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Massage therapy involves using touch to manipulate soft-tissue muscles to relieve pain, reduce stress, promote relaxation and rehabilitate injuries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster-than-average job growth for this career as more people become interested in the benefits of massage therapy. Licensing requirements, including hours of study, vary a great deal from state to state.
Most massage therapists offer several different types of massage, known as modalities, explains the BLS. The therapists work to develop a loyal client base, because massage therapy clients tend to be repeat visitors with regular appointments. Massage therapists work in private offices, fitness centers, sports medicine facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing care facilities. Some travel to clients' homes or offices to provide services on site.
Nearly all states require massage therapists to hold a license to practice. This typically involves completing a formal education program and passing a state or national examination. In states that do not regulate massage therapy, municipalities may do so and may have similar requirements as states that mandate licensing.
Hours of training needed depend on the location where you intend to practice. Florida and Washington, for example, require 500 hours of training. California also requires 500 hours but allows passing the national exam to substitute for training. This state requires a background check for massage therapists. Wisconsin and Kentucky require 600 hours of training, New Mexico 650 hours and New York 1,000 hours.
Admission to a massage therapy program typically requires a high school diploma or equivalency, notes the BLS. You'll need to choose a school that provides not only the amount of hours you need but also offers coursework that covers your specific areas of interest. The Arizona School of Massage Therapy, for instance, offers training in light energy work, cranial sacral therapy, Russian sports massage, trigger-point therapy and many other courses. Students there learn Eastern and Western theories of massage and techniques. They learn a holistic approach to health and healing in addition to methods of treating pain and dysfunction with massage. Full-time students attend for seven months and part-time students for 12 months, acquiring 815.5 hours of training and 51 quarter credit hours. This fulfills the 700-hour training requirement for massage therapists practicing in Arizona.
2016 Salary Information for Massage Therapists
Massage therapists earned a median annual salary of $39,860 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, massage therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $27,220, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $57,110, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 160,300 people were employed in the U.S. as massage therapists.
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- Lower body massage as part of a full body Thai massage. image by Deborah Benbrook from Fotolia.com