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Massage Therapist: Education and Career Information

Being a massage therapist can be an extremely rewarding career. Although they are typically known for relaxation methods, they also work with chiropractors and medical professionals to relieve pain, reduce stress, and rehabilitate injuries. These individuals are also known as clinical massage therapists, deep tissue massage therapists, licensed massage therapists, medical massage therapists and licensed massage practitioners.

What does a massage therapist do?

A massage therapist works to provide therapeutic and medicinal benefits through a number of methods, such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy or athletic massages. Most of these therapists work by appointment and can be found in medical facilities, salons, sports centers and other facilities.

A massage therapist works to assess the client’s medical history and any physical limitations prior to beginning their massage treatments, making sure to pay attention to the anticipated results and how the patient is progressing. Massage therapists are specialists in kneading, pushing and pulling muscles and soft tissue, or applying pressure where needed to provide relief. A therapist works to meet the goals of the patient and medical professional to relieve pain and stress wherever possible. These treatments are customized for each client.

Massage therapists can function as a single-person business, and performs a variety of tasks, like booking patients, marketing, booking clients, washing linens and administrative tasks. When operating in this capacity, they are frequently on-the-go, traveling to homes or offices with their equipment to perform their job.

How much does a massage therapist earn?

The salary scale for massage therapist varies based on the types of services offered, location and type of specialty. The American Massage Therapy Association states that this industry made between $12 to $17 million dollars in 2012 alone. The median annual salary is around $40,300 before tips, and on the high scale, more than $69,000 per year before tips. The job outlook for massage therapists is promising, with an estimation of a 20% increase through 2020. Whether working in a facility or a sole practitioner, working in the industry can be lucrative.

What types of skills are required to be a massage therapist?

Massage therapists must have a certain skill set to be successful in their position. They must be able to:

Communicate: Massage Therapists must be able to communicate with clients and medical professionals to find out the needs of the patient. They must also be able to understand to make the right recommendations that will work.

Evaluate: Massage Therapists must be able to read a client’s chart, hear their concerns and evaluate the situation to start the right level of treatment. It is important to make sure the right techniques are used to avoid further stress and injury to the clients.

Counsel: Massage therapists must be able to counsel patients before, during and after the session to find out where their pain is, how they are progressing, and to provide suggestions on what to do post-treatment.

Research: Massage therapists must keep up with the latest techniques and medical developments in the field of massage therapy, being able to apply that information to their clients for better treatment options.

Administrative Ability: Massage therapists must be able to handle a variety of administrative duties and stay organized. They should be able to use a computer and handle scheduling, ordering supplies, and other administrative tasks.

Additional tasks include great customer service skills, ability to stand for long periods of time, a steady hand, and manual dexterity.

Internship Requirements

The hours for internship varies from state to state, but at a minimum, individuals must have at least 500 hours to complete the program. Depending on how rigorous the program is, the internship hours can be as high as 1,000.

Educational Requirements

There are a number of educational requirements needed in order to become a licensed massage therapist. There are a number of massage therapy schools available that will provide a well-rounded education to prepare for the licensing and certification exams. The requirements for licensing and certification varies from state to state, and additional certifications are always available for specializations.

While it is not necessary to have an advanced education degree, having certain background knowledge of anatomy and physiology from an educational perspective can only work to your benefit. If pursuing a bachelor’s degree in conjunction with massage therapy school, studying Exercise Science or concentrations dealing with healing of the body will be beneficial, as well as some business background courses if you will be operating as an entrepreneur.

Coursework includes:

•The Science of Touch
•The Art of Massage I and II
•Law & Ethics for Massage
•Business and Ethics
•Wellness and CPR
•Muscle Energy Techniques
•Deep Tissue Massage

There are a host of other courses that will properly prepare you for a future in this career field.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers two different certifications for those interested in becoming licensed massage therapists:

•National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM)
•National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB)

The exams are rigorous and comprised of a number of sections and content, including:

•General knowledge of body systems
•Assessment of therapeutic massage
•In-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology
•Applications of therapeutic massage
•Business and ethics

It is important to know the proper techniques as a massage therapist that will help clients on the road to recovery. In this industry, it is important to stay in great physical condition, as repetition and fatigue from standing for excessive periods of time can be a common factor among therapists. If you enjoy working with people and helping them in their rehabilitative efforts, this would be a great profession to consider. Most massage therapists work on their own schedules and do very well financially for continued growth and progression.

Therapy Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants


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