How to Become a Massage Therapist

Massage Therapist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $30,750
Avg. Pay / hour $14.78
Education 0-6 Months
Job Outlook 22%

Massage therapists use the power of touch to heal and restore the body, relieve pain, and promote relaxation.

If you are interested by health and the human body, like working closely with people, and have excellent interpersonal skills then you will likely enjoy a career as a massage therapist.

There are many opportunities for different kinds of work once you are qualified as a massage therapist, as this is a growing industry.

While there is work in private clinics and health centers, companies are also bringing in massage therapists to increase the health and happiness of their employees.

One of the greatest benefits when you become a massage therapist is that you have the chance to make a positive contribution to the health of a client.

Working environments are very relaxed and positive places.

Education Requirements to Become a Massage Therapist

While the education requirements to become a massage therapist vary in every state, in most places you will need some kind of qualification to attain your massage therapy certification.

Completing a degree in massage therapy will help you to become a better professional, provide your clients with a better service, and ultimately make you more successful in your career.

In most places, you are required to complete an educational program, then sit a state-set exam to receive your qualification.

Before you enroll in a massage therapy school, it’s important to find out what you need to become accredited.

Not all courses on offer will adhere to state requirements.

While in some places, you don’t need any education to practice massage therapy, in others you need anywhere from 330 to 1000 hours in the classroom before you can qualify.

Most states will require you to be registered with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

You should also be aware that some local counties and municipalities have further licensing laws, which you may need to comply with.

Even if there are no specific rules in your state, you should still check if your city has any requirements.

You can complete a course in massage therapy at vocational school or community college, the lengths of the programs varies somewhat.

Most courses will include massage technique, anatomy, biology, as well as health and nutrition.

Some courses also include subjects on business, accounting, marketing, and ethics.

Massage Therapist Job Description

A massage therapist works one on one with a client to promote their health through touch and massage.

After initially speaking with a client about their needs, and usually taking a health profile, they will use a range of techniques to achieve this.

They will apply pressure to different parts of the body, may relieve muscle knots and tension, help injury, or just promote the release of stress by providing a relaxed environment.

Here are some of the types of massage a therapist may specialize in.

Relaxation Massage – This type of massage simply reduces the tension and stress of the client.

It works by relieving the tension held in muscles, as well as creating a relaxing environment which relieves the mind.
Sports Massage – Working with athletes who have acquired injury from their sport, this massage sets out to reduce pain and promote healing through touch.
Remedial Massage – Remedial massage works with deeper tissue for those suffering from pain or injury.
Corporate Massage – This massage takes place within the workplace.

employees are given a short massage, usually seated which relieves stress and promotes productivity.

Massage Therapist Salary and Career Path

When you become a massage therapist, most people will begin their career working in a clinic, health spa, or consulting suite.

Usually they will start of employed by someone else.

Many go on to start their own businesses.

Some massage therapists are self-employed, working out of their own homes or offering a mobile service.

Some therapists are employed by sports teams, others by large companies to help with staff.

Some work with other professionals such as physiotherapists, or in hospitals.

A large amount of massage therapists are self-employed, many work part-time or casual hours also.

Most massage therapists earn between $11.00 and $25.00 an hour, depending on training and experience.

Massage therapy offers a rewarding career for those who are interested in health, and also enjoy working with people.

It’s also a job that offers flexibility.

The downside to this role is that very few massage therapists work full-time.

There is however, the opportunity to own your own business, as well as to work hours that fit in with other commitments.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$52,020
New Hampshire$50,540
New Jersey$45,650
New Mexico$46,130
New York$52,660
North Carolina$46,810
North Dakota$61,280
Rhode Island$29,210
South Carolina$35,030
South Dakota$37,620
West Virginia$45,730
Puerto Rico$19,890

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $100,080.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $100,080
Washington - $66,040
Oregon - $65,580
Connecticut - $62,200
Maryland - $62,030
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Massage Therapists, OCC Code 31-9011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a massage therapist do?

Massage therapists use massage techniques to relieve pain, improve circulation, and to help their clients stay healthy.

As a massage therapist, your aim is to wind-down the tension in the muscle and soft tissue of your client’s body.

Massage therapists are also experts in stretching, relaxation, and correct posture.

They can assist doctors who specialize in physical therapy in order to help patients recover from an injury.

A massage can last 5–10 minutes or could take more than an hour.

Massage therapists have to talk to their clients in order to identify what they want to achieve through massage.

In order to do this, they need good communication and listening skills.

Massage therapists may specialize in a different type of technique, such as Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage or sports massage.

How much does a massage therapist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for massage therapists was $41,420 in May 2018.

Salaries for massage therapists vary depending on the field of employment and many massage therapists also earn tips.

According to BLS, the highest 10 percent earned $78,280 while the lowest 10 percent earned $21,340.

How much does it cost to become a massage therapist?

Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certification.

Many trade schools and colleges offer massage therapy programs.

These programs usually require 500 – 1,000 hours of training and tuition costs vary between $6,000 and $14,000.

After the training period, you will need to acquire a license to practice this profession.

The licensing exam may differ from state to state or you may have to pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).

The MBLEx exam is offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards; the application fee is $195.

As a massage therapist, you will also need liability insurance and CPR certification.

CPR training costs around $30.

What is the demand for massage therapists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As more people understand the benefits of massage, the demand for massage therapists is expected to grow.

Massage therapists who specialize in sports massage will also be needed to help athletes recover from injuries.

How long does it take to become a massage therapist?

In order to become a massage therapist, you need a high school diploma or GED and to earn a certificate or diploma in massage therapy from an accredited school approved by the state.

Then you may also have to go through an internship in order to qualify for the state exam license.

Most state-approved massage therapy programs consist of at least 500 hours and this means a minimum of six months of study.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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