Massage therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are associated with the healthcare industry. Professionals in each of these occupations specialize in treating painful ailments, decompressing tired and overworked muscles, reducing stress, rehabilitating sports injuries, and promoting general health. Therapy provided by these professionals can involve manipulating the soft tissue muscles of the body in order to improve circulation and remove waste products from the muscles, and creating exercise plans to strengthen muscles from within.
Massage therapists can specialize in over 80 different types of massage, called modalities. These include Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure, sports massage, and neuromuscular massage. Most massage therapists specialize in several modalities, each of which requires specific techniques and training. Many customers who seek out massage therapy do so in order to relax and ease sore muscles, improve their mood, or enhance their flexibility.
Meanwhile, occupational therapists help patients recover from injuries and illness through the use of everyday activities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), common therapies include everything from exercise to repetitive tasks such as lifting or bending. Occupational therapists and their assistants may also evaluate living conditions for their patients in order to ensure safety and identify areas that need improvement.
The field of physical therapy encourages specific movements that can improves one's pain or physical condition. They diagnose dysfunctional movements and create detailed plans to change them for the better. Physical therapists and their assistants often help people who are recovering from a physical ailment or injury.
Top Massage and Physical Therapy Careers (BLS, 2013)
|Career||Number of Workers Nationally in 2013||Job Description||Degree Requirements|
|Massage Therapists||79,040||Massage therapists use touch and their own physical strength to manipulate the muscles in the body, provide relief from pain, ease soreness, and improve function.||The BLS notes that most massage therapists participate in some type of Certificate program and complete at least 500 hours of on-the-job training. Some massage therapists earn an Associate's degree.|
|Occupational Therapists||108,410||Help patients recover from injuries and illness through the use of repetitive motion and everyday activities.||According to the BLS, most occupational therapists earn a Master's degree. However, some pursue a doctoral degree in this field as well.|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||30,450||Occupational therapy assistants assist patients with exercises and teach them how to use special equipment.||Occupational therapy assistants typically earn an Associate's degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting from an accredited school.|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||8,710||Occupational therapy aides prepare areas for treatment, transport patients, and provide assistance to occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants as needed.||Occupational therapy aides typically need a high school diploma. They learn the skills required for this career on the job.|
|Physical Therapists||195,670||Physical therapists create and implement exercise plans that can improve their patient's movement or lessen their pain.||The BLS reports that physical therapists need to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT).|
|Physical Therapy Assistants||72,640||Physical therapy assistants observe patients during therapy, assist them with exercises and therapies, and report their progress to a physical therapist.||Physical therapy assistants are required to earn an Associate's degree from an accredited program.|
|Physical Therapy Aides||48,630||Physical therapy aides perform clerical duties, prepare areas for physical therapy treatments, and transport patients.||The BLS notes that physical therapy aides usually earn a high school diploma and receive training on the job.|
Physical Therapy Careers and Education
Postsecondary education is a requirement for many of the careers within the physical therapy and massage industry. The following table uses BLS data to outline the different degree and certificate options in this field and what kind of career they may help you qualify for:
|Degree Type||Timeline for Completion||Possible Careers|
|Certificate||Certificate programs can typically be completed in one year or less. However, programs vary and some last 2-3 years.||Massage Therapist, Occupational Therapy Aide, Physical Therapy Aide|
|Associate||Associate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.||Massage Therapist, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant|
|Bachelor's||Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.||Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant|
|Graduate or Professional||Students can earn a graduate or professional degree in 1-2 year after earning a Bachelor's degree.||Occupational Therapist|
|Doctoral||Earning a doctoral degree typically requires at least three years of full-time study after earning a Bachelor's degree.||Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist|
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Massage Therapists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Occupational Therapists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Physical Therapists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
Schools for Massage And Physical Therapy are listed in the column to the left.
This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.
Click each Occupation title for more details.
|Occupational Therapist Aides||7,740|
|Occupational Therapist Assistants||41,650|
|Physical Therapist Aides||49,290|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||90,170|