Massage therapists use touch and their own physical strength to manipulate muscles which may help ease pain and soreness, boost function and promote relaxation for their patients. This is a good job for people who want to help improve a client's physical health and stress level using various massage techniques. It can be rewarding to interact with clients in a relaxed manner and see the positive effects of massage on their health and mood.

Before heading down this path, however, it is important to understand what massage therapy education requirements there are, what licensing and certification requirements exist, the specific traits massage therapists find helpful to their profession as well as the career variations available to massage therapists.

Day in the Life of a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists can choose to work in a variety of settings and play slightly different roles. These choices depend on their training, preferences and goals. For example:

  • In a small clinic, a recently licensed massage therapist uses massage to ease a patient's physical pain or help them recover from injury. There may be a more experienced massage therapist on staff to mentor and manage the novice. The office staff handles general administration and may book appointments.
  • A new massage therapist works at a corporate massage studio with many locations. The company advertises widely to attract new clients, taking the burden of finding new clients off the masseuse. The masseuse is free to focus on massage, while the office staff handles administrative duties such as scheduling, accounting, and facility management. However, the masseuse may have little control over her hours and schedule, as many such studios are open seven days a week, including evenings. The company may also dictate the massage styles that may be used.
  • A health club offers members massage therapy as an optional service. A massage therapist works in a small studio inside the club. He may work regular hours or on an as-needed basis, which requires flexibility, and he may or may not book his own appointments.
  • Many spas offer massage on their menu of services. At a luxury resort, a massage therapist typically works in a beautiful, peaceful spa. Most guests are one-time visitors, so she isn't able to build a loyal, familiar clientele.
  • A massage therapist in private practice has both freedom and responsibility in running her business. She must attract and retain clients, schedule appointments, handle accounting duties, and maintain a studio. However, she can set her own hours, use massage styles she and her clients prefer, and can even go to her clients' homes or offices to provide massage.

Important Characteristics for Massage Therapists

What traits make for a successful massage therapist? As in other health-related jobs, a desire to help people feel better is critical. Along with the physical stamina and sensitivity needed to practice massage, it is important to have excellent interpersonal skills. Patience and an ability to listen to others are necessary to understand each client's needs. An aspiring massage therapist who has these characteristics must also understand what education is required to reach his goal.

Education Requirements

Massage therapy training programs are available at both private and public colleges and in massage therapy schools or training centers. A diploma in massage therapy can usually be earned in less than two years. Most schools require 1,000 hours of study and hands-on experience, although this varies from state to state. Many massage therapy schools arrange internships with local massage practices to provide practical experience.

  • An Associate Degree of Occupational Studies (AOS) in Massage Therapy is not required to practice massage therapy but can take one's education to the next level.

Massage therapy education requirements also include keeping one's certification and license (see below) current, so continuing education is necessary.

Other Ways to Prepare

There are many ways to continually increase knowledge, skill and success as a massage therapist. Some of these steps are required while others are optional.

  • A license in massage therapy is required before practicing. Licensing requirements vary by state and location but typically require a combination of education, experience and/or passing an exam. Most states require 500 or more hours of massage training. Many jurisdictions recognize the exam-based certification program offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).
  • Certification in massage therapy is not required in all states, but doing so can help open doors in the industry. The National Certification Board in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork administers an exam-based national certification program.
  • Volunteer to perform massage on others.
  • Have regular massages yourself so you can experience massage from a client's point of view.
  • Set healthy boundaries with clients so they don't expect more than is reasonable or appropriate.
  • Read professional journals to learn about new and emerging trends in massage therapy.
  • Join a professional organization, such as the American Massage Therapy Association.


  • Massage Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards,

Massage Therapist Skills

Below are the skills needed to be massage therapist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening3.753.25
Social Perceptiveness3.383.25
Service Orientation3.253
Critical Thinking3.123.25

Massage Therapist Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be massage therapist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Oral Comprehension3.753.75
Dynamic Strength3.623.38
Manual Dexterity3.623.12
Oral Expression3.623.62
Trunk Strength3.53.25

Massage Therapist Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be massage therapist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Customer and Personal Service4.284.7
English Language3.243.1
Sales and Marketing2.873.47

Massage Therapist Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being massage therapist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Performing General Physical Activities4.374.4
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public4.334.9
Getting Information4.14.4
Assisting and Caring for Others4.074.43
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships44.47

Massage Therapist Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being massage therapist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Concern for Others4.7
Self Control4.5
Attention to Detail4.3

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Massage Therapist

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Massage Therapist jobs , as of 2019

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim6,320$42,890
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach2,570$46,420
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington2,470$50,490
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward2,200$50,560
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell2,060$32,610
San Diego-Carlsbad1,910$42,050

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Massage Therapists

Use our handy tool to see what employment and salary numbers look like for two different metro areas

Select State
Select Metro Area 1
Select Metro Area 2
Please select State, Metro Area 1 and Metro Area 2
Select different Metro Areas

Total employment and salary for professions similar to massage therapists

Source : 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,; O*NET® 24.3 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Massage Therapist.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.