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How to Become a Massage Therapist [Step-By-Step]

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Are you looking for flexible work in the wellness sector?

You’re not alone. Luckily, there’s a perfect side gig for you: massage therapy!

Health professionals that do therapeutic massage have the freedom to work in various settings. Some therapists may even get hired in beautiful travel destinations.

If it sounds good to you, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we’ll talk about the costs, requirements, and steps on how to become a massage therapist.

Our guide will help you gather everything you need to succeed in the massage therapy industry!

An Overview of Massage Therapy: A Primer

header graphic showing a massage in progress for the names for a massage business post on gigworker.com

Massage therapy is a health science where therapists manipulate their client’s soft tissue to improve wellness. Some of their duties include discussing medical history and alleviating tense areas.

One session can run for five minutes or be as long as two hours. During this time, a masseuse will talk to customers about their desired outcome after the session.

A freelance massage therapist will have more responsibilities. They do marketing, arrange bookings, and even do room cleaning!

To make more money, therapists may pick a specialty for their professional practice. There are massage therapy techniques other than Swedish massage. You may want to learn sports massage and deep-tissue massage.

Some Challenges You’ll Encounter

Because they’re handling people’s bodies, therapists need basic knowledge of anatomy. Training sessions include theoretical and hands-on experiences.

An issue you may encounter is you might injure yourself if you don’t use proper techniques. It’s common for therapists to experience fatigue from repetitive motions.

Yet, this shouldn’t discourage you from learning how to become a massage therapist!

Close-up of a massage therapist treating athlete's muscles using a massage gun

The investment you make for massage therapy training is worth it. That’s because you get the freedom to choose when you want to meet clients.

The average salary for massage therapists makes it one of the best side gigs!

How Much Do Massage Therapists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average wage for a certified massage therapist is $27.43 per hour. It translates to $57,060 per year if you work full-time.

Those who teach massage therapy make the most money, at $45.40 per hour! Meanwhile, if we consider states, therapists in Alaska have the highest salaries. They have an hourly mean wage of $50.01.

What You’ll Need to Become a Massage Therapist [& Associated Costs]

Massage therapy is a great second job, but what will it cost you? Here’s everything you need to become a massage therapist!

  • Training: Your state board may ask you to take 500-600 hours of training. It can cost you $3,000 to $15,000 depending on different health education schools. It’s best to look for institutions that offer financial aid.
  • Massage Therapy Licensure Exam: The MBLEx is a national examination to get your massage license. You must pass it to practice your craft in 46 US states and territories. This licensing exam costs $265, but it’s a one-time payment.
  • Certification: People get certifications because they want to gain more clients. The most sought-after recognition is from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. It costs $140 to apply, and you have to pay the same amount every two years for renewal.
  • Massage Equipment: A self-employed therapist buys at least one massage table to start. The cheapest ones can cost around $100. You can buy other essential tools such as towels, heated pads, and massage oils for another $50!

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Massage Therapist?

Massage professionals spend anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 for their education. Certification, licensure, and massage equipment cost another $550.

As a return on this investment, they can make up to $57,060 per year!

Is It Hard to Become a Massage Therapist?

Starting your career in this industry may take some work because of requirements set by the massage therapy board. You need to attend at least 500 hours of training and pass a licensing exam.

Some people may think studying anatomy is difficult, but once you pass the challenges, you can enjoy a flexible career!

How Long Does It Take to Become a Massage Therapist?

The time it takes for you to become a massage therapist may vary. Some choose to study for a two-year associate’s degree. Others may go for a six-month program.

A lengthy study period means you become more specialized. For instance, therapists who do 12-16 months of training can work in hospitals.

If you plan on working part-time, you can get away with a few weeks of instruction.

After your training, licensure may take some time as well. According to the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy, it takes 30 days to release a license after passing the examination.

How to Become a Massage Therapist in 6 Simple Steps

Here are the basic steps on how to become a massage therapist!

A female massage therapist working with a patient in a medical center

Step 1. Get Theoretical Training From an Accredited School

Going to a massage school with an accredited massage therapy program is vital. This is because you need knowledge of biological science to keep your clients safe.

Massage therapy school will teach you at least 100 hours of anatomy, 300 hours of massage theory, and 45 hours of pathology. There are also 45 hours of massage techniques in kinesiology and 60 hours of ethics.

Here, you’ll learn how to assess pain and apply appropriate treatment. Sanitation and self-care are some of the most useful topics massage school covers.

The American Massage Therapy Association has a list of schools with massage therapy accreditation you can check out!

Step 2. Gain Hands-On Experience

Continuing education is necessary to become eligible for a licensure exam. Fortunately, most schools offer hands-on training!

According to the Massachusetts government website, schools offer 100 hours of unpaid internships. During this time is where you’ll massage clients with supervision.

Yet, this might not be enough for some certification bodies. The Medical Massage Therapy Certification requires 600 hours of hands-on experience.

Step 3. Pass Your Licensing Examination

Most states have regulations on massage therapy. It’s why you should take a licensure exam after your practical training.

Look out for the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, or MBLEx. It’s the exam governed by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board.

The MBLEx covers anatomy, kinesiology, client assessment, ethics, and professional guidelines. You might want to do a thorough review before you take this exam.

Once you pass, you can work as a licensed massage therapist anywhere in the United States!

Step 4. Find a Specialty

Finding a specialty will set you apart from other massage therapists. You may choose to provide services for pregnant women, children, cancer patients, or even athletes!

Each type of patient will need different treatment methods.

Massaging athletes may take more physical stamina and strength on your end. Meanwhile, cancer patients will need guidance and documentation on their progress.

Step 5. Decide on a Work Environment

The best part about this job is massage therapists get to pick where they want to work! Hotels, spas, corporate offices, training institutions, and hospitals all need therapists.

It’s such an in-demand work that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics says there’ll be a 20% rise in massage therapists by 2031!

Not to mention, you can work from home, or go door-to-door. Soothe App and Zeel Massage make it easy for self-employed massage therapists to find clients.

Step 6. Maintain Your Knowledge

Continuous practice is necessary to maintain your massage therapy license.

New techniques, public health laws, and studies on the human body emerge each year. You have to keep yourself updated!

Sign up for courses that’ll expand your knowledge, and keep a close eye on the end dates of your certification.

Be sure to check the National Certification Board for its advanced courses for massage practitioners!

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Massage Therapist

A female massage therapist doing healing massage for her patient

According to the US News and World Report, massage therapy ranks 11th in the best jobs without a college degree. Here’s why!

  • Low-Stress Levels:  Massage therapists claim they have low-stress levels in their work environment. The job responsibilities aren’t complicated as well.
  • Not Much Communication Needed: Very little communication is required during sessions. This makes massage therapy a suitable job for introverts.
  • Flexible Time: There’s no standard working time. People in the industry can choose to work part-time. Massage therapy is also one of the best jobs for working at night because of this!
  • Mobility: Massage therapists can work even in remote locations and tourist destinations.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the top questions that people ask us about how to become a massage therapist.

What Is the Best Degree for Massage Therapy?

The best degree you can get is the Associate of Science in Massage Therapy.

This massage program will give you at least two years of training. Topics include kinesiology, first-aid, pathology, and massage principles.

Once you graduate, you can work for a chiropractor. Although, you might get higher pay at a spa!

What Is the Average Salary for a Massage Therapist?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the mean hourly wage for a massage therapist is $27.43.

Forbes ranks Alaska as the highest-paying state for massage therapists. There, therapists can make $77,080 per year.

Washington, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon are also great states for therapists.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

Are you still not convinced that massage therapy is the perfect side gig for you? Here are three more articles on similar jobs to consider.

Wrapping Up

Massage therapists work for the good of public health by promoting relaxation. They identify and relieve pain in our bodies.

Learning how to become a massage therapist may take a few months of theoretical and practical study. Yet, many massage therapists claim they’re happy with their work!

What do you think? Will you try becoming a massage therapist?

If you enjoyed reading our guide, please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends. You may also get in touch with us through the comments section below!

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