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Massage Therapists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Because of the nature of massage therapy, opportunities for advancement are limited. However, with increased experience and an expanding client base, there are opportunities for therapists to increase client fees and, therefore, income. Therapists also may become managers of the office in which they work and may teach in a training program. In addition, those who are well organized and have an entrepreneurial spirit may go into business for themselves. Self-employed massage therapists with a large client base have the highest earnings.

Massage therapists held about 122,400 jobs in 2008. About 57 percent were self-employed. Many more people practice massage therapy as a secondary source of income. Of those who were self-employed, most owned their own businesses or worked as independent contractors. Others found employment in personal care services establishments, the offices of physicians and chiropractors, fitness and recreational sports centers and hotels. Although massage therapists can find jobs throughout the country, employment is concentrated in metropolitan areas, as well as resort and destination locales.

Job Outlook
Employment of massage therapists is expected to grow faster than average. Opportunities should be available to those who complete formal training programs and pass a professionally recognized examination, but new massage therapists should expect to work only part time until they can build a client base of their own.

Job Growth
Employment of massage therapists is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment will grow as more people learn about the benefits of massage therapy.

Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists. The number of spas, which employ a large number of therapists, has increased in recent years and will continue to do so. At the same time, there are an increasing number of massage clinic franchises, many of which offer massages cheaper than at spas and resorts, making them available to a wider range of customers. In addition, as an increasing number of States adopt licensing requirements and standards for therapists, the practice of massage is likely to be respected and accepted by more and more people.

Massage also offers specific benefits to particular groups of people, whose continued demand for massage services will lead to overall growth for the occupation. For example, 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. Older citizens in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities also are 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 are enjoying longer, more active lives and persons aged 55 years 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, who lack the concerns about massage that previous generations had.

In States that regulate massage therapy, opportunities should be available to those who complete formal training programs and pass a professionally recognized examination. 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 professional association also can help build strong contacts and further increase the likelihood of steady work.

Median hourly wages of massage therapists, including gratuities, were $16.78 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent 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 therapistís schedule. Generally, massage therapists earn some portion 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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