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Massage Therapists

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Massage Therapists

Massage Therapists

Schools and Education


What’s needed: Massage therapists complete a training program that is typically 500 hours or more. Programs are offered by private schools community colleges and vocational institutions and usually require a high school diploma for admission. Training includes classroom study and clinical practice and leads to a diploma or certificate. Many schools provide experience for students by offering therapeutic massage services to the public at reduced rates.

What you study:

Study topics include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Massage principles
  • Massage modalities such as Swedish and deep tissue
  • Ethics
  • Business management

What courses you’ll take

Below are examples of courses that you’ll likely take as a Massage Therapy Modalities student.

Introduction to MassageThe history of massage and an overview of the various massage techniques in use today; anatomy and physiology as related to massage; pathology; regulations; equipment; sanitation; and the basics of working in a massage clinic in a spa setting including record-keeping and patient management.Introduce foundational knowledge for the massage therapy profession that students will need for their more advanced studies.
Massage Therapy ModalitiesThe basic ways in which muscles work and how muscle tension leads to aches and pains; biomechanical relationships between muscles and the body’s organs and nerves and the ways in which muscle problems can affect these other parts of the body; indications and contraindications for each massage modality (set of techniques).Provide an understanding of how muscle problems develop how massage can help these problems and which massage mechanics and techniques are best utilized in each case.
Swedish MassageMain techniques for treating muscle aches and tension in the Swedish table massage style including: how to properly position patients; effleurage (light stroking technique); petrissage (a kneading and rubbing technique); applying friction; vibration; sequencing; applying pressure; joint movements; and draping. Also covers history of Swedish massage and the reasons for its use today.Ready students to use the widespread technique of Swedish massage and provide an understanding of how to use it most effectively.
Specialized Massage ModalitiesOther useful massage techniques in addition to traditional Swedish table massage including those that require more advanced certification such as neuromuscular therapy (NMT) which focuses on nerve pressure points; on connective tissue massage which focuses on treating the body’s connective tissues; and on reflexology which treats points in the feet that correspond to specific organs or body systems.Explain the assessment process and approach used in a range of specialized massage techniques; survey the ways in which each specialized modality addresses bodily problems.
Sports MassageWays of treating common sports/orthopedic injuries with massage; kinesiology (the study of muscles); how to assess patients’ posture and flexibility following a sports injury; how to determine the root of the injury and treat it with massage techniques targeted at reducing pain and restoring flexibility; how to manage patients’ muscle rehabilitation process and recommend therapies they can practice on their own.Prepare students to examine sports injuries select the massage technique(s) best suited for treating each individual case and manage patient care throughout the rehabilitation process.

Video Overview

Quickly shows the work of massage therapists. Created for the US Department of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

The profession is regulated at the state and local levels. Most states require a license or certificate to practice and stipulate a minimum number of education hours. Depending on licensing board regulations candidates must also pass either a state or national examination. The two national options are the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination and the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Massage therapists often have high flexibility in planning their schedules. About 75 percent work part time. They frequently offer varied hours to accommodate clients and evening and weekend sessions are common. Practitioners who are employed by businesses such as massage clinics may work regular shifts.

Work location:

Most massage therapists are self-employed and work out of private or shared offices. Many also visit client premises by appointment. Some practitioners work on site for massage clinics medical offices or spa centers as independent contractors or employees.

Recommended Websites

  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook ?- The site provides an informative overview of the massage therapy profession. It clearly explains basic practitioner responsibilities education and licensing requirements and the job market. To get an even better feel for this career path explore additional websites that focus on the massage therapy field.
  • American Massage Therapy Association ?- AMTA is a nonprofit professional association serving massage therapists and students. The site includes a career guidance section with detailed articles and tips on various aspects of practice. With features such as a career quiz this content helps you see inside the real world of a massage therapist.
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals — ABMP is another leading professional membership organization. The site focuses on member benefits such as liability insurance and includes sections directed to practitioners and students. The information provides a sense of the business side of the profession especially for the self-employed.
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation ?- COMTA accredits massage therapy schools and programs. Its Schools & Students section provides a handy search tool for accredited programs by type and state. You can also look up a school by name to check its accreditation.
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork ?- The NCBTMB is a nonprofit organization offering national certification for massage therapists and bodyworkers. The certification section provides comprehensive information about the process to help you understand exactly what is involved.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$91880$31K – $115K2200.13%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$30050$18K – $45K1900.04%
ALHuntsville$20770$17K – $31K400.02%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$26520$17K – $37K1900.09%
ARHot Springs$28940$19K – $52K800.22%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$34620$26K – $55KN/AN/A
AZFlagstaff$30190$18K – $103KN/AN/A
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$34590$19K – $55KN/AN/A
AZPrescott$44310$21K – $70K600.12%
AZTucson$33920$18K – $72KN/AN/A
CABakersfield – Delano$35750$25K – $45KN/AN/A
CAFresno$35830$18K – $