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.


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

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.

Education and Training

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.


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.

Personality and Interests

Massage therapists typically have an interest in the Building and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a massage therapist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Massage therapists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Massage therapists need to listen carefully to clients in order to understand what they want to achieve through massage sessions.

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

Empathy. Massage therapists must give clients a positive experience, which requires building trust between therapist and client. Making clients feel comfortable is necessary for therapists to expand their client base.

Physical stamina. Massage therapists may give several treatments during a workday and have to stay on their feet throughout massage appointments.

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


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

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. 


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.

For More Information

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




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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