Massage therapy has become a popular, mainstream form of relaxation. It is the most lucrative service provided in day spas, and almost two thirds of the practicing massage therapists today are self employed. A significant number work at the profession part time or as a second job. Federal statisticians estimate that there are approximately 125,000 massage therapists working in the United States today; however the fact that many people pursue it as a sideline suggests that there are far more licensed professionals in the business than census statistics suggest.

Variations in the Profession

There are a remarkable number of massage styles or methods, referred to as modalities. Over eighty are recognized by professionals in Western culture; however most massage therapists stick to a handful of modalities and specialize in them. Among the better known variants are reflexology, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, acupressure and neuromuscular massage.

Practicing the profession involves a quasi-medical approach to each client’s needs. A therapist interviews new clients to determine what the goals are, where the problems are and to develop a medical history that will suggest any vulnerable areas. Some massage therapists who don’t specialize in the type of massage a client is seeking will refer to another professional who works in a different field.

Therapeutic massage can be physically exacting work, and the therapist also consumes substantial time in interviewing clients, in traveling if they provide the service in-home, and in handling business matters such as billing and making appointments. Some massage therapists develop a clientele over time that is willing to come to a studio or facility such as a sports therapy center for treatment. For many professionals however, the business requires traveling to a location of the client’s choice to provide the service.

Some therapists provide services for hospitals or extended care facilities on a contract basis. Massage is used to provide relaxation and also to treat chronic pains that can be relieved by muscle relaxation or manipulation. Increasing numbers of older clients seek out massage therapy on a periodic basis, and that trend is expected to continue. Partially for that reason, over the next decade the profession is expected to grow much faster than the expected growth rate of jobs overall.

Educational Requirements

As of this writing there are 43 states and the District of Columbia that require some sort of licensing for massage therapists. In most of those instances one of the licensing requirements is some sort of formal education. There are certificate programs and associate’s degrees offered through massage therapy schools that are usually sufficient to meet licensing requirements, if they are from an accredited institution.

For states that require certification, the most common exam is the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) which is administered by the National Certification Board in the field. The board reviews educational and training credentials as part of their certification process.

Author's Bio: 

Bob Hartzell writes about education and careers for several websites