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Massage Therapists

At a Glance

  • Use a variety of massage and bodywork techniques
  • Often specialize by type of client
  • Often work part time and have a flexible schedule
  • Have a high level of social interaction
  • Training usually lasts one year
  • May need a license

Career summary

Massage therapists manipulate muscles of the body to treat clients. This provides relaxation and improves health and well-being.

There are several different massage techniques, including:

Massage therapists often specialize in one or more techniques. They may also specialize by the type of client. For example, they may work with infants, pregnant women, athletes, even animals.

Massage therapists talk to their clients to find out their medical history and symptoms. They find out if the client has any painful or tense areas on the body. They check patients' mobility and stiffness in certain areas.

Therapists use their hands, elbows, and sometimes feet to knead muscles. They apply lotions or oils before massaging the body. They may also apply heat to an area that is very tense or sore. They give clients information about what to do after a massage to promote healing or relaxation. They also keep treatment records.

Massage therapists may work with doctors, chiropractors, or physical therapists. Depending on the size of practice they work in, they may have clerical duties, including:

They may also wash linens and clean and disinfect equipment and work areas. Some massage therapists travel to their clients and use portable massage tables.

Related careers

This career is part of the Human Services cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to massage therapists.

Common work activities

Massage therapists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, massage therapists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Massage therapists frequently:

It is important for massage therapists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for massage therapists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Massage therapists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a massage therapist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Massage therapists must have a degree in massage therapy. Professional-technical schools offer these programs. Massage programs take about one year to complete and grant a certificate in massage therapy. In a massage program you learn anatomy and physiology, massage theory, and technique.

On-the-job training

While completing a training program, you begin to do massages under the supervision of a fully-trained massage therapist.

Once on the job, little additional training is required beyond new employee orientation.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many massage therapists are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Some employers prefer to hire therapists who are knowledgeable about one or more specific massage techniques. Employers also look for therapists who are at ease with clients, communicate clearly, and have good massage technique. A caring, helpful attitude is also an advantage in this occupation. Business skills are important, especially for self-employed massage therapists.


Talk with a massage therapist and experience a massage to find out if this is the kind of work you want to do. Knowledge of movement techniques such as Tai Chi and Aikido can be helpful. Chances for employment may be best in larger cities. You must be comfortable working with all sorts of people. It's helpful to have monetary resources or a part-time job before you begin a practice.

Costs to workers

Self-employed therapists must buy their own massage table, oils, linens, and other supplies. New tables usually cost $500 to $900. Some massage therapists lease space at fitness centers or other work sites for a set fee or a percentage of their income.


Massage therapists must be licensed in the State of Washington. Licensing requirements include:

Some massage therapists may also be endorsed to perform intraoral massage or animal massage. To earn the intraoral endorsement, they must complete an additional 16 hours of training in this subject directly supervised by a licensed massage practitioner endorsed in intraoral massage or from an individual who is licensed, certified, or registered and who has provided intraoral massage services within their authorized scope of practice. To qualify for the animal massage endorsement, they must complete a minimum of 100 hours in either small or large animal massage from an approved school or training program.

In Washington, individuals can also be certified as only animal massage (external link) practitioners. Certification requirements include:

For more information on requirements and fees, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance
Customer Service Center (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504

Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Some states do not require massage licenses. However, employers in that state may require licensing. People who want to work in another state should find out what that state requires and also talk to massage therapists for additional information.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Massage therapists (SOC 31-9011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $18.41 $25.47 $30.63 $36.03 $39.59
Monthly $3,190 $4,414 $5,308 $6,244 $6,861
Yearly $38,290 $52,980 $63,710 $74,940 $82,350
    Bellingham Hourly $27.37 $29.06 $31.75 $35.65 $39.01
Monthly $4,743 $5,036 $5,502 $6,178 $6,760
Yearly $56,928 $60,445 $66,041 $74,147 $81,151
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $15.19 $22.94 $31.61 $37.43 $40.68
Monthly $2,632 $3,976 $5,478 $6,487 $7,050
Yearly $31,607 $47,712 $65,755 $77,856 $84,621
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $20.23 $27.70 $33.76 $38.05 $40.76
Monthly $3,506 $4,800 $5,851 $6,594 $7,064
Yearly $42,076 $57,621 $70,222 $79,155 $84,784
    Longview Hourly $30.40 $33.53 $36.01 $38.52 $40.12
Monthly $5,268 $5,811 $6,241 $6,676 $6,953
Yearly $63,231 $69,756 $74,898 $80,109 $83,439
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $31.87 $33.59 $35.97 $38.41 $39.99
Monthly $5,523 $5,821 $6,234 $6,656 $6,930
Yearly $66,289 $69,873 $74,817 $79,905 $83,177
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $21.44 $26.73 $29.90 $33.62 $39.87
Monthly $3,716 $4,632 $5,182 $5,826 $6,909
Yearly $44,584 $55,604 $62,196 $69,913 $82,924
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $18.40 $26.23 $32.46 $37.72 $41.14
Monthly $3,189 $4,546 $5,625 $6,537 $7,130
Yearly $38,277 $54,550 $67,511 $78,473 $85,571
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $20.36 $22.38 $25.41 $30.28 $33.46
Monthly $3,528 $3,878 $4,404 $5,248 $5,799
Yearly $42,348 $46,534 $52,849 $62,980 $69,604
    Vancouver Hourly $17.71 $25.39 $30.89 $39.67 $47.85
Monthly $3,069 $4,400 $5,353 $6,875 $8,292
Yearly $36,833 $52,815 $64,254 $82,522 $99,524
    Walla Walla Hourly $29.06 $32.10 $34.88 $37.71 $39.42
Monthly $5,036 $5,563 $6,045 $6,535 $6,831
Yearly $60,447 $66,755 $72,568 $78,451 $81,982
    Wenatchee Hourly $25.98 $28.39 $33.07 $37.39 $39.95
Monthly $4,502 $4,920 $5,731 $6,480 $6,923
Yearly $54,034 $59,059 $68,784 $77,775 $83,095
    Yakima Hourly $25.08 $28.74 $33.22 $40.39 $47.40
Monthly $4,346 $4,981 $5,757 $7,000 $8,214
Yearly $52,168 $59,789 $69,101 $84,003 $98,598
United States Hourly $10.26 $13.68 $19.92 $27.75 $37.64
Monthly $1,778 $2,371 $3,452 $4,809 $6,523
Yearly $21,340 $28,450 $41,420 $57,730 $78,280

Wages vary with the location, employer, and clientele. Massage therapists typically charge $35-$60 per hour. However massage therapists pay for their office equipment, supplies, rent, and utilities from their earnings. Therapists also must pay for liability insurance, taxes, advertising, and continued training.

Some therapists work as contract employees for massage schools, health practitioners, or fitness clubs and earn 40 to 70 percent of the fee the customer pays. In this situation, therapists earn about $15-$25 per hour. As a trade-off, they use the employer's space and supplies instead of buying their own.

Most massage therapists are self-employed or work part time. These workers must provide their own health insurance and retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Massage Therapists (SOC 31-9011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 9,023 60.8% 16.1% 2,285
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 217 53.5% 13.4% 51
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 168 52.4% 8.6% 39
    Benton and Franklin Counties 244 68.0% 15.0% 66
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 305 65.6% 11.9% 80
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 781 66.1% 15.2% 208
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 530 65.5% 14.1% 141
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 447 68.5% 14.6% 121
    King County 4,881 57.8% 19.6% 1,198
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 244 49.6% 13.8% 55
    Pierce County 988 65.5% 15.2% 263
    Snohomish County 258 58.5% 12.4% 63
    Spokane County 511 64.6% 13.9% 134
United States 159,800 22.2% 5.2% 24,200

National employment

About 33% of massage therapists are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for massage therapists will remain strong. More people are becoming interested in massage as a way to relieve stress and promote health. There will also be demand for massage therapists at full-service spas and salons. The aging population will increase the number of people with conditions that can benefit from massage therapy.

More naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and physicians will refer their patients to massage therapists. More insurance plans cover massage therapy.

Competition for jobs is very strong. Job prospects are best for those who are licensed and have experience.

Other resources

American Massage Therapy Association (external link)
500 Davis Street, Suite 900
Evanston, IL 60201
Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (external link)
25188 Genesee Trail Road, Suite 200
Golden, CO 80401
Becoming a Professional Massage Therapist (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster