Massage therapists provide important services in relieving stress and the pain associated with injuries. They are skilled in knowing exactly where to manipulate soft muscle tissue with their hands to provide this relief. Today, alternative medicine is becoming increasingly popular and massage therapists provide a natural way of providing relief from physical ailments.
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At a Glance
Other Job Titles: Licensed Massage Therapist
Salary Range: $17,970-$69,000; Median $34,900/year; $16.78/hour
Education/Training Required: High school education, completion of a massage therapy education program
Desired Skills/Aptitude: Communication skills, physical strength, manual dexterity
Certification/Licensing: Licensing varies by state; Certification by taking MBLEX or NCETMB
Locations with Best Opportunities: California, Florida, Texas, Washington, Arizona
Employment Outlook: Growth of 20% through 2020 (faster than average)
Opportunities for Advancement: Can become an athletic trainer, chiropractor, or physical therapist with continued education and a degree
What a Massage Therapist Does
Massage therapists focus on providing relief and boosting the wellness of their patients in several ways. Their techniques using touch relieve patients of pain, alleviate stress, relax, and provide non-pharmaceutical treatment for injuries. They do this by using their hands, fingers, and overall touch to work on the body’s soft muscle tissue. Their clients are oftentimes plagued by these ailments and look to the massage therapist to release them from the associated pain and discomfort.
Self-employment is common for massage therapists. Working this way provides them with a myriad of opportunities and you can find them roving to patient homes, offices, or opening up their own homes for services. Roving massage therapists will take all of the supplies they need such as body oils and lotions, pillows, and sheets.
Other workplaces that use massage therapists include hotels, chiropractor offices, wellness centers, and fitness centers. Oftentimes, therapists employed at these locations are part-time.
Massage therapists work in different settings such as well-lit or dimly-lit rooms. It depends on the type of treatment the client is receiving. For example, if the focus is to help the client relax, the room will probably have the lights dimmed along with soft music and aromatic candles. On the other hand, giving massage therapy in a fitness center would probably be well lit with the focus on preventing or treating an exercise or sports injury.
Being a massage therapist is not without its injury risk. It is for this reason that a person going into this field should be in good physical condition. The risk of injury for therapists mostly stems from repetitive motions used in the techniques if not done properly.
Education and Certification
Massage therapist training programs are available in post-secondary educational institutions. These training programs may require more than 500 hours for completion and produce a certificate. The curriculum in these training programs deals with the study of body movements and the physical human processes that allow for them (kinesiology). The curriculum will also include studies of the various tissues and organs in the human body. Furthermore, students receive instruction in ethics and become skilled in massage techniques with hands-on practice.
There are two certification tests recognized at the national level. The first is the Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) and the second is the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEX). Certification exams are taken after completing an accredited massage therapy training program.
The requirement for licensing of massage therapists is handled at the state level. Most states in the U.S. regulate massage therapists and require licensing. There may also be regulations that are in effect at the local level. It is best to check with your state to get the specific requirements.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Massage Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Massage Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319011.htm