How to Become a Massage Therapist

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a massage therapist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this profession:


Those who become massage therapists enjoy helping others alleviate pain and stress. They also enjoy working with their hands, and have the stamina to use them for the majority of the day.


One important characteristic that massage therapists must posses is being comfortable sharing personal space for extended periods of time.


So, to learn more, read on below. We've outlined helpful occupational information, such as a general job description, a list of job duties, an overview of salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements for Becoming a Massage Therapist

The educational requirements for this profession typically vary by region (state or province) and by employer. To become a massage therapist, you typically need to complete a massage therapist training program, which can be found in many universities and colleges in Canada and the United States.


These programs typically involve classroom work in areas such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, business management, business ethics, as well as hands-on training in massage therapy techniques.


Some courses may also offer practicum or work-placement opportunities, which can often result in being hired by the sponsoring organization or clinic upon graduation. 


Success Tip: Speak with a massage therapist in your area regarding the educational and licensing requirements in your area





General Job Description

Massage therapists are responsible for developing, maintaining, rehabilitating or improving the physical function of a client by administering massage therapy. They may also administer massage therapy for the purposes of relieving stress or pain.



Typical Job Duties

• Assess the soft tissue and joints of a client

• Conduct an assessment of the client in order to determine the most appropriate course of treatment

• Consult with other health care professionals such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, physicians and psychologists to develop treatment plans for clients

• Provide client with an explanation of the procedure that will be administered

• Administer appropriate massage therapy technique

• May administer techniques such as soft tissue manipulation, relaxation techniques, soft tissue stretching techniques, manual pressure to specific points on the body, hydrotherapy, manual stripping or cross-fibre friction of muscle tissue, trigger point therapy, joint play and mobilizations, lymphatic drainage techniques

• Complete reports and submit forms to insurance companies when necessary

• Maintain comprehensive and secure client records



Who Employs Massage Therapists? Where Do They Work?

Below is a list of possible employers of massage therapists:


• Self-employment (their own homes or offices)

• Fitness clubs

• Spas or resorts

• Massage therapy clinics

• Clinics shared with other healthcare practitioners such as chiropractors, physicians and physical therapists



Licenses and Certification Required to Become a Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is not a regulated profession in every state and province, although as of 2012 it was regulated in 3 Canadian provinces and 43 American states.


Although the requirements to become a licensed massage therapist vary by province and state, they contain many commonalities, such as the need to complete an accredited training program and successfully pass a qualifying exam.


Success Tip: Contact your local massage therapy association to receive guidance as to the specific requirements of becoming a registered massage therapist.




Personal Traits and Skills Needed to Succeed

To become a successful massage therapist, you need to possess a certain set of skills and personality traits, as they will be necessary for you to endure the rigors of your work, and allow you to do your work in a competent and professional manner. These traits include:


• Excellent listening and oral communication skills

• Good time management skills

• General overall health, good posture and stamina

• Must be able to use hands for extended period of time

• Must be able to stand for long periods of time

• Must be comfortable sharing personal space for extended periods of time

• Must have an interest in issues related to health and wellness

• Must have a friendly and outgoing personality

• Should enjoy helping people and implementing treatment plans



Career Advancement Possibilities

Many massage therapists are self-employed, or may work on commission, therefore the primary way to advance your career as a massage therapist is to acquire more clients.


Being a competent professional with an excellent reputation, as well as having entrepreneurial skills, and skills in marketing and small business management is the best way to accomplish this.


If you want to become a massage therapist who is not self-employed, there are still opportunities for career advancement; these opportunities primarily involve moving into supervisory and management positions.


Those who demonstrate competency in their profession can generally qualify for these opportunities as they arise within their place of employment, or with external organizations.



Typical Salary Level: How Much Do Massage Therapists Earn?

The actual wages and salaries of massage therapists can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer

• Whether they work part-time or full-time hours

• The structure of their financial benefits package, if they have one

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• Many other factors


Massage Therapist Salaries in Alberta: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Massage Therapist” occupational group is $48,694 per year.


Salaries - British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Massage therapists” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $46,800.


Salaries - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Massage Therapists” occupational group is $41,420 per year.



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Careers Similar to This One

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "massage therapist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Athletic Therapist

Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist


Personal Trainer





Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a massage therapist.


Occupations in Alberta:Massage Therapist.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved March 4, 2020.

Healthcare:Massage Therapists.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved March 24, 2020.

Explore Careers: Massage therapists.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved March 4, 2020.


Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Massage Therapist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that are relevant for becoming a massage therapist can be found on our Kinesiology Scholarships and Exercise Science Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a massage therapist, as they can provide you with knowledge, skills and competencies that are applicable to this career. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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