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Massage Therapy: Healing with Touch

Massage therapists make people feel better by using the “power of touch.” If the idea of helping others by treating pain and improving overall wellness appeals to you, and you are seeking flexible work or hoping to start a business, investigate massage therapy as a possible career choice.

More and more doctors offer massage therapy as part of their treatment plans, and sports teams hire therapists to relieve pain and rehabilitate injured athletes. Massage therapy assists older people in maintaining health as they age, increasing their energy levels and reducing health problems.

The median annual wage for massage therapists in 2016 was $39,860 with about 39 percent of therapists self-employed and about half of therapists working part-time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Your mobile military life might make this an interesting career path to consider because of the portability, flexible scheduling and the opportunity to have a business of your own. If you are considering starting a business as a massage therapist, be sure to visit the Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment section on MySECO.

Education and options

To become a massage therapist, you will likely need to attend a vocational school and receive related on-the-job training. In the 45 states where massage therapy is regulated, legal requirements to practice may include minimum hours of initial training and passing exams like the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam, or MBLEx, or one of two exams provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Check the Spouse Licensure Map for specific licensure requirements and research state licensure requirements for your new location before you transfer.

Most massage therapists in the United States train in Swedish and deep tissue techniques, but you may increase your employment opportunities by investigating specialty areas including the following:

  • Acupressure, similar to acupuncture
  • Connective tissue massage, manipulation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues
  • Infant massage
  • Lomi-Lomi, Hawaiian massage
  • Manual lymphatic drainage, natural drainage of the lymph system
  • Pregnancy massage
  • Rolfing, soft tissue manipulation
  • Shiatsu, finger pressure massage
  • Sports massage, to heal and avoid sports injuries

The skills and knowledge you gain as a massage therapist may also be useful in similar careers including athletic trainer, exercise psychologist or physical therapist assistant.

Massage therapy is physically demanding, so preventing injury by using proper techniques is important. Try not to overschedule client sessions, practice good body mechanics and exercise regularly to stay healthy and in shape for work.

Finding employment

Spas, hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics, nursing homes, wellness centers, hospices, chiropractic offices, health clubs and fitness centers, sports teams and cruise ships are all potential sources of job opportunities for massage therapists.

Check for positions with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies and organizations interested in hiring military spouses including the Hyatt, Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Premise Health.

Professional organizations and networking

Consider joining a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies, and possibly continue your education through workshops and conferences. Networking with other professionals in your industry may help you find the connections you need to obtain an interview at your new location.

Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career. Joining an association can assist you in forming the network connections you may need to find employment.

Next steps

If you are considering a career as a massage therapist, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path. Investigate whether you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship assistance and use the Scholarship Finder to see if money is available to help fund any classes or certifications you might need. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges.

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