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Massage Therapy: Healing with Touch

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

Many 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 2018 was $41,420. About 39% of therapists were self-employed and about half of therapists were 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 the MySECO website for tips on getting started.

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 46 states where massage therapy is regulated, you may need to meet legal requirements to practice. You may need a minimum number of initial training hours and to pass 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. Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.

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

  • Acupressure, similar to acupuncture
  • Connective tissue massage, a manipulation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues
  • Infant massage
  • Lomi-Lomi, a Hawaiian massage
  • Manual lymphatic drainage, a natural drainage of the lymph system
  • Pregnancy massage
  • Rolfing, a soft tissue manipulation
  • Shiatsu, a 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 you will need to learn the proper techniques to prevent injuring yourself. Try not to overschedule client sessions, practice good body mechanics and exercise regularly to stay healthy and in shape for work.

Finding employment

As a massage therapist you may find employment with spas, hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics, nursing homes, wellness centers, hospices, chiropractic offices, health clubs and fitness centers, sports teams and cruise ships.

Check for positions with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies and organizations committed to hiring military spouses.

Professional organizations and networking

Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get 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.

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 self-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 on MySECO to see if money is available to help fund any classes or certifications you might need.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.

Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges.

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