One of the most frequent comments massage therapists make about their occupation is, “I feel fortunate to have found work I love!” They feel this way because a career in massage therapy allows them to help people in a meaningful way with a high degree of personal contact. Massage therapy provides an opportunity to express very positive values about caring and well-being in their work in a way that is both personally and professionally rewarding!
Massage Therapy Growing as a Career Opportunity
As massage therapy has become increasingly important in the health and wellness professions, the number of massage therapists has risen dramatically. AMTA estimates that the number of massage therapists in the United States, including students, is between 300,000 and 340,000.
The number of massage therapy training programs in the United States has leveled out and even decreased slightly in the past two years. There are currently more than 350 accredited massage therapy schools and programs in the United States.
Training programs in massage therapy generally require a high school diploma, though postsecondary education is useful. Previous studies in broad subjects such as science (especially anatomy and physiology), business and humanities are helpful.
Variations on Massage Therapy Careers
There is no such thing as a standard massage therapy practice. One of the reasons individuals choose this profession is because of the flexibility it offers in terms of work hours, independence, and choice of practice locations and types.
Massage therapists can work full time or part-time. It is important to note that due to the physical demands of massage, full time is defined as 17 or more hours of actual massage per week. Massage therapists spend additional time on things like scheduling, billing, housekeeping and marketing, to name a few.
Income levels for massage therapists vary by region of the country, experience and type of practice. For more information on the massage therapy profession, check out AMTA’s Industry Fact Sheet.
Settings in Which Massage Therapists Practice
Massage therapists practice in a variety of settings and locations and in a variety of contractual arrangements. A therapist may also practice at several different sites and/or settings in a single day. Some examples of locations in which massage therapists practice are:
- massage office
- group practice
- office in home
- physicians’ offices and clinics
- hospitals and wellness centers
- nursing homes/hospices
- chiropractic offices
- on-site (chair massage in offices, airports and at public events, for example)
- health clubs and fitness centers
- sports teams and events (amateur and professional)
- spas and resorts
- beauty and hair salons
- cruise ships
While massage therapists work in a variety of work environments, sole practitioners or independent contractors account for the largest percentage of practicing therapists (96 percent). Thirty-eight percent work at least part of their time at a client’s home/business/corporate setting or their home, 25 percent in a healthcare setting, and 23 percent in a spa setting.