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Massage Therapist Job Description, Career as a Massage Therapist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Vocational/technical school

Salary: Median—$15.36 per hour

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Massage therapists massage their customers for therapeutic and remedial reasons. They also administer other kinds of body conditioning. Massage therapists are employed by community service associations, health clubs, resorts, retail centers, and country clubs. Some are self-employed and have their own clients or they may be hired by businesses for a day to give short massages to their overworked employees. They are sometimes called masseurs or masseuses.

Before giving a massage, therapists apply alcohol, lubricants, and other substances to the customer's body. They then massage the body by kneading, rubbing, and stroking the flesh. Massages stimulate blood circulation, relax tight muscles, and have other beneficial effects. Massage therapists use their hands and mechanical vibrating equipment to give massages.

Massage therapists also give steam and dry heat treatments, ultraviolet and infrared light treatments, and different types of water therapy. These treatments may be given at the customer's request or according to a physician's instructions. Therapists may instruct their customers in weight reduction, exercise, and body conditioning programs.

Education and Training Requirements

A person can become a massage therapist through formal training in a massage therapy program. Some schools will accept only those with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Training usually lasts from 6 to 12 months. Students are taught the theory and practice of massage, along with courses in anatomy, physiology, pathology, hygiene, public health, and professional ethics. More than one-half of the states require massage therapists to pass a written and practical licensing examination to enter this field.

A massage therapist massages a customer by kneading, rubbing, and stroking the flesh. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

Getting the Job

You can get a job as a massage therapist by registering with the placement service of the school you attend. You can also apply directly to health clubs, community service organizations, resorts, retail centers, and country clubs. Some jobs are listed in newspaper classifieds or job banks on the Internet. State and private employment agencies may help you find a job. You can also go into private practice and build your own clientele.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Massage therapists who work in large health clubs, resorts, retail centers, and country clubs can become supervisors or managers. Those who are employed by community service organizations can become health service directors. Massage therapists in private practice advance by building a reputation and a loyal clientele and by commanding higher fees for their services.

The employment outlook for massage therapists is good through the year 2014. The rising popularity of health clubs should result in an increase in the number of jobs in the field. Also, more massage therapists are bringing their services into the workplace, since a brief midday massage is now believed to increase employee productivity.

Working Conditions

Most massage therapists work 35 to 40 hours a week, although self-employed workers may work longer hours. A massage session can be from 10 minutes to 2 hours. The workweek usually includes evenings and weekends, which are generally the busiest times for massage therapists. Most of the working day is spent standing. Massage therapists work in clean, dimly lit rooms and, if self-employed, provide their own massage accessories, including a table, sheets and pillows, and oils. In some states, sanitary conditions are set by law.

Massage therapists must be able to work well with their hands. They should have a pleasant, courteous manner. The nature of their work demands that they be able to respect the privacy of their customers.

Where to Go for More Information

American Massage Therapy Association
500 Davis St., Ste. 900
Evanston, IL 60201-4695
(877) 905-2700

Earnings and Benefits

The wages of massage therapists range from minimum wage for beginning workers to $20 to $50 or more per hour for those with experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly salary for massage therapists is $15.36. Therapists often receive tips from their customers. Many massage therapists add to their income by giving massages in their customers' homes or in their own homes. Employers generally provide benefits that include paid vacations and holidays and health insurance. Self-employed massage therapists must provide their own benefits.

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