How to Become a Massage Therapist
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Start A Massage Therapy Career for Fun or Profit

By Justin Boyle
Published on April 22, 2013.

Just about everyone loves a good massage. A properly trained massage therapist can relieve pain, reduce anxiety, rehabilitate injuries and increase general wellness in even the most tense and stressed-out human body.

With all the mystique that surrounds massage practice, it can be hard to visualize it as a regular occupation. The truth is that dedicated professionals are hard at work every day in studios, health clubs and clients' homes to help make the world a little healthier.

How to start a career in massage therapy

The precise amount and type of training it takes to become a massage therapist can vary from state to state. Massage therapy training programs can be found at colleges, universities and career academies, and often require 500 hours or more of study before a certificate can be awarded.

Massage therapists usually have to pass a licensing exam before being cleared to practice legally. Two such exams are recognized nationally -- the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) and the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). Some states have state-specific licensing exams.

Regulation on licensing in general varies from state to state as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (, 2012) reports that in 2011, 43 states and Washington, D.C., regulated massage therapy. Although not all states license massage therapists, there may be regulations at the local level.

Massage therapist career environment

Here's a quick list of duties that massage therapists can expect to perform in an ordinary day:

  • Open communication with clients about their health and their therapy goals
  • Physical evaluation to diagnose problem areas in the client's musculature
  • Manipulation of muscles and tissues using hands, elbows, smooth stones or other implements
  • Consultation on measures such as stretching, exercise and other preventative care

The majority of massage therapists were self-employed in 2010, according to the BLS, and the remainder worked in personal care facilities, hotels and fitness centers (, 2012). The specific environment for massage therapy treatment tends to depend on the client and the purpose of the therapy -- spa resort relaxation massage, for instance, with its customary candlelight and soothing music, generally dictates a different environment than rehabilitative massage for sports injuries.

The BLS reports that opportunities for massage therapist jobs are expected to increase by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, leading to more than 30,000 new jobs on the market by the end of the decade (, 2012). This rate of growth is faster than the overall average for all occupations, owing in part to an increased awareness of health, well-being and physical fitness on the part of the general public.

Take your career into your own hands

Some of the jobs emerging on the market will be part-time ones, so it's important to strengthen your massage therapy career by building an independent client base. Numerous organizations and associations for massage therapists exist at the regional, state and national levels, and membership in one or more of these groups can go a long way toward building an independent, self-sustaining professional network.

Take the initiative to learn more about careers in massage therapy and training programs in your area. Earning a living with your magic touch might be just the career you've been looking for.


U.S. News & World Report, "Massage Therapist," Best Healthcare Jobs,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Massage Therapists," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, April 5, 2012,
The Occupational Information Network, "Summary Report for: Massage Therapists," O*NET OnLine, 2011,

About the Author

Justin Boyle is a freelance writer and journalist in Austin, Texas.

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