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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgg5Mw0TJJk.
Quick Facts: Massage Therapists
2021 Median Pay $46,910 per year
$22.55 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2021 149,900
Job Outlook, 2021-31 20% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 29,900

What Massage Therapists Do

Massage therapists treat clients by applying pressure to manipulate the body's soft tissues and joints.

Work Environment

Massage therapists work in an array of settings, such as spas and offices of other health practitioners. Some also travel to local events, clients’ homes, or other sites. Part-time work is common, and work schedules may vary. Many massage therapists are self-employed.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education that combines study and experience, although standards and requirements vary by state. Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certification.

Pay

The median annual wage for massage therapists was $46,910 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 25,200 openings for massage therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for massage therapists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of massage therapists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about massage therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Massage Therapists Do About this section

Massage therapists
Massage therapists knead muscles and other soft tissues of the body to provide treatment for injuries and to promote general wellness.

Massage therapists treat clients by applying pressure to manipulate the body's soft tissues and joints. This treatment may help to relieve pain, heal injuries, relieve stress, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Duties

Massage therapists typically do the following:

  • Talk with clients about their symptoms, medical history, and treatment goals
  • Evaluate clients prior to and during the massage to locate painful or tense areas of the body
  • Manipulate muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues of the body
  • Increase range of motion through joint mobilization techniques
  • Provide guidance on stretching, strengthening, overall relaxation, and improving their posture
  • Document clients’ conditions and progress
  • Clean their workspace and sanitize equipment

Massage therapists manipulate clients’ soft tissues and joints to treat injuries and promote general wellness. They may use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and feet as tools during the session.

Massage therapists may use lotions and oils and massage tables or chairs when treating a client. The length of a session varies based on type of massage. For example, a chair massage may be as short as 5 to 10 minutes, whereas a table massage typically lasts between 30 and 90 minutes.

Massage therapists talk with clients about what the desired outcome of massage. They may suggest personalized treatment plans for the client, including information about additional relaxation techniques to practice between sessions.

Massage therapists may specialize in different massage modalities, or specialties, such as Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, and sports massage. Massage therapists may specialize in several modalities.

The type of massage given typically depends on the client’s needs and physical condition. Different populations, such as athletes or pregnant women, require different techniques for their massages.

In addition to giving massages, therapists, especially those who are self-employed, may spend time recording notes on clients, marketing, booking clients, and conducting other business tasks.

Work Environment About this section

Massage therapists
Massage therapists create an environment intended to make clients feel relaxed.

Massage therapists held about 149,900 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of massage therapists were as follows:

Self-employed workers 43%
Personal care services 29
Offices of all other health practitioners 10
Offices of chiropractors 7
Accommodation 3

Some massage therapists travel to local events, clients’ homes or other sites. Others work out of their own homes. Massage therapists, especially those who are self-employed, may provide their own table or chair, sheets, pillows, and body lotions or oils.

Massage therapists’ working conditions vary. For example, some therapists provide relaxing massages in dimly lit settings and use candles, incense, and soothing music. Others offer rehabilitative massages in brightly lit clinical settings or at outdoor events.

Injuries and Illnesses

Because giving massages is physically demanding, massage therapists may injure themselves if they do not use proper technique. Repetitive-motion problems and fatigue from standing for extended periods are most common.

Therapists can limit these risks by using good body mechanics, spacing sessions properly, exercising, and receiving a massage regularly themselves.

Work Schedules

Part-time work is common for massage therapists. Because therapists usually work by appointment, their schedules and the number of hours worked each week vary considerably. Moreover, because of the strength and endurance needed to give a massage, many therapists cannot perform massage services 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.

How to Become a Massage Therapist About this section

Massage therapists
Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program that combines study and experience.

Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program that combines study and experience, although standards and requirements vary by state. Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certification.

Education

Massage therapy education programs are typically in private, independent schools or in community colleges or other public postsecondary institutions. Depending on the program, earning a diploma or certificate requires several months or years to complete.

Applicants to massage therapy programs typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. The curriculum generally includes both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Required coursework includes sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology, as well as subjects such as business and ethics.

Some programs concentrate on certain modalities, or specialties, such as sports, rehabilitative, or oncology massage.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Massage therapists typically need a state-issued license or must register with the state. Requirements vary but typically include graduation from an approved massage therapy program and passing an exam. The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) licensing exam is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

Other requirements for massage therapists may include passing a background check, having liability insurance, and being certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many states require massage therapists to complete continuing education credits and to renew their license periodically. For more information, contact the licensing board for the state in which you intend to practice.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Massage therapists must listen carefully and convey information clearly in order to ensure that clients achieve desired results through massage sessions.

Decision-making skills. Massage therapists must evaluate each client’s needs and recommend the best treatment based on that person’s needs.

Empathy. Massage therapists often treat clients who are in pain. They must be compassionate and sympathetic to their clients' problems and needs.

Integrity. Massage therapists often have access to clients’ medical histories and other privacy information. Therefore, they must be trustworthy and protect client confidentiality.

Interpersonal skills. Massage therapists must give clients a positive experience. Building trust and making clients feel comfortable are necessary for therapists to expand their client base.

Physical stamina. Massage therapists may give several treatments during a workday and must be able to stand throughout massage appointments.

Physical strength and dexterity. Massage therapists must be strong and able to exert pressure through a variety of movements when manipulating a client’s muscles.

Time-management skills. Massage therapists must be effective in using the time allocated for appointments to help each client accomplish his or her goals.

Pay About this section

Massage Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Massage therapists

$46,910

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Other healthcare support occupations

$37,370

 

The median annual wage for massage therapists was $46,910 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,600.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for massage therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of chiropractors $58,930
Offices of all other health practitioners 47,930
Personal care services 44,710
Accommodation 29,600

Part-time work is common for massage therapists. Because therapists usually work by appointment, their schedules and the number of hours worked each week vary considerably. Moreover, because of the strength and endurance needed to give a massage, many therapists cannot perform massage services 8 hours per day, 5 days a week.

Job Outlook About this section

Massage Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Massage therapists

20%

Other healthcare support occupations

12%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 25,200 openings for massage therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new jobs for massage therapists. As more people recognize massage therapy as a way to treat pain and to improve overall wellness, demand for massage therapists is expected to increase.

Similarly, demand will likely increase as more healthcare providers understand the benefits of massage and include these services in their treatment plans. However, in some healthcare settings demand will be tempered by limited insurance coverage for massage services.

In addition, many sports teams hire massage therapists to help their athletes recover from injuries and to relieve or manage pain, which should increase demand for these workers.

Employment projections data for massage therapists, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Massage therapists

31-9011 149,900 179,900 20 29,900 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of massage therapists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Athletic trainers Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Master's degree $48,420
Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help injured or sick patients recover.

Bachelor's degree $47,940
Physical therapist assistants and aides Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.

See How to Become One $49,180
Physical therapists Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $95,620

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in massage therapy, visit

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

American Massage Therapy Association

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

For more information about national testing and national certification, visit

Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards

For more information about accredited massage therapy programs, visit

Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation

CareerOneStop

For a career video on massage therapists, visit

Massage Therapists

O*NET

Massage Therapists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Massage Therapists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm (visited November 14, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Thursday, October 6, 2022

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.