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Massage Therapist Job Description

Massage therapists maintain a direct and close relationship with their clientele. Dealing with people is a central part of the job, not only during massages, but in physical assessments, booking appointments, and in marketing.
Around 60 percent of massage therapists are self-employed. Among those who work for others, nearly 20 percent are involved in personal care services, including spas and beauty parlors. Many of the rest work in travel- and sports-related fields.

Massage Therapist Duties

  • Giving massages
  • Making appointments with clients
  • Recording patient notes
  • Maintaining the office
  • Promoting the practice

Alternate Job Titles

Massage therapists may also be known as bodywork therapists, medical massage therapists, licensed massage therapists, or registered massage therapists. A massage therapist may specialize in several of 80 techniques, or modalities. This specialization may be reflected in his title, as in the case of sports massage therapists.

How To Become A Massage Therapist

Typically, massage therapists undertake a training program and earn a certificate. While some states specify that the program be accredited by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), the majority currently do not. A massage therapist working in a regulated state must accumulate a designated minimum number of educational hours, from 500 up to 1000.
The training program may focus on a particular type of modality, or it may offer a broad introduction to the field. Most states also require massage therapists to take a certain number of continuing education credits each year. Regulations vary considerably; check with the local massage licensure board or board of health for specifics.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Massage Therapist?

Typically, it takes around six months to earn a massage therapy certificate. However, in some programs that require more credit hours, becoming a massage therapist can take a year and a half.

Education Requirements

Massage therapist programs require between 500 and 1500 hours of study and result in the award of either a certificate or a degree. Some programs allow for specialization and may provide a particular emphasis on certain modalities, or types of massage therapy.


Most states regulate massage therapists; only five (Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Wyoming) do not. However, some localities within these unregulated states impose requirements for licensing or certification.
A few states require that those who describe themselves as massage therapists be certified. Certification is voluntary, however, and not required if the practitioner describes himself in other terms. While criteria for certification vary, common standards include a minimum number of work hours, a degree from an accredited school, and passing a written test. Other requirements might include CPR and first aid certificates, disease screening, or a background check.
States with a certification requirement accept one of two national exams: one administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), and the other, called the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).


The majority of regulated states require massage therapists to be licensed. In these states, the practice of massage therapy is illegal unless performed by a licensed practitioner. The requirements for licensing are much the same as those for certification and are similarly varied from one state to another.

Job Outlook

As the population ages and increasingly seeks out care for muscular pain, massage therapists will become an even more important part of healthcare support. The field is expected to grow considerably over the next decade, with the BLS anticipating a 20 percent increase in massage therapist positions.
The need for massage therapists to work in personal care services will contribute to growth in the profession as well. Both the number of spas and of dedicated massage centers has been increasing in recent years. Further, the increasing professionalism of the field, as licensing and more rigorous requirements become the norm, should enhance salaries.Detailed Massage Therapist salary data is available here.

States With Highest Employment Levels

State Hourly mean Wage Annual mean salary # Employed Employment/1000 jobs
California $19.12 $39,770 9,540 0.67
Florida $18.30 $38,060 5,650 0.78
Texas $18.27 $38,000 4,270 0.40
Washington $25.85 $53,760 3,580 1.30
Arizona $17.96 $37,350 3,390 1.40


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