Massage Therapist: Career Profile & Occupational Outlook
Massage therapists are expected to see employment growth, although many jobs will be self-employed. These professionals have good ethical standards, customer service skills and are knowledgeable about the muscular system of the body.
Massage Therapist Career Profile
Massage therapists treat the muscles of a client through the use of touch. The treatments they offer may range from a simple massage for relaxation to more advanced forms that provide other benefits, such as injury healing. Therapists typically specialize in several forms of massage, also referred to as modalities, which require different techniques. Common modalities are Swedish, sports, deep-tissue and neuromuscular.
Although massage therapists may be employed by a gym or spa, many are self-employed, practicing in their own studio or traveling to a client's home. Muscular stamina and hand steadiness is important, especially when handling multiple appointments in a day. Massage therapists need good communication skills so they can interview clients to determine their needs and market their services to gain new business. Many of these professionals work less than 40 hours a week.
To become trained, massage therapists typically enroll in postsecondary educational programs that may be completed in a year or less. The curricula may include coursework in kinesiology, first aid, hygiene, anatomy and physiology. Hands-on learning is a significant portion of programs and many schools have clinics that allow students to practice techniques on people.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 43 states and the District of Columbia had regulations for massage therapists as of 2011 (www.bls.gov). While the requirements may vary, most states mandate the completion of an approved program and passing a qualifying exam. Some states have their own exam, while others may require therapists to pass either the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination. These exams may cover areas in professional standards, body systems, massage assessment and application.
Massage Therapists Occupational Outlook
The BLS indicated that employment for massage therapists was expected to increase by 20% from 2010-2020. The projected increase is spurred by a growing number of spas and massage clinics. Increasing awareness to the advantages of massages and a large population of active senior citizens will also influence growth. New massage therapists may not be able to work full time until they have built up their clientele.
As of May 2012, the BLS reported that the median salary for massage therapists was $35,970 annually. Most massage therapists earned between $18,420 and $70,140 per year (BLS). Those employed in Alaska, Vermont and Rhode Island received the highest salaries, earning $84,120, $58,050 and $54,680 per year, respectively (BLS).
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