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Career Guide: Massage Therapist

Career Guide: Massage Therapist

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment

Massage therapists held about 118,000 jobs in 2006. About 64 percent were self-employed. There are many more people who practice massage therapy as a secondary source of income. As a result, some industry sources estimate that more than 200,000 people practice massage therapy in some capacity.

Of those self-employed, most owned their own business, and the rest worked as independent contractors. Others found employment in salons and spas; the offices of physicians and chiropractors; fitness and recreational sports centers; and hotels. While massage therapists can find jobs throughout the country, employment is concentrated in metropolitan areas, as well as resort and destination locales.

Job Outlook

Employment growth for massage therapists is expected to be faster than average for all occupations with very good job prospects, particularly for those seeking part-time work.

Employment change. Employment for massage therapists is expected to increase 20 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than average for all occupations. Employment will grow as more people learn about the benefits of massage therapy.

Increased interest in alternative medicine and holistic healing will translate into new openings for those skilled in massage therapy. Healthcare providers and medical insurance companies are beginning to recognize massage therapy as a legitimate treatment and preventative measure for several types of injuries and illnesses. The health care industry is using massage therapy more often as a supplement to conventional medical techniques for ailments such as muscle problems, some sicknesses and diseases, and stress-related health problems. Massage therapy’s growing acceptance as a medical tool, particularly by the medical provider and insurance industries, will have the greatest impact on new job growth for massage therapists.

Massage is an increasingly popular technique for relaxation and reduction of stress. As workplaces try to distinguish themselves as employee-friendly, providing professional in-office, seated massages for employees is becoming a popular on-the-job benefit.

Essential Job-Hunting Information

Older citizens in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are also finding benefits from massage, such as increased energy levels and reduced health problems. Demand for massage therapy should grow among older age groups because they increasingly enjoy longer, more active lives and persons age 55 and older are projected to be the most rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population over the next decade. However, demand for massage therapy is presently greatest among young adults, and they are likely to continue to enjoy the benefits of massage therapy as they age.

Job prospects. In States that regulate massage therapy, those who complete formal training programs and pass the national certification exam are likely to have very good opportunities. However, new massage therapists should expect to work only part-time in spas, hotels, hospitals, physical therapy centers, and other businesses until they can build a client base of their own. Because referrals are a very important source of work for massage therapists, networking will increase the number of job opportunities. Joining a State or local chapter of a professional association can also help build strong contacts and further increase the likelihood of steady work.

Female massage therapists will continue to enjoy slightly better job prospects, as some clients—both male and female—are uncomfortable with male physical contact. In 2006, 84 percent of all massage therapists were female.

Earnings

Median wage and salary hourly earnings of massage therapists, including gratuities, were $16.06 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.98 and $24.22. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.48, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.83. Generally, massage therapists earn 15 to 20 percent of their income as gratuities. For those who work in a hospital or other clinical setting, however, tipping is not common.

As is typical for most workers who are self-employed and work part-time, few benefits are provided.


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