How to Become a

Massage Therapist

The complete career guide to be a Massage Therapist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $43,170
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 21.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

Massage therapists use their fingers, hands, elbows and feet to knead muscles and soft tissues of the body with the goal to help alleviate pain, heal injury, lessen stress and improve the overall health of their client.

Recommended Schools

What is a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists must utilize an eclectic array of skills in order to be successful, as the industry demands its workers wear many ‘hats’. They are physically capable individuals with excellent time management and communication skills along with a strong sense of empathy and integrity. Compensation tends to be on the lower end of the spectrum, but this is in large part due to the number of part-time workers in the field. Conversely, the flexibility and positive impact on people’s lives lends a high level of satisfaction to the job.

Over the course of their job, massage therapists usually engage in the following:

  • Locate tension or pain in the body of clients; stretch, knead and manipulate muscles and soft tissues of the body to alleviate discomfort
  • Discuss medical history and symptoms with clients, their expectations and create a personalized treatment plan to address the problem areas and achieve improvement
  • Give clients advice and guidance on how to improve their overall physical condition thorugh strength conditioning, stretching and posture.


Massage therapists work in a wide variety of locations, such as spas, fitness centers, hotels, clinics and doctors’ offices. Many will work out of their own residence or travel to a client’s home or office to provide a massage. As such, working conditions  vary greatly depnding on the venue in which the massage therapist is operating, the clients preferences and what type of massage is being given. As just one example, if the purpose of the massage is relaxation, then a more dimly lit environment with soft, relaxing music will be more preferable than operating in a brightly lit room with several other clients receving a massage at the same time.

Massage therapists often use massage tables or chairs, along with oils and lotions, during treatment of a client. Massages can theoretically last any length of time, though typically they range from fifteen to ninety minutes. Their jobs are really two-fold in practice: first they must operate as a business administrator making sure schedules and financial obligations are met and in order, but they must also provide hands on therapeutic care. This balance necessitates an ability to juggle responsibilities and employ strong decision-making skills.

While some massage therapists choose to work for companies, large and small, other choose to run their own business and provide services for individual clients on their own time, functionally operating as independent contractors. Massage therapists who are self-employed may need to do a variety of tasks in addition to massages such as booking and soliciting clients, marketing, publicity and handling financial/tax records.

Giving massages is often a physically demanding job, and injuries are not uncommon if careful attention is not paid. Proper technique can alleviate potential damage, as well as exercise, spacing out clients, using good body mechanics and receiving a massage themselves on a regular basis. Additionally, because of the rigors inherent in the job, most massage therapists cannot work a traditional 9-5 job. This provides flexibility in the workday, but presents its own set of challenges.


Massage therapists prefer to work part-time as most clients are served by prior appointments. This makes their working schedule flexible and can vary significantly between one day and another. In addition, many massage therapists cannot physically work full-time because of the strength and endurance needed to perform a single massage. In addition to massages, you will also have to spend time contacting clients, preparing your materials and other business tasks. You may also have to travel to the homes or offices of your clients often while providing your own tables, sheets, pillows, oils and other materials which is usually offered to elite clients. The working conditions vary depending on your venue where you perform the massage and on your clients’ requirements.


There are numerous types of massage. The most popular are deep tissue, sports, Thai and Swedish. The majority of massage therapists are trained in several of these, each of which requires a different technique and approach. The style of massage given correlates to the client’s preference, medical issues and overall physical condition. Certain massage techniques are given to only one type of person, such as pregnant women receiving a prenatal massage.


There are currently around 335,000 massage therapists working in the US. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the demand for massage therapists is expected to increase by 21% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. This considerable increase is due to multiple factors including the increase of licensing requirements and standards which makes the job more respectful as well as the increasing number of massage clinic franchises. Other factors include the growing interest from the medical establishment in the role of massage therapy. Many sports teams currently hire massage therapists to help the players with injuries and managing pain. This makes the job market for massage therapists promising and you should not find any problem finding a job if you are interested in this field.


Many massage therapists prefer to be self-employed which is more financially rewarding and provides more flexibility and work opportunities. Massage therapists can also be employed by many other employers including personal care centers. There are currently popular massage therapy clinic chains including Massage Envy, Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, Elements Massage and Massage Heights. You can also work as a part in the offices of chiropractors. Other may work with various accommodation institutions helping people cope with their pains or being employed by different sports teams to help the players with injuries and coping with pain.


Recommended Schools

How To Become a Massage Therapist

Educational requirements vary enormously, even within the same state or region, though a high school diploma or its equivalency is typically required for entry into postsecondary massage therapy programs. These programs usually consist of at least several hundred hours of study, but again, standards and requirements vary tremendously around the country. The majority of states do require at least some measure of certification or licensing in order to practice and be in compliance with state regulations.

Most massage therapy programs include both academic study and practical, hands-on instruction in technique, covering subjects such as khysiology, kinesiology and anatomy. Students may focus on specialties within the broader scope of massage therapy. Additional requirements may include certification in CPR, maintaining liability insurance and continuing renewal of their license every few years.

Massage Therapist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Massage Therapist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Massage Therapist's can make an average annual salary of $43,170, or $21 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $25,350 or $12 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #475 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Massage Therapist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Massage Therapists

  • 1.5%   Doctorate
  • 4.2%   Masters
  • 20.9%   Bachelors
  • 17.2%   Associates
  • 36.8%   College
  • 17.2%   High School
  • 2.3%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Massage Therapist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 36,400 jobs for a total of 205,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 21.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #44 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Massage Therapists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 80,600 8,600 9%
Personal care services 41,000 13,500 13%
Offices of all other health practitioners 15,000 9,500 10%

Want To Be a Massage Therapist? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →