practice, including at least 400 hours of practicum or internship work. Level two tests your knowledge of all level one topics as well as muscles, skeletal anatomy, physiology and soft tissue pathology and injuries. After passing this exam, you'll be certified as a medical massage diplomate.

What Could I Expect To Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly salary of a massage therapist was $19.92 in 2018. You might receive additional compensation in the form of tips or benefits, depending on where you choose to work. Higher-paying employers at the time included psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, individual family services, and specialty hospitals. (www.bls.gov).

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, the profession of massage therapists is growing faster than the national average at a rate of 22% from 2018-2028. One factor contributing to this increase includes the expansion of establishments in which you can work as a massage therapist. Spas, chiropractic clinics, massage franchises and resorts employ an increasing number of massage therapists with varying specialties to cater to changes in demand. As a new massage therapist, you can expect to work part time until you establish your own practice and client base.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in getting a job in the medical field, you could also consider becoming a physical therapist aide. These workers perform clerical tasks in the offices of physical therapists, and they support the practitioner by setting up equipment and cleaning treatment areas after appointments. A high school degree is the minimum educational requirement for this job. Another health-related job is a career as a fitness instructor. In this position, you would work directly with individual clients and/or groups to help them learn certain exercise techniques, and to counsel them about general wellness topics, like nutrition and motivation. A high school diploma is required for this job, but your job prospects will improve if you have earned professional certifications.

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