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Interested in Massage Therapy? Here’s What You Need to Know

Individuals who like the idea of working in a healing profession may enjoy a career in the field of massage therapy. Massage therapists spend their days helping clients feel better through the art of tissue manipulation. Therapists may use their massage techniques to help a patient who is recovering from an injury, dealing with chronic pain or simply feeling stressed. Individuals who are interested in becoming massage therapists can get started by reading the information below.

What is the Job Like?

The goal of massage therapy is to relieve pain, improve blood flow to tissues, reduce stress and induce relaxation among clients. In some cases, massage therapy may also be used in conjunction with other modalities in order to rehabilitate an injury. To accomplish these objectives, massage therapists manipulate clients’ soft tissues with their hands or with specialized tools. During a typical appointment, a massage therapist will:

  • Talk to the client about how he or she is feeling.
  • Evaluate areas where pain is indicated.
  • Perform massage therapy techniques.
  • Document the client’s feelings before and after the session.

Working Environment

Massage therapists may be self-employed, or they may work for an employer. Typical employers of massage therapists include a spa, fitness center, hospital or private office. Massage therapists typically work daytime hours, but they may offer evening or weekend appointments. Both full-time and part-time positions are available.

Working as a massage therapist typically requires a significant amount of standing and bending. Massage therapists must also be able to use their hands, elbows and fingers throughout the day to manipulate soft tissues. The job is physically demanding and involves repetitive motion, which can lead to injury if proper technique isn’t practiced. Thus, effective training is important for massage therapists.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals working as massage therapists earned an average annual salary of $35,970 in 2012. Salaries for massage therapists vary based on the hours worked, location, nature of the employer, tips received and other factors.

Education Requirements

The BLS reports that most states regulate massage therapy and require therapists to obtain a license before they can begin working. In states where massage therapy is not regulated, local governments may still mandate licensure or education requirements for massage therapists.

State licensure requirements vary, but most states require the completion of an appropriate program of study. Therapists may also be required to pass a state licensure exam or obtain a satisfactory score on a nationally-recognized test. In addition, some states require massage therapists to take a CPR course and pass background check.

Choosing a Program

After deciding to pursue a career in massage therapy, aspiring therapists must choose an appropriate education program. When choosing a program, there are many different issues to consider.

Program Effectiveness

When comparing schools, students should be sure to consider each program’s effectiveness. How many graduates were able to find gainful employment after completing the program? What is the pass rate for nationally-recognized licensure examinations?

Reviews from Previous Students

One of the best ways to learn about a school is to read reviews written by people who have attended the school in the past. Do students have good things to say about the program, or do they wish they had gone somewhere else? Students should look for reviews on unbiased websites, as opposed to on the school’s official website. If possible, students should also try to talk to some graduates of the program as well.

Tuition and Fees

Another factor to consider when comparing massage therapy programs is each program’s cost. The cost of massage therapy programs varies considerably, ranging from as little as $6,000 to as much as just under $30,000. Thus, it is important to compare prices carefully before choosing a school. While comparing prices, students should be sure to consider what each cost covers. For example, while some schools’ tuition price includes books and other required materials, other schools may require students to purchase these items separately.

Financial Aid/Payment Programs

Students who don’t have the money to fund their education on their own may need to look for a program that offers financial aid. Financial aid for massage therapy programs may come in the form of grants, scholarships or student loans. If financial aid isn’t available, students should ask if the program is willing to offer a payment program to ease the financial burden.


A program’s curriculum is one of its most important characteristics. To ensure that the program chosen will teach students all of the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their careers, students should review potential programs’ curriculum carefully. A good massage therapy curriculum should include the following topics:

  • Sports Massage
  • Infant and Prenatal Massage
  • Neuro-Muscular Techniques
  • Reflexology
  • Asian Massage
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Chair Massage
  • Swedish Massage
  • Site-specific Treatment Techniques
  • Anatomy and Physiology

A good program will also teach students how to interact with clients in a professional setting.

How long will it take?

Massage therapy education programs vary in length and range from as little as a few weeks to more than one year. While a shorter program may seem like the best choice at first, programs that last only a few weeks rarely include all of the topics a massage therapist needs to study. Instead of opting for the shortest program, students should look for a program that covers all of the important topics listed above in a reasonable amount of time. In most cases, students can expect to get a massage therapy degree or diploma in 15 to 19 months. It’s usually best to avoid programs that can be completed in less than 12 months.

How much hands-on training is involved?

Formal instruction and lecture can be very beneficial to massage therapy students. However, no amount of time spent in the classroom is a substitute for hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Before choosing a program, students should find out how many hours they will spend practicing massage techniques in a real-world environment.

Preparing for Success

Massage therapy is an exciting career path that offers many advantages. For students who are considering a career in this field, the best way to ensure success is to take the education process seriously. Students should come to class focused and ready to learn, and they should take notes and practice what they learn on their own time. If enough effort is put into the learning process, the student will be able to reach his or her full potential as a massage therapist.

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