What's the Job Description of a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists provide relief and relaxation to clients through the use of therapeutic massage. Read on to find out about the duties and responsibilities, education requirements, licensing information and salary statistics for massage therapists. Schools offering Holistic Health Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Duties and Responsibilities of Massage Therapists

As a massage therapist, you manually manipulate and knead clients' soft tissue, muscles and joints. You may encounter clients seeking treatment for various muscular or skeletal ailments and clients who are just looking to relieve stress and achieve a general sense of pleasure. Your common tools of the trade include a massage table or chair, massage oils and body lotions. You may also choose to use the powers of water, heat, light, sound and electricity to aid in the therapeutic treatment. A key element of your job involves assessing each patient individually, developing personal therapy plans and referring clients to other specialists if the need arises.

Different types and modalities of massage therapy exist, such as deep-tissue massage, sports massage, Swedish massage, neuromuscular massage and reflexology. You may specialize in one modality, but specializing in multiple types of massage therapy can expand your occupational opportunities and client base. You can seek employment as a massage therapist in a wide range of settings, such as spas and resorts, health clubs, hospitals, rehab centers and chiropractic offices. You may also provide therapeutic relief to clients in their own workplaces or homes.

Important Facts About Massage Therapists

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 26% growth (much faster than average)
Continuing Education24 hours every two years (for NCBTMB board certification)
Key SkillsStrength, dexterity, stamina, communication
Similar OccupationsPhysical therapist, exercise physiologist

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Licensure Information

The typical path towards a massage therapy profession involves earning your high school diploma and completing a postsecondary massage therapy training program. Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in massage therapy, featuring a study of the different types and techniques of massage therapy, human anatomy and physiology, kinesiology and medical ethics. Curricula often include clinical practicums to give you hands-on experience.

Most states also require you to become licensed, which may be achieved by passing a national or state examination. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork administers exams that are recognized and used by 38 states and the District of Columbia (www.ncbtmb.org). Some states require you to pass a national certification examination before applying for the state exam. Licensure requirements vary greatly from state to state, so you need to consult your state's department of health for specific details.

Employment and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 105,160 people employed as massage therapists as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in 2018 that massage therapists earned an average of $22.06 per hour, resulting in an average salary of $45,880. Job opportunities were expected to grow as more people learned about massage therapy's benefits.

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