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Massage therapist

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A Massage therapist is a person who uses their hands and various techniques to ease the healing of a bodily injury. The practice of massage as a therapy can be dated back as early as 3000 BC in India. Many massage therapists are self-employed or work part-time. Many states regulate the massage therapy work but having standardized tests to gain certification to be a massage therapist. The pay is generally good, but depends greatly on the clientele.


The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun hot springs spa in Japan.

Massage therapy has been around for about 5,000 years. The earliest recorded account of massage therapy originated in India in 3000 BC. The Ayurveda tradition was passed down orally and it was believed to be divine origin. The practice was used to reestablish the natural balance in an individual. Once rebalanced, the ill person can start to heal naturally. Treatments in Ayurveda include diet and herbalism, aromatherapy, color therapy, sound therapy and touch therapy.

The practice of massage therapy was hinted in Egypt and China between 3000 and 2500 BC. Egyptians are credited with creating reflexology in approximately 2500 BC. Reflexology is the practice of applying pressure to specific points or reflex zones on the feet and hands. In turn, the recipient experiences beneficial effects on the areas of the body that connects to those zones. Ancient Chinese texts mention the use of massage therapy in approximately 2700 BC. The Chinese tradition of massage therapy was developed from the combined expertise and methods of doctors in traditional Chinese medicine as a way to relax.

Many other cultures have evidence of massage therapy. These include:

  • Japan in 1000 BC
  • Greece between 800 to 700 BC
  • Rome between 200 to 100 BC
  • Europe in the 17th through 19th century
  • The United States of America in the 20th century



Most people going into the massage therapy business must look into the actual training first. Massage therapy training varies by state, so the cost, length of program, and type of credentials received will be determined by state laws [2]. However, in general, a good massage therapist will have to learn the anatomy and physiology of the human body. They will have to learn muscle locations, how to access the muscle, and the general fiber direction. They should also learn how the muscle in question moves the body to better access the muscle tissue [2].

The cost of basic massage therapy education tuition alone can range from $5,000 to $40,000, depending on the duration of the program and the quality of the school. Public schools tend to have a lower tuition, but one might be in training for longer [3]. A typical community college program, lasting about two years, has a tuition cost of $3,000 to $5,000 per year. However, most massage schools—whether private or public—offer some sort of financial aid [3].

There are many highly recommended schools throughout the country. The top five are Allied College, Carrington College, Cortiva Institute, Everest College, and Kaplan College [4]. Allied College has two locations in Missouri and offers diploma and Associate degree opportunities in massage therapy [5]. Carrington College offers ten locations, specifically one located in Spokane, Washington. Some of the Carrington College campuses do not offer a course for massage therapy, but the Spokane campus does. The tuition at Carrington is $400 per credit hour and financial aid is available [6]

Cortiva specializes in massage therapy training and offers twelve different campuses nationwide. There are two campuses in Washington State, one in Federal Way and one in Seattle. The tuition at Cortiva varies by the diploma. Including everything from books to room and board, a Professional Massage Therapy Diploma costs $13,075 and an Extended Professional Massage Therapy Diploma costs $16,975 with financial aid available for everyone. The only advantage of the extended program is that it is 1000 hours compared to the 750 hours for the basic diploma [7]

Everest College offers two campuses in Washington State, one in Seattle and the other in Everett. However, only the Seattle campus offers a massage therapy training program. The tuition varies by campus and program taken [8].Kaplan University has eight campuses, none being in Washington State. Both the tuition and financial aid at Kaplan varies by the location and the course selection [9].


Many states regulate massage therapist certification. Regulatory boards set the minimum requirements that must be achieved of succeeded for one to qualify as a legal massage therapist. There are two basic types of massage therapy examinations: National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) and National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM). Both exams focus on various materials:

  • General knowledge of body systems
  • Detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology
  • Pathology
  • Therapeutic massage assessment
  • Therapeutic massage application
  • Professional standards, ethics, business and legal practices

These two tests are multiple choice and many schools train their students to help pass these tests. If one of these tests are passed, then the person is able to be certified pending review. [10]

The Job

A massage therapy session.

Once finished with schooling, a massage therapist begins their actual career. “This occupation includes a large percentage of part-time and self-employed workers.” These new massage therapist can expect to work in many different settings including private offices, studios, hospitals, fitness centers, and even airports. “It is common for full-time massage therapist to divide their time among several different settings, depending on the clients and locations scheduled” [11]

Therapists who work 15 to 30 hours per week consider themselves to be full-time workers, because when time for travel, for setting up equipment, and for completing business functions, such as billing, are added, a massage therapist’s hours per week may be more than 40 hours. [11]

“Employment is expected to grow faster than average as more people learn about the benefits of massage therapy." This statement has proven true since massage therapists held about 122,400 jobs in 2008. About 57 percent of these 122,400 workers were self-employed [11].

To be a good massage therapist, one should know many different types of massage, called modalities. A massage therapist can specialize in more than eighty different modalities. These can include, but are not limited to, Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure, sports massage, and neuromuscular massage ( Massage therapists must know many types of massage to be able to ‘alter’ their concentration when working on a patient. A typical massage, “…can last as long as two hours or as short as 5-10 minutes." “Because massage is physically demanding, massage therapists can succumb to injury if the proper technique is not used” [11].

The Money

As stated earlier, “…employment of massage therapists is expected to grow faster than average” [11]. To be more specific about how fast the employment rate is, “employment of massage therapists is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations." While the employment is growing fast, “in states that regulate massage therapy, opportunities should be available to those who complete formal training programs and pass a professionally recognized examination” [11].

Not only is massage therapy a growing business, the chances of getting a job are very good. However, as in every industry, those new to the business can expect to work longer for less. “… new massage therapists should expect to work part time in spas… until they can build a client base of their own” [11]. Having a solid and consistent client base is very important to a massage therapist as well as their income, “self-employed massage therapists with a large client base have the highest earnings” [11]. The median hourly wages of massage therapists, including graduates were $16.78 in May of 2008. The middle 50% earned between $11.36 and $25.14. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.01, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.47. Because many therapists work part time, yearly earnings can vary considerably, depending on the therapist’s schedule. [11]

Being a massage therapist is not without it's risks. The practice is physically demanding and there is a high chance of injury in the hands and upper appendages. These injuries include soft tissue injuries, tendinitis, and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. Also, many massage therapists are self employed, so the benefits such as health, dental, and other such things are not provided. “As typical for most workers who are self-employed and work part time, few benefits are provided” [11].


  1. History of Massage web; Natural Healers; Accessed: December 13, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 Education Needed to Become a Massage Therapist web; Wilson, Pamela.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Average Cost of Massage Therapy School web; Russell, Lana J.
  4. Top Massage Therapy Schools web,
  5. Programs web, Allied College.
  6. Financial Aid web, Carrington College.
  7. Massage Therapy School Locations & Campuses web, Cortiva Institute
  8. Everest College web, Everest College
  9. Kaplan Univeristy web,
  10. Massage Therapy Certification web; Natural Healers; Accessed: December 13, 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Massage Therapists.