Sports Massage Therapist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for sports massage therapists. Get the facts about education programs, essential job skills, employment outlook and salary 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 Is a Sports Massage Therapist?

A sports massage therapist is a massage therapist who specializes in massage treatments for athletes. Depending on the needs of their clients, they utilize techniques that can loosen muscles, improve blood flow, reduce unnecessary stress and otherwise improve their performance. For injured athletes, they can provide massages that reduce pain and speed recovery. Some sports massage therapists also specialize in other modalities, in order to broaden the extent of their practice.

Read on for more information about what it takes to enter this field and explore your employment prospects:

Education Required A postsecondary massage therapy program is usually required
Key Skills Physical strength and stamina, interpersonal and decision-making skills
Licensure/Certification Licensure or certification is required in most states
Job Growth (2018-2028) 22% (for all massage therapists)*
Median Salary (2018) $41,420 (for all massage therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are The Duties of Sports Massage Therapist?

As a massage therapist, you would work on the muscles and tissues of the body to reduce stress and release toxins. Massage therapists usually specialize from many different methods of massage. Sports massage is one of these methods or modalities.

If you're performing a sports massage, your goal will be to reduce injuries and loosen tight muscles that were the result of sports or exercise. You may give a sports massage prior to a sport or exercise event to improve blood flow and lessen the chances of injury. You'll talk with your client before the massage to learn about any injuries or medical issues that may affect the type of massage methods you use.

What's the Job Outlook and Salary?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of massage therapists is expected to increase 22% from 2018-2028 ( In 2018, almost half of massage therapists worked for themselves. Massage therapists can work in a variety of industries and settings, ranging from spas to cruise ships. Typically, sports massage therapists are employed at hospitals, chiropractors or private businesses. Many massage therapists don't work a full 40-hour week due to the physical nature of the job, according to the BLS.

According to the BLS, the median salary for massage therapists was $41,420 as of May 2018. If you're self-employed, your salary might vary based on your hours and fees.

What Education Will I Need?

As a massage therapist you must have excellent communication and decision-making skills. Training in massage therapy varies by state but most require 500-600 hours of training from an accredited school, which may take up to a year to complete. Many programs offer in-class instruction as well as clinical training. Along with learning different types of massages, you'll study topics such as human anatomy, physiology, business management and ethics.

Most states require certification or licensure to work as a massage therapist. According to the BLS, two nationally recognized credentialing exams are the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a massage therapist, you could choose to focus your practice in a different modality, such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage or prenatal massage. Another related option is a job as a physical therapy aide, where you would serve in a support position in a physical therapy clinic, performing tasks like cleaning treatment areas, scheduling appointments and directing patients around the therapy area. For this job, you need at least a high school diploma.

You could also get a job as a fitness trainer or instructor, where you could provide instruction and motivation for athletes who want to include a new type of exercise in their training, as well as inexperienced clients who are looking to use exercise to improve their health. For this job, you only need a high school diploma, but your career prospects will improve if you have a certification in the type of exercise you want to teach, like yoga.

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