A Career in Massage Therapy
below is from an article published by the American Massage Therapy Association
Massage is a healing art as well as a science. It requires a balance of academic and technical knowledge, clinical skills, manual dexterity, sensitivity, and awareness. Nearly everyone has the innate resources to touch another with care and confidence. However, it takes a sincere desire to help others, along with a commitment to the time, energy, and focus necessary for the training process in order to become a solid practitioner.

The field of massage therapy is growing rapidly in response to the public’s expanding interest in forms of healthcare that promote well-being and a higher quality of life. Consequently, massage therapy has the attributes of an emerging profession undergoing relatively fast-paced change. For example, professional standards for both individuals and massage training programs have markedly advanced and increased over the past five years.
Standards in the field are not always uniform, though this article will point out the most prevalent standards.

Entering the Field of Massage Therapy - Enrolling in a Training Program

Regulation and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Currently 33 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy. In states without statewide regulation of massage, municipalities tend to have requirements for a business license. Potential massage therapy students need to become familiar with the regulatory requirements in cities and states where they may wish to practice. Eligibility requirements range from 300 to 1,000 hours of in-class training. Frequently, states require a specified number of hours training in specific subjects. Most states require a minimum of 500 or more hours of massage training, there is a trend toward increasing the number of hours required.

Training programs in massage therapy generally require a high school diploma, though postsecondary education is useful. Previous studies in broad subjects such as science (especially anatomy and physiology), psychology, humanities, and business are helpful because of massage therapy’s nature as both a science and an art. Many schools also require a personal interview. Personal qualities and characteristics, such as excellent communication skills and a capacity for empathy, are important due to the high degree of personal interaction involved in massage therapy.

The training program curriculum should cover such subjects as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, theory and practice of massage therapy, hands-on practice under faculty supervision, ethics and business practices. Many schools offer a supervised student clinic that is open to the public and gives students the opportunity to work with a variety of people. Training programs may emphasize certain styles of massage, so it is useful to find out if a school teaches a style you feel comfortable with.

Practicing Massage Therapy: Career Opportunities

Massage therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as private offices or massage therapy clinics, chiropractors’ or doctors’ offices, holistic health clinics, health clubs and fitness centers, spas, nursing homes and hospitals, with sports teams, and sports medicine facilities. Some massage therapists have portable equipment and work at their clients’ offices or homes. Recently, massage therapists have appeared in some rather innovative settings, such as storefronts, shopping malls, and airports.

Some practitioners specialize in their practices. The variables one finds regarding specialization include type of application, clientele, and technique. Massage therapy has a broad number of applications. Its range includes relaxation, stress reduction, health promotion, pain management, injury recovery, and working with specific maladies. Practitioners may choose to focus on one of these areas. Another specialization factor is clientele. Some examples are athletes, the elderly, office workers, and performers (e.g., dancers). Another area of specialization is technique. Some practitioners focus on a particular modality or technique and base their practice on that. However, the majority of massage therapists use several techniques and modalities in their work and may place the emphasis of their practice on something other than technique.

Massage therapists may work as self-employed practitioners in private or group offices, or as salaried or commissioned employees, or independent contractors. Earnings vary widely, depending on variables such as the area of the country, type of practice, skills, and experience. Those who work for an hourly wage generally earn the least. Independent contractors commonly split their fees on a percentage basis. Usually the percentage split is based on what services are provided for the massage therapist, such as working space, making appointments, and providing supplies and equipment. Practitioners with their own facilities usually earn the most and have the most responsibility, including building and maintaining a sufficient clientele.

A massage therapist in a major metropolitan area may charge $60 to $100 an hour, and $50 to $75 elsewhere. Those working for an hourly wage may earn less, but do not have overhead expenses. Because of the physical and emotional demands of doing massage therapy, massage therapists usually provide massage less than 40 hours a week. Each individual’s capacity will vary, of course. A relatively large percentage of practitioners practice part-time, i.e., generally considered as less than 10 hours a week of actual massage. AMTA surveys of its members show that most massage therapists consider 27 hours of massage to be full-time work.

Massage therapy does not have the typical career ladder, in that advancements are not achieved through promotions and progressively taking on higher levels of responsibility. Instead, one may increase his or her ability and effectiveness, along with clientele and fees, over time. It takes much time, commonly six months to a year, effort, and persistence to build a practice. Business and entrepreneurial skills can be a factor in practice building. Besides raising fees or getting raises, income can be increased by higher productivity, however, this is limited by the relatively intensive one-on-one nature of massage therapy.