Frequently Asked Questions about Massage Therapy Programs and Careers

Ready to take your first look at massage therapy careers, training, and find the 2017 job outlook for massage therapists? These questions will briefly walk you through several important introductory topics. Find out what working as a massage therapist entails, including the types of modalities you can specialize in. Learn what certifications and licenses you might need in your state, including what kinds of requirements professionals usually have to obtain. We’ll let you know about job growth, national average pay, and career options you may have after completing masseuse training.

About Massage Therapists

What is a massage therapist?

A massage therapist is a trained and licensed professional skilled in the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of massage. Massage therapists generally specialize in a few types of massage (like traditional Swedish and deep tissue, trigger point therapy, or athletic/sports massage), so some will be better suited to clients with different needs. Licensed massage therapists (LMTs) works by appointment, and they may work out of a salon, spa or sports center, or even out of a home.

Before a session, the massage therapist should learn each client's medical history and any physical conditions they need to pay special attention to or avoid. They will also learn the desired results from the massage – relaxation, stress relief, pain relief, athletic performance, or something else. If the therapist determines that massage therapy could be beneficial and that they can help the client, he or she will begin the session.

The therapist kneads, pushes and pulls muscles and soft tissues and applies finger and hand pressure as necessary to treat the client. They work to improve muscle and soft tissue form and function, and in turn can affect muscle strength, joint health and comfort and more. The therapist concentrates working out the muscles in the areas of each client's specific discomfort. The therapist will work based on the person's goals, ailments, medical history, and stress- or pain-related problem areas. The professionals customize their treatment for each and every client.

Massage therapy is a natural extension of the beauty trades because it complements those services so well in salon and spa settings. Much like many beauty services, massage can help improve someone's mental health and well-being. Beauty Schools Directory has answered common questions about the salary, job outlook, career options and other career information for massage therapists to help you decide if this is the right career path for you. If you think becoming a licensed massage practitioner sounds right for you, simply enter your zip code in the box to the right and select the "Massage Therapy" program to find schools near you.

License Requirements

Nearly all states in the U.S. require some sort of licensure or certification in order to practice massage therapy professionally on clients. There is a minimum amount of training hours you must complete to be able to sit for the written and practical exams, and the requirements vary by state. The current national average for the minimum amount of training hours a state requires is around 600 hours to complete the program. Some states require as few as 500, and other states require as many as 1,000 hours. In some states the requirements actually vary by municipality instead of being state-wide.

Most states require massage students to pass either the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), or one of the exams from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Some states offer “licenses,” whereas others offer what are called “certifications.”


The most critical step to become an LMT is to get the training and hands-on practice required to be able to sit for your state’s board exams. Because you are working in a near-medical field and directly with clients’ bodies, it is imperative to get the proper education to be able to practice this profession safely and effectively. The training programs can vary in length and requirements, based largely on each state’s individual licensing requirements. View our list of states to discover your state’s massage therapist licensing requirements . States require anywhere from 500 to 1000 hours of training to sit for your licensing exam, but the national average is 560 hours of training. Some states also require you to become CPR certified. A handful of states, like Kansas and Minnesota , have requirements that vary by municipality. A tiny handful of states don’t currently regulate the massage profession at all.

The most recent enrollment survey from the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionalsestimates that there are about 1,319 massage institutions throughout the country. This number includes career schools, state-run or community colleges, and corporate massage schools. The programs may be part-time or full-time, and some schools offer night and weekend classes to students. According to the same survey, there are just over 40,000 massage therapy students looking to join the profession.

Massage therapists should have excellent communication skills so you can consult with clients and listen carefully to their needs, so you can get a complete and confident understanding in what they hope to achieve during their appointment or an ongoing basis, as well as their level of comfort and likes or dislikes. LMTs should also have good judgment and decision-making skills to be capable of identifying each client’s unique needs and be able to take the best course of action to meet them.

On the physical side, professional bodyworkers often have to be on their feet most or all of the day, and they may have to accommodate numerous appointments. You should also be able to work with your hands and have significant physical strength and dexterity (or be willing to work on it). You will use pressure and movement of your arms and hands to work out clients’ muscles.

You may learn to work with certain kinds of tools or technology specific to the massage therapy profession, such as boards or bolsters, hydrotherapy baths, various massage tables and chairs, and therapeutic heating or cooling pads, among others. You may also learn to use certain types of products in your appointments, such as oils and lotions or certain scents for an aromatherapy component.

You do not need any prior work experience to begin studying to become a massage therapist. But you do need to obtain the minimum required training hours and sit for your state’s licensing exam, and those training hours usually involve hands-on training in a student massage clinic. Each state has a set number of training hours that are in-classroom theory and exams, and a set number of hours that must be hands-on practice on real clients through the student clinic.

Interestingly, the AMTA says that many massage therapists enter this profession as a second career when they’re ready for a life change, though nowadays the population of LMTs is younger than it used to be.

The skills that a great massage therapist will need to be successful include but are not limited to: excellent customer service, good listening skills, arm-hand steadiness, manual dexterity (good with your hands), stamina (ability to stand and exert physical effort for a lengthy period of time), and feeling comfortable consulting with clients on personal physical issues. The skills that come with performing massage services will come through your training at a massage therapy school. This field is particularly well suited for people who are sensitive to others’ needs and feelings, and who genuinely like to help people. It is also a job that requires an ethical person with integrity, someone who manages their time well, and who is adaptable or flexible in the face of change. It’s great for people who don’t mind working one-on-one in personal situations, rather than in larger groups.

It’s important to note that nearly all massage therapists take continuing education classes to stay current in the industry and to keep their licenses active. This is highly encouraged to set yourself apart from the competition, and stay knowledgeable and on the cutting edge of the massage and wellness business – even if your state doesn’t require the CEUs to renew your license.

Interested in getting your massage therapy career started? Learn how to become a massage therapist with this article.

Career Options

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates estimates that the job demand for massage therapists will grow 23% through the year 2022, much faster than the national average for all occupations. U.S. News & World Report also listed Massage Therapist as one of the best Healthcare jobs of 2015. Some, but certainly not all, of the potential job titles you could have as a licensed bodyworker could be:

  • Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)
  • Certified Massage Therapist (CMT)
  • Professional Bodyworker
  • Certified (Advanced) Rolfer
  • Massage (School or Workshop) Educator

As a massage therapist, you may have the flexibility to create your own schedule by being self-employed or running their own business. Many self-employed massage practitioners travel with their equipment or rent out a space to practice.

If you want more stability than self-employment provides, many other opportunities are available. Licensed massage therapists may work in salons, spas, resorts, chiropractic clinics or with athletic organizations. Some massage therapists also work in hospitals or other medical facilities. LMTs may work closely with chiropractors, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, or beauty professionals like estheticians at salons and spas.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association fact sheet, massage therapy was a $11.7 billion industry in 2014. The AMTA also estimates that there are between 300,000 and 350,000 massage therapists and students in the United States right now. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities for massage practitioners to increase 23% through the year 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is largely due to the increase in the number of salons and spas in recent years, as well as the rise of franchise massage chains that has brought affordable massage to the people.

The types of places that employ massage therapists are plentiful. Salons and spas are the most common places of employment for LMTs, though you may also find them at travel destinations and resorts, at specialized massage franchise chains, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, on sports teams, in fitness or recreational centers, at chiropractors offices, or working in corporate offices. Many massage practitioners may also decide to freelance, working for themselves either on-site or out of their own homes or businesses.

Work Day

Many Licensed Massage Therapists are self-employed, while others tend to work in salons and spas, chiropractors offices, hotels and resorts, or in fitness and recreational centers. The independent practitioner may work out of their homes, out of their own offices, or even in the client’s home. That person’s working environment and schedule may be completely different than someone who works in a fitness center or spa.

Injury rehabilitation, chiropractic and sports massages may be in more public and well-lit settings. The focus of the services in these settings isn’t on relaxation, it’s on healing. In spas and resorts, the environment may be dim with calm music and soothing aromas to set a relaxing mood. Unless the Registered Massage Therapist works for a larger business, therapists often provide their own tables and linens, oils, lotions and other supplies.

Massage therapists are sometimes prone to repetitive motion injuries or fatigue, so you will need to take special care of your body if you plan to pursue this profession. Make sure you are scheduling enough down time between appointments, maintaining healthy diet and exercise regimens, and keeping current on proper massage technique.


The mean annual wage of massage therapists is $41,790 per year before tips, according to BLS (2015). Most massage practitioners earn either an hourly or annual salary, in addition to tips and gratuities which are difficult to report accurately.

Another thing that can affect these salary estimates is whether you choose to work full or part time. Full-time therapists are more likely to command a higher annual income than those who work part-time. According to the AMTA, massage therapists work an average of 18 hours per week offering actual massages, not including time spent on other business-related and administrative tasks. Salary is highly dependent on keeping the appointment calendar full, and therapists tend to be highly dependent on repeat clientele and referral business to be successful.

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