Massage Therapy

massage therapist in studio

Massage therapy is a rewarding career for those who like to care for others. Workers see many kinds of people and help them to feel their best. Although it can be physically strenuous, jobs in this field can offer many opportunities for growth along with the ability to make a difference in clients’ lives.

Trade Schools with Massage Therapy Programs

Most professionals have attended a massage therapy trade school. Through classes and hands-on experience, they learn many techniques, each designed to achieve a particular outcome.

View More Schools

Most technicians begin their career by attending a massage therapy school. Places like community colleges, private companies and massage therapy trade schools offer the courses and hands-on training needed to do this work.

Many programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll.

What Do You Learn?

Massage therapy classes teach students about anatomy, physiology, and disease. They study motion and body mechanics and learn about business management and ethics.

Hopefuls also get the opportunity to try out their massage therapy skills and techniques on clients under supervision.

Salary

Below is the average salary and hourly wage for each state.

State Hourly wage Annual wage
Alabama $15.53 $32,300.00
Alaska $50.01 $104,020.00
Arizona $28.85 $60,020.00
Arkansas $18.38 $38,230.00
California $30.94 $64,350.00
Colorado $25.57 $53,180.00
Connecticut $32.38 $67,340.00
District of Columbia $27.49 $57,180.00
Florida $24.31 $50,560.00
Georgia $21.82 $45,390.00
Guam $12.58 $26,170.00
Hawaii $30.79 $64,030.00
Idaho $27.55 $57,300.00
Illinois $30.04 $62,490.00
Indiana $26.14 $54,370.00
Iowa $23.39 $48,640.00
Kansas $23.18 $48,220.00
Kentucky $26.70 $55,530.00
Louisiana $19.20 $39,930.00
Maine $26.26 $54,610.00
Maryland $32.61 $67,820.00
Massachusetts $27.98 $58,200.00
Michigan $28.40 $59,080.00
Minnesota $26.70 $55,530.00
Mississippi $26.09 $54,270.00
Missouri $19.73 $41,040.00
Montana $26.28 $54,660.00
Nebraska $26.50 $55,120.00
Nevada $19.71 $40,990.00
New Hampshire $29.49 $61,340.00
New Jersey $25.18 $52,360.00
New Mexico $22.84 $47,500.00
New York $32.52 $67,640.00
North Carolina $30.74 $63,940.00
North Dakota $24.90 $51,790.00
Ohio $24.31 $50,570.00
Oklahoma $20.20 $42,010.00
Oregon $34.37 $71,490.00
Pennsylvania $28.50 $59,280.00
Puerto Rico $9.73 $20,240.00
South Carolina $20.70 $43,050.00
South Dakota $21.11 $43,910.00
Tennessee $23.90 $49,720.00
Texas $23.77 $49,430.00
Utah $25.81 $53,690.00
Vermont $37.59 $78,190.00
Virginia $26.32 $54,750.00
Washington $34.89 $72,560.00
West Virginia $25.18 $52,370.00
Wisconsin $22.62 $47,040.00
Wyoming $21.84 $45,430.00

source: data.bls.gov
Occupation: Occupation:Massage Therapists(SOC Code319011)

Career Overview

Job Requirements

Each state has different massage therapy requirements that prospects need to complete to obtain a license to practice. Some have exams that students must pass at the end of their schooling. Others want candidates to have background checks and a valid CPR certification. Continuing education is often necessary in some places in order to renew licensing.

What Do They Do?

Massage therapists administer treatments that relieve stress or assist in recovery after an injury. These technicians rely on their hands, fingers, elbows, forearms, and feet, as tools for rubbing and kneading muscles and soft tissue. Specialized chairs and tables help support their patients during this service.

Job Duties

A massage therapist uses touch to alleviate pain and discomfort. In one-on-one appointments, these associates rub lotions and oils into the skin and apply pressure to areas that are tight or sore. By using special methods, they can provide some initial relief and encourage the body to heal.


Massage therapists may see many customers in a day who each have different needs. They use their training to tailor solutions and address specific problems. Workers spend the majority of their time on their feet engaged with client, and the rest cleaning and office tasks.

When assisting patients, these professionals sometimes must bend or lean over. They often use their own weight to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to different parts of their clients’ bodies. Although there is no strength requirement to work in this field, massage therapists should be physically fit and comfortable touching people.

Each day, recruits may perform massage therapy duties like:

  • Discuss goals with clients
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Rub and knead muscles
  • Apply pressure to certain areas with fingers or hands
  • Blend oils and lotions for use during procedures
  • Recommend stretches and posture correction techniques
  • Keep adequate records
  • Refer patients to other providers as needed

What Types of Skills Should Massage Therapists Possess?

  • Desire to help others
  • Active listening
  • Decision making skills
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Time management
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Comfort with making conversation
  • Writing ability
  • Reading comprehension
  • Physical dexterity and strength

Office Software

Massage therapists need to use electronic tools for recordkeeping and appointment scheduling. They must be comfortable with computers and be able to navigate different kinds of software to track progress and plan visits. Familiarity with basic office programs is a vital massage therapy skill.

Versatility

These professionals learn a variety of techniques in massage therapy schools that they choose from when assisting each patient. Associates adapt treatments for groups of people like pregnant women, the elderly, or athletes.

Some common types of treatment include deep tissue, Swedish, relaxation, and sports massage.

Communication

Team members must have good communication and language skills to provide excellent service. They will need to be flexible to meet the needs of their clients and tolerate stressful situations.

These employees often work independently, so self-motivation, persistence, and stamina are all traits important to a massage therapist’s success.

Relationship Building

Massage therapists need to be able to create and maintain a professional relationship with their patrons. Trust is important, especially when touching another person’s body.

Those with massage therapy careers must have a strong sense of integrity and show respect to others by communicating clearly, listening well, and honoring a client’s requests.

What is the Work Environment Like?

Job seekers new to the field, especially those who open their own businesses, should expect that it will take time to build a client base.

Providing quality service and spreading the word to friends and local companies can help to attract new customers.

Candidates should also be prepared to continue their learning if needed for license renewal.

Hours

Depending on where they work, massage therapists may have to cover different shifts to meet the needs of patrons and the company. This may include scheduled appointments in the evenings and on weekends.

A willingness to be flexible might also lead to advancement opportunities or more clientele.

Preparation

To prepare for appointments, a therapist will mix oils and restock supplies. They will ensure that the temperature is appropriate and that the room is clutter-free.

If providing relaxation massages, they may also lower the lighting and put on soothing music.

Sanitation

Cleanliness is vital to the health and safety of patients. Workers must wipe down equipment and change linens between patients.

They regularly launder items like towels, sheets, blankets, and pillowcases. Professionals should routinely inspect chairs and tables to make sure they are sturdy.

Where Can They Work?

Some practitioners are part of larger medical practices that treat injuries. Others provide services intended to promote relaxation in a calm and peaceful environment. The length of each massage varies, with some being as short as ten minutes, while others last more than an hour.

Many different types of businesses employ massage therapists to promote wellness or treat injuries. Applicants may find openings in places such as:

  • Medical offices
  • Fitness centers
  • Massage parlors
  • Salons or spas
  • Resorts and hotels

Many massage therapy jobs are with companies that advertise their services. Others, especially those who are self-employed, need to find customers on their own.

Most technicians rely on word-of-mouth and receive referrals from friends, family, and other patients. Some use social media to encourage people who live nearby to call or stop in.

Do Massage Therapists Travel for Work?

Many massage therapists freelance or own their own business. Sometimes, they may travel to their clients or a specific location to provide services for a group.

Professionals in the hospitality industry may get the opportunity to practice aboard cruise ships or in resort locations around the world.

Do Massage Therapists Have Any Other Options?

Job seekers willing to continue their education beyond a massage therapy certificate can find other roles where their training will be useful. Some use their knowledge of movement and anatomy as a physical therapy assistant. These associates show patients how to perform exercises to increase strength or promote healing.

Others with an interest in fitness might consider becoming personal trainers. In a gym, instructors teach customers how to use equipment and develop routines to assist with weight loss or building muscle. Those passionate about holistic health might consider becoming yoga teachers and encouraging others on their journeys to spiritual and physical wellness.

What Are Alternate Careers for Massage Therapists?

Technicians that focus on the relaxing and pampering aspects of massage may enjoy working as cosmetologists. These professionals provide services that help others to look their best.

While they work in salons and spas like massage therapists, they spend their days cutting and styling hair, applying makeup, and providing manicures and pedicures.

Career Outlook

Those interested in a massage therapy career can expect to find many opportunities upon competition of training. As more people seek out these professionals to help them manage stress or treat injuries, openings will continue to expand.

Earnings are different for each massage therapy job. Starting income for new recruits is around $21k, including tips. After gaining some experience, salaries average around $41k per year, with the highest paid individuals earning $70k or more. Chiropractic offices tend to pay the most, while positions in the hospitality industry have the lowest wages.

While many practitioners are self-employed or work part-time, those in full time roles with companies may enjoy a range of massage therapy benefits. Some of the more common offerings include:

  • Medical and dental coverage
  • Vision insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Paid time off
  • Flexible schedules
  • Discounts on services

Related Resources

Becoming a Massage Therapist in California
Becoming a Massage Therapist in Florida
Becoming a Massage Therapist in Texas