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What Is a Clinical Massage Therapist?

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a clinical massage therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Clinical massage therapy is a form of massage therapy focusing on medical issues and pain relief. In order to work as a massage therapist, one must complete a training program; such programs may lead to the award of a certificate or associate's degree. Many states require clinical massage therapists to earn licensure.

Required Education Certificate, associate's degree or training program in massage therapy
Licensing Mandatory in most states; requirements and exams recognized vary by state; recognized certifications include those offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% for massage therapists*
Median Salary (2013) $35,920 for massage therapists*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clinical Massage Therapist Description

Clinical massage therapy, one of more than 80 different types of massages, uses touch to manipulate soft tissues throughout the human body. Patients seek massage therapists for a number of reasons, including decompressing tired muscles, reducing stress and supporting general health.

Clinical massage therapy uniquely focuses on the treatment of soft tissue to maintain, develop, augment or rehabilitate the patient's physical function. Clinical massage therapy can improve the functioning of joints and muscles, the healing process, metabolism and circulation.

Clinical Massage Therapy Education

Most states require massage therapists to complete some sort of formal training and pass an exam before they can work. Training can be found in technical schools, community colleges or specialty schools.

In addition to completing coursework, students gain hands-on training in clinical experiences or internships at local hospitals, clinics or health centers or on campus. Topics of study may include anatomy, kinesiology, spa and clinical techniques, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), nutrition, ethics, professionalism, reflexology and pathology.

Licensure

Many states require that massage therapists be licensed before they practice. Requirements vary by state, but this usually requires graduating from an accredited training program and passing a state-recognized exam. Some states use their own exams, while others recognize national exams including the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's exam and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards' Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.

Career and Salary Outlook

In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that massage therapists would see an employment growth of 23% between 2012 and 2022 due to the increasing number of spas and massage clinics (www.bls.gov). In May 2013, the BLS reported that massage therapists earned a median annual wage of $35,920. Although the majority of massage therapists worked in personal care services, those working for ambulatory health care services earned the highest wages.

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