An Introduction to Careers in Massage

by Doug Schmitt
An Introduction to Careers in Massage

Introduction | Benefits of Massage | Education | Accreditation | Career Specifics | Occupational Outlook | Summary


The nurturing touch of the hand is one of the most instinctual & natural healing techniques that there is. Whether it is rubbing someone's back while giving them a hug, rubbing part of one's body that has been injured, or a body-rub from a professional masseuse, massage is a powerful method of comfort and healing.

The word massage is a derivative of the Greek word massein, which means "to knead". Massage is the manipulation of the body by stroking, kneading, vibration, friction, rubbing and other methods sometimes coupled with the use of water, mud, salts, and herbs which may generate therapeutic effects.

Dating back to the beginning of mankind, the uses of massage are numerous. First used by ancient Greek, Roman, and Oriental medical practitioners, massage can aid in making the immune system stronger and, as well, it can reduce pain, stress, and depression. Today, as doctors now refer one in four patients to alternative medicine*, the field of professional massage and other 'healing arts' is growing exponentially.

Benefits of Massage

The basic goals of massage are to aid the body in its healing process, promote good health, and promote a healthy state of mind. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), research now shows that massage can lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, relax muscles, and can reduce the effects of anxiety and depression among other benefits.

Massage improves the blood circulation and the flow of lymphatic fluid. The effect of steadily applied pressure and the movements used in massage can significantly improve circulation. As well, this stimulates nerve receptors which make blood vessels expand, thus accommodating blood flow throughout the body and having a positive impact on one's health.

Many types of massage exist, each of them benefiting the body and mind in different ways. Types of massage include:

  • Relaxation Massage
  • Remedial Massage
  • Sports Massage
  • Acupressure
  • Shiatsu
  • Pregnancy Massage
  • Rehabilitation
  • Work Energy
  • Pain Relief


As with most careers, there are different types of degrees and certificates available for an individual looking to pursue a career in professional massage. They are as follows:

  • Associate of Applied Science
  • One-year certificate
    • Qualifies participants for practicing relaxing massage; prepares students for state licensing exams
  • Two-year certificate
    • Qualifies the practitioner to treat soft-tissue dysfunctions

Many variables must be to taken into consideration when selecting a massage school. First, one must consider what kind of degree or certificate they want. Since schools have a tendency to train on an industry specific basis, individuals needs to contrast the value of the information with the type of massage training they seek. Other factors to consider when choosing a school might be accreditation, financial aid, teacher qualifications, and employment assistance.

The amount of time that it takes for students to learn and become skilled at massage can vary. The biggest factor is government regulations in the locality where a person would be working. Some may choose to learn the bare essentials while others may choose to become a master of the art, which could take two years. Not all localities have strict guidelines for massage therapists but it is recommended that individuals get as much training as possible so they have the credentials that enable them to work anywhere.


The following are links to organizations that can answer questions regarding massage school accreditation.

Career Specifics

Massage therapists are usually versatile and work in an array of settings that may include a chiropractor's or doctor's office, holistic health or massage therapy clinics, fitness centers, spas, sports medicine facilities, and hospitals. Today, many therapists do in-call work and will go directly to someone's home or office. In addition, many therapists will specialize in one type of massage.

Massage therapy is unlike many careers. There is no career ladder to "climb" by taking on more responsibilities or by being promoted, but one can advance in massage by being more effective, building upon their abilities, and building up a client base. This will take time and persistence; however, the rewards can be plentiful.

Generally massage therapists charge $60-100 per hour, with most massage sessions being approximately 60 minutes in length. Salary is determined by the number of hours worked per week. Employees who work in spas and similar environments may expect hourly pay in the $15 to $45 dollar per hour range, with $45 per hour being extremely rare. While this is not as a high as the hourly rate for an individual who is self-employed, these people do not incur the cost of overhead (rent, utilities, supplies, advertising) usually associated with owning and operating their own business.

According to the AMTA, most massage therapists work less than 40 hours per week due to the sometimes taxing nature of the job and many consider 27 hours to be full time.

Occupational Outlook

People have long assumed that massage aids in promoting a healthy, sensible lifestyle. As more research demonstrates the effectiveness of massage for helping to treat common problems such as lower back pain and muscle tension, more people seek out massage as a means of bettering their mental and physical health.

Massage therapy, as it compliments medical treatment and enables people to feel better on the mental and physical levels, has become an increasingly popular option among consumers and doctors. Since therapeutic massage has become less of an alternative medicine and more mainstream, everyone from young adults to senior citizens are getting more massages. For this reason, the job outlook for massage therapists is very bright.

The New York College of Health Professionals reports that doctors are prescribing massage to patients for a variety of ailments. As well, it is stated that consumers go to massage therapists 75 million times yearly and are spending $2-$4 billion annually on alternative medicine and visits to massage therapists.


As people will always have physical and mental ailments, there will always be the need for relief on their behalf. As alternative medicines become increasingly popular with consumers, the field of massage therapy is expected to grow. Insurance companies are starting to accept alternative medicine, which will also fuel demand for more massage therapists as more consumers will seek out their services.

*As stated in Consumer Reports, May 2000

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