Massage Therapy Degree Programs
Which types of jobs are available for those interested in massage therapy?
As Americans learn about the health benefits of massage, opportunities for massage therapists continue to grow. Many adults seek massage therapy to unwind from daily stress, while athletes use massage to rehabilitate injuries and ease overworked muscles. Increasingly, hospitals and nursing homes are incorporating massage into patient care. In order to serve a wide range of clients, massage therapists learn many techniques and study everything from Swedish massage to accupressure.
Because massage therapists interact with clients on a daily basis, people skills are essential; active listening, courtesy and patience are all traits of the profession. On a given day, a massage therapist might perform any of the following tasks:
- Discuss clients' medical histories and goals for massage
- Knead muscles and apply pressure to specific points of the body
- Assess the condition of clients' soft tissues
- Keep accurate records
- Schedule appointments
There are over 80 types of massage, and therapists often specialize in several of these areas, called modalities. Mastering a variety of modalities allows massage therapists to meet the needs of a diverse client base, which might include both senior citizens and professional athletes.
Massage therapy careers can be extremely rewarding. Therapists enjoy fostering their clients' improved health, and many enjoy the active nature of the work. The flexibility of a career in massage therapy is another perk. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 57 percent of massage therapists in the U.S. are self-employed. These professionals often own their own massage businesses, and many others perform massage part-time as a way to increase income.
Like every profession, massage therapy jobs come with some challenges. When launching a career, many massage therapists are unable to work full-time as they establish their client base. Injury is also a risk because improper massage technique can lead to repetitive-motion injuries and fatigue. However, proper training through massage therapy training programs can help mitigate this risk.
Formal training required to work in a career related to massage therapy
Massage therapists must be licensed to work in most states. Specific licensing requirements vary, but most states require therapists to complete a formal massage therapy training program and pass an examination. Massage therapy programs do not lead to a degree, but they prepare students for licensing exams and can include coursework in the following subjects:
- Body mechanics
- Business management
Most programs include at least 500 hours of training, and students learn through traditional class work and hands-on training. Part-time and full-time training programs are available; some can be completed in under a year.
The typical career path of someone interested in massage therapy
People who go into massage therapy are often empathetic, caring and communicative. Therapists must be able to work with a range of personality types and put clients at ease. Most massage therapy training programs require applicants to have a high school diploma, but a college degree is not required.
A career in massage therapy evolves as therapists gain experience and expand their client base. Although the massage work itself remains the same, massage therapists may eventually manage a studio, train others or start their own business. According to the BLS, massage therapists who work for themselves and have a large client base make the most money.
Job outlook and salary information for those interested in massage therapy
Massage therapists are expected to face strong job prospects as demand for massage increases. In fact, the BLS expects employment of massage therapists nationwide to grow by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018. This above-average growth should result in approximately 23,000 new massage therapy jobs.
While over half of massage therapists are self-employed, others find massage therapy jobs at spas, fitness centers, massage studios and hospitals. The number of spas continues to grow and massage clinic franchises have expanded to offer more affordable services. Also, as more states adopt licensing laws, massage therapy will become more widely accepted.
In 2009, the mean annual salary for a massage therapist in the United States was $39,780, according to the BLS. Wages varied by location and industry, with hospitals paying the highest salaries.