Massage isn't just for pampering -- it's increasingly being recognized as an important component of a healthy life. Studies have shown massage therapy to be effective in treating conditions ranging from cancer-related fatigue to substance abuse withdrawal, fibromyalgia, headaches, high blood pressure and more. This may be why the massage therapy career outlook appears quite strong.
Careers in massage therapy
Massage therapists are specially trained to use touch to manipulate soft tissue to relieve stiffness or pain, improve circulation, relieve stress and promote wellness. There are many specialties within massage therapy, also called modalities, including Swedish massage, sports massage and others, and some therapists specialize in certain types of clients, such as athletes, the elderly or pregnant women.
A massage session generally involves assessing clients' goals, symptoms and medical histories, then applying massage to areas around the body, evaluating areas of tension or pain. They may also provide guidance on stretching, relaxation or strengthening and document clients' progress, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov).
Massage therapy career outlook
In 2013, massage therapy was an $8-$10 billion industry in the U.S., according to the American Massage Therapy Association, with roughly 35 million Americans having at least one massage between July 2012 and July 2013. As health care practitioners increasingly recommend massage to patients due to its widely reputed benefits, careers in massage therapy should experience continued growth. This, combined with an aging baby boomer population and growth among massage franchises, should open further opportunities in this field. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth of 23 percent between 2012 and 2022.
Massage therapy salaries
Two-thirds of massage therapists only work part time, and the AMTA says that the majority do this work as a second career, with nearly half earning income in another profession and working an average of 15 hours/week providing massage. The average per-hour fee charged in 2012 was $65, according to the AMTA.
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The BLS reports the national median hourly wage of massage therapists in May 2013 was $17.27, and the national median annual wage was $35,920.
Job statistics for massage therapy
In 2012, 44 states and the District of Columbia regulated massage therapy. In these states, licensure or certification is required. The AMTA says there are more than 360 accredited massage therapy schools and programs in the U.S., and the BLS says that most programs require at least 500 hours of study for completion, with many requiring more than that. The average massage therapist takes an average of 21 hours of continuing education per year.
Every program is different, so explore those listed here to ensure you find the right one to suit your needs and goals.
2014 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet, American Massage Therapy Association, released Feb. 8, 2014, http://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html
Massage Therapists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/current/oes319011.htm
Massage Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm