Starting a Career in Massage Therapy: What You Need to Know
Information obtained from the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association)
One of the most frequent comments massage therapists make about their occupation is "I feel fortunate to have found work I love." They feel this way because a career in massage therapy allows them to help people in a meaningful way with a high degree of personal contact.
Massage therapy provides an opportunity to express very positive values about caring and well-being in their work in a way that is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Massage Therapy Growing as a Career Opportunity
As massage therapy has become increasingly important in the health and wellness professions, the number of massage therapists has risen dramatically. AMTA estimates that the number of massage therapists in the United States, including students, is between 300,000 and 350,000 in 2018. Many more are still needed in this growing industry. The massage therapy industry is going to grow 26% by 2025.
Training programs in massage therapy generally require at minimum a high school diploma or GED, though post-secondary education is very useful. Previous studies in broad subjects such as science (especially anatomy and physiology), business and humanities are helpful.
Variations on Massage Therapy Careers
There is no such thing as a standard massage therapy practice. One of the reasons individuals choose this profession is because of the flexibility it offers in terms of work hours, independence, and choice of practice locations and types.
Massage therapists can work full time or part-time. Massage therapists spend additional time on things like scheduling, billing, housekeeping and marketing, to name a few.
Income levels for massage therapists vary by region of the country, experience and type of practice. Median hourly wages of massage therapists, including gratuities, were $19.92 in 2018. The average 2018 median pay for massage therapists is $41, 420 a year. Because many therapists work part time, yearly earnings can vary considerably, depending on the therapist’s schedule.
Settings in Which Massage Therapists Practice
Massage therapists practice in a variety of setting and locations and in a variety of contractual arrangements. Some examples of locations in which massage therapists practice are:
- massage office
- office in home
- physician offices and clinics
- hospitals and wellness centers
- nursing homes/hospices
- chiropractic offices
- on-site (chair massage in offices, airports and at public events, for example)
- health clubs and fitness centers
- sports teams and events (amateur and professional)
- spas and resorts
- cruise ships
The Path to a Career in Massage Therapy
Want to know how to become a massage therapist? Pursuing a career in massage therapy often involves these steps:
- Complete a training program at a massage therapy school that will qualify you to practice in the location you choose.
- Upon graduation, meet the requirements of your state or municipality (such as obtaining a license or other credential, if you practice in an area where massage therapy is regulated). This will most likely require passing the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx).
Massage Laws and Regulations
46 states currently regulate massage and several others are moving toward statewide regulation/licensing. Most states require a minimum number of hours of training, passing an exam to demonstrate competency (for instance, passing the MBLEx), and continuing education to practice. The MBLEx is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
Board certification can be obtained from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and indicates that a massage therapist has attained a higher level of achievement beyond entry level licensure. Board certification is the highest voluntary credential available to massage therapists.
For more information, visit the NCBTMB website.