Becoming and Being a Massage Therapist
Massage Therapy is an attractive career option for many people.
For starters, massage therapists report having a high level of job satisfaction and low-stress levels. Additionally, the job market is hot for massage therapists right now and massage therapy offers many career perks not found in other jobs, including flexible schedules, and good earning potential.
In this article, we will cover how to become a massage therapist, and the ins-and-outs of a massage therapy career, including:
- How Long Does it Take to Become a Massage Therapist?
- How to Become a Massage Therapist
- Overview of Massage Therapy Career and Industry
- Pros and Cons of Being a Massage Therapist
- Is It Easy to Get a Job as a Massage Therapist?
- Starting Your Massage Career
How Long Does it Take to Become a Massage Therapist?
Becoming a massage therapist takes less than year! Unlike other careers, massage therapy doesn’t require several years of formal study, and most massage school programs can be completed in just a few short months! For example, our Miami Massage Therapy School program is designed to be completed in 8.5 months!
This is great news for someone who wants to begin a great career, but doesn't want to commit to years of schooling or job training.
How to Become a Massage Therapist
Becoming a massage therapist is a simple, 4-step process:
- Apply, enroll, and graduate from a state-approved Massage Therapy School
- Pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx)
- Apply for and receive your State Massage Therapy License
- Find a job as a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)
Step 1: Apply, Enroll, and Complete Massage Therapy School
The first step in your career path to becoming a massage therapist is to apply, enroll, and graduate from a state-approved massage therapy program.
Before applying to particular school, make sure that the program is approved by your state massage therapy board, or else you may not be able to apply for a state license later on.
Before applying to a particular massage school, you will need a high school diploma or GED. You may also have to pass a background check before being accepted.
Massage Therapy School is approximately 7-9 months long, depending on the program. This is because most states require programs to be a minimum of 500 hours; however, beware of programs that only offer the minimum amount of training. It’s better to spend more time in school if it means you’ll get a better education. Keep in mind that most programs offer full-time and part-time study options.
A massage therapy program curriculum is generally split between classroom and clinic settings.
In the classroom, you will first learn the foundations of massage therapy through a variety of classes, such as anatomy and physiology. Afterward, you will move onto learning actual massage modalities, such as Swedish Massage, and get to practice on your classmates and teachers.
Once you’ve gained a level of proficiency in the classroom, you transition into the hands-on portion of the curriculum and begin to treat real patients in your school’s clinic.
During this time, you may also continue to take other courses, such as advanced massage modalities, and business/state regulation classes.
Towards the end of the program, you will spend the majority of your time perfecting your massage techniques in the student clinic, and preparing for the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
Step 2: Pass the MBLEx
After graduating from massage therapy school, the next step in your career path is to take and pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
The MBLEx is a national exam that tests your knowledge and proficiency in massage therapy. Most states, including Florida, require passing the MBLEx before issuing you a license to practice massage therapy.
Step 3: Apply for, Receive, and Maintain your State Massage License
Once you’ve graduated from a state-approved massage therapy program and pass the MBLEx, you can apply for your state massage therapist license. However, some states, such as Florida, may have other requirements before granting you a massage therapy license, such as passing a background check and/or having malpractice insurance.
Additionally, you will have to renew your license every couple of years by taking state-approved Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
Step 4: Find a Job as a Licensed Massage Therapist
Once you’ve received your license from the state, you’re officially a Licensed Massage Therapist! Congratulations! You can now legally apply and work as a massage therapist in your state.
Of course, this means you now have to find a job as a massage therapist. However, as you'll read later on, most massage therapists have little trouble finding employment after earning their state license! Additionally, your massage therapy school likely has a career services department that can help you with your job hunt. Be sure you take advantage of that!
Massage Therapy Career and Industry Overview
Is a Career in Massage Therapy Right is for Me?
Before we go on to discuss the different career aspects of becoming a massage therapist, you should be able to answer these two questions:
Do want to make a difference in the lives of others? Perhaps the most important trait that a massage therapist should have is the desire to heal people since the job of every massage therapist is to treat another human being’s mind and body.
Do you have an interest in medicine? Massage Therapy is a form of holistic medicine and aspiring massage therapists should have an interest in wanting to know how the body works, and a desire to learn how to heal others with your hands. You will learn everything you need to in massage therapy school.
If you answered yes to these two questions, then you meet the first requirements for becoming a massage therapist. Now, let’s look at the massage therapy career aspects.
Massage Therapists Job Satisfaction
One of the most popular reasons people become massage therapists is because of high job satisfaction.
In the last article, we discussed the job-satisfaction of Licensed Massage Therapists. According to the survey discussed in the article, out of the 1,197 massage therapists surveyed, 52% of them felt that they were “very satisfied” with their career, while another 36% were “satisfied.” That’s a job-satisfaction rate of 88%!
This is much higher than the national job-satisfaction average of 51%! In other words, massage therapists are much happier with their careers than the average American is with their job.
Of the remaining massage therapists that were surveyed, 7% felt indifferent in terms of job satisfaction, while only a small minority (5%) felt that they were “dissatisfied.” Meanwhile, only 1% of the massage therapists surveyed reported that they were “very dissatisfied” with their job.
Where Do Massage Therapists Work?
Part of what makes massage therapy an attractive career option is that massage therapists can work in a variety of industries and environments.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest employers of massage therapists in 2016 were:
|Massage Therapist Work Environment||Total Percentage Employed|
|Personal Care Services||29%|
|Offices of all other Health Practitioners||12%|
|Offices of Chiropractors||7%|
Self-Employed Massage Therapists: According to the BLS, the majority of massage therapists are self-employed. This can mean that they work as independent-contractors at various locations (like at multiple spas), that they run their own business (like having their own private practice), or a combination of both!
If having your own business is something that you’ve always wanted to do, then massage therapy can definitely give you a path to do that.
Personal Care Services and Accommodation: Approximately 35% of massage therapists work either in the Personal Care Services or Accommodation industries. Personal Care Services all Spas, Massage Clinics, Fitness Facilities, and related places. Accommodation includes hotels, cruise ships, and resorts.
These industries are a good place to work for massage therapists that enjoy a more relaxing atmosphere and want to work with an extremely diverse of people, such as tourists.
Health Practitioners: Approximately 19% work in the health and medical industries. This includes Physical Therapy offices, integrative medical clinics, and Chiropractic Offices.
Because you’ll be working with a variety of patients, this industry is good for massage therapists that have a particular interest in treating particular illnesses and disorders using massage therapy.
Depending on the career route, massage therapists that want to work in these environments should at specializing their massage skills set. For example, a massage therapist that wants to work at a physical therapy office should look at specializing in massage that’s related to body mechanics, such as Neuromuscular Therapy. Massage Therapists that want to work at a Chiropractor’s Office, should look into alternative medicine-related modalities, such as Shiatsu.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Massage Therapist
Now that we’ve had a brief career overview, let’s look at the pros and cons of being a massage therapist.
Pros: The Perks of Becoming a Massage Therapist
Making a Difference in the Lives of Others
While there are many tangible benefits of a massage therapy career, perhaps the most rewarding aspect about being a massage therapist is knowing that your work has a positive impact on the lives of other people. In the massage therapy career survey article, it was revealed that 99% of massage therapists surveyed believed that their work makes a difference in the lives of others.
This is unsurprising, given that massage therapists are trained to treat a variety of illnesses and disorders that are common in today’s society, such as chronic pain and anxiety disorders. As such, massage therapy is a great career choice for those that want to make a real difference in the lives of others.
Massage Therapy Job Security
The job-demand for professional massage therapists is booming.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of massage therapy jobs in the US is projected to grow from 160,300 jobs in 2016 to 202,400 jobs in 2026. That’s an additional 42,100 new massage therapy jobs, which is a 26% increase over 10-years!
Because human touch is inherently therapeutic, it is unlikely that a machine will be able to replace the hands-on healing of a massage therapist.
Earning Potential of Massage Therapists
One of the reasons that massage therapy is a popular career choice is because of the good earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Massage Therapists was $41, 420 in May 2018.This is greater than the median annual wage in the US of $38, 640, and greater than the median annual wage of other healthcare support occupations, which was $34, 830.
Not bad for a profession that only requires 9-months of schooling. Let’s compare this to similar occupations in the health sciences.
Certificate (8-9 months)
Certificate (~4 months)
Bachelor's degree (4-5 years)
Bachelor's degree (4-5 years)
Associate’s degree (2 years)
Keep in mind that the median wage refers to the “wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.” In other words, it’s roughly how much 50% or half of the people in the profession earned. Simultaneously, the lowest 10% of massage therapists earned only $21, 340, while the top 90% earned $78, 280.
Your actual income will be dependent on a variety of factors, including geographical location, and place of employment.
Massage Therapists Have A Great Work-Life Balance
One of the greatest benefits of being a massage therapist is having a flexible work schedule.
According to US News and World Report, massage therapists have an above- average rate of work flexibility, and many set their own work hours. This gives massage therapists a great work-life balance, and allows them to spend more time with their families and/or pursue other activities.
This makes massage therapy a great career option for someone that doesn’t want to be confined to the typical 9-5 schedule of an office, or the unsteady work schedules found in retail or restaurant settings.
Massage Therapy Career Advancement
Massage Therapy is different from traditional careers, in that there really isn’t a corporate latter to climb for career advancement. Rather, career growth depends on the professional path a massage therapist wishes to take.
At the broadest level, massage therapists can either work for an employer, become self-employed, or even split their time between both kinds of employment.
Regardless of which path a massage therapist takes, there some common practices that will improve career advancement and earning potential.
The first is to build a steady pipeline of clients and patients. The more people you treat, the more money you will earn. This is true regardless if you’re self-employed or work for an employer.
Another way to advance your massage therapy career is to learn a specialization and market your unique skill set. For example, if you run your own business, learning and offering a particular massage modality, such as neuromuscular therapy, may increase your earnings, by adding new patients looking for neuromuscular therapy your clientele base, as well as charging a premium for your specialty.
This is also true if you wish to work for a particular employer. For example, let’s pretend you work at a massage clinic, but want to work at a Chiropractor’s office. Learning a massage modality that is commonly practiced there, such as Shiatsu, may give your resume a distinct advantage when applying for those positions.
Additionally, working in a management role at a massage establishment, such as a massage clinic or spa, will not only improve your regular paycheck but will teach you invaluable business lessons. This is also a good way to get business experience before choosing to become self-employed.
Cons: What Are the Downsides of Being a Massage Therapist?
Massage therapy offers many career benefits. However, as with any other career, there are some downsides as well. Let’s look at some of the downsides of a massage therapy career and how to make the best of them.
Physical Toll of the Job
One of the cons of being a massage therapist is that the job can take a physical toll on your body. You will have to practice regular self-care to avoid burn-out.
The downside to having a flexible schedule that’s client-dependent is that income can often be inconsistent. You will need to learn how to advance in your career to keep a steady income or to earn more money.
Clients behaving inappropriately
As uncomfortable it is to bring this up, many massage therapists have experienced inappropriate behavior from clients on the job, ranging from unrealistic requests to sexual harassment.
You will learn more about handling inappropriate client requests and comments in massage school.
Is It Easy to Get a Job as a Massage Therapist?
Massage therapy school is designed to give you the skills for a specific career, rather a broad education. And because Massage Therapists are currently in-demand, massage therapists seem to have little trouble finding work after earning their state license.
In the survey quoted in our Massage Therapy Career Satisfaction article, 57% of 1,182 massage therapists surveyed, “strongly agreed” that they were easily able to find a job after getting their state license, while another 29% “agreed.” Approximately 8% of the respondents felt neutral about the difficulty of finding a job. Of the reminding respondents, 4% claimed to have had a difficult time finding a job, while only 2% found it “very difficult” to find a job after earning their state license.
The same survey also asked how long it took the respondents to find a job. Overall, 62% found a job within 1 month after earning their state license, 22% said it took approximately 1 month, and 9% said it took 2-3 months.
This means that 93% of massage therapists found a job within 3 months of earning their license! As for the remaining respondents, 4% said it took 4-6 months to find a job, while only 2% claimed that it took more than 6 months.
The survey strongly suggests that massage therapy graduates are getting hired quickly after earning their state license!
Start Your Massage Therapy Career Training!
Take the first step and request more information about the massage therapy program at Acupuncture and Massage College in Miami, Florida. You’ll learn about our program offering, Shiatsu specialization, and class schedules.
If you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop by for a visit. Acupuncture and Massage College is located at 10506 North Kendall Drive, Miami, Florida 33176. You can also call us at (305)595-9500.
If you want to learn more about a career in massage therapy, download our free career guide below.