Massage Therapy Degree

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A massage therapy degree teaches professionals to relax and soothe clients through control of the soft-tissue muscles. Using their hands, a massage therapist learns to specialize in over 80 different types of massage (modalities). Each modality has its own style and techniques. The most successful massage therapists have excellent manual dexterity. The use of their hands is critical to their work. Some arm and hand strength is helpful. Physical stamina to be able to perform techniques repeatedly and stay on their feet is also necessary. A massage therapist may have to stand for several hours each day, depending on how many clients are scheduled. Massage therapists should be able to connect well with people. A massage therapist will have to meet and work for a wide variety of clients.

As of 2009, regulations covering massage therapists were in 42 states as well as the District of Columbia. Each state’s standards of accreditation for massage therapy programs were different. Generally, a high school diploma was required for admission to a massage therapy program. The curriculum typically took between 350 and 600 hours to complete. Programs covered subjects such as:

  • Business management
  • Ethics
  • Kinesiology
  • Physiology

Nearly all programs also had hands-on sessions for massage therapists to practice their techniques.

Additionally, massage therapists could choose from a number of modalities to specialize in. These include:

  • Acupressure
  • Prenatal massage
  • Reflexology
  • Sports massage
  • Swedish massage

After graduation, a license was required to practice in 42 states and the District of Columbia. States required that a massage therapist pass a state-approved examination, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Prospective massage therapists should check with both the state they intend to be licensed in and the location where they wish to work for specific laws. State and local governments often have differing laws to regulate massage therapists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded average wages for massage therapists at $16.78 per hour in May of 2008. This included gratuities or tips. Unlike the self-employed, massage therapists who worked in hospitals did not earn gratuities. Because of the number of massage therapists who worked part-time or variable schedules, total yearly income can vary greatly. Self-employed massage therapists typically did not receive much beyond hourly wages. Health insurance and retirement benefits were uncommon.

The BLS believes that employment of massage therapists will grow about 19% from 2008 to 2018. This is moderately faster than average when compared to all other occupations. Massage therapists held roughly 122,400 jobs in 2008. Nearly 57% of them were self-employed. Massage therapists who were self-employed tended to own their business or provide services as an independent contractor. Additionally, a significant number worked as part-time or on a variable schedule. Those who were part-time were not counted as part of the 122,400 massage therapists.