Massage therapy involves the use of touch to reduce tension in muscles and soft tissue.  Massage therapy is an alternative health career with a primary emphasis on health and wellness.  It is used to relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress, and increase relaxation.  It is a great career choice for those who may one day wish to start their own business.

Career Overview

While most massage therapists focus on one or two treatment modalities, according to the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) there are as many as 250 types of massage and bodywork.  The most widely known are Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, and reflexology.  A massage therapy session may be as short as 15 minutes or last up to 2 hours depending on the extent of injury and procedure used.   For example, a massage therapist would utilize different techniques for a patient with a sports injury than a patient suffering from migraine headaches.

For new patients, a massage therapist will record medical history and their reason for seeking massage treatment.  This initial consultation will enable the massage therapist to discuss client expectations with regard to outcomes and review those techniques that may prove most effective in light of their presenting condition.  Because massage therapists focus on only one or two areas, they may refer clients to colleagues who offer the type of treatment recommended.

In many cases, treatment involves massaging oils, lotions and creams into the affected tissue or muscles. Massage therapists may work in a variety of setting including health spas, chiropractic offices, massage clinics, as well as in private practice. Massage therapists who wish to set-up their own office will need to purchase such supplies as a massage table, pillows, oils, lotions, linens, towels, and loose-fitting clothing.

Massage therapists should have good relationship-building skills to develop client rapport and a consistent following, which is especially important for those who wish to start and grow their own massage therapy practice.

Education, Training, and Licensure

Most massage therapy training programs include about 500 hours of classroom study and are offered at community colleges, as well as vocational schools.  A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma is typically a requirement for admission to all programs.

Classroom study includes anatomy and physiology, study of musculoskeletal structures, organ systems, organs, and tissues.  Students will also study kinesiology (body movement) and kinesthetics (body mechanics), healthcare ethics, and office procedures.  Most programs also offer hands-on training that provides students with experience using various massage modalities.  And students can elect to go to school either full or part time – both are available.

Tuition will vary depending on the school you select for training.  Most schools offer a diploma that takes on average 10 months to complete.  The tuition costs range from $13,000 to $18,000 depending on the school.  Books may or may not be included in the tuition fees.

Florida’s Board of Massage Therapy as well as the independent accrediting agency COMTA (The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation), regulate which schools offer training programs that lead to licensure.  As per the COMTA web site, their mission is “to improve the quality of education for students seeking education in the field of massage therapy and bodywork through an accreditation process that recognizes the evolving professional standards of practice.”  There are 43 states (including Florida) that regulate the training of massage therapists.  You can visit the Florida Board of Health for details regarding specific educational requirements for massage therapists in Florida.

In Florida, prospective massage therapists must obtain licensure after graduating from an accredited training program and before beginning to work as a massage therapist.  To obtain a license to practice massage therapy in Florida you must be at least 18 years of age or received a high school diploma or graduate equivalency diploma (GED).

You must also have completed;

– A course of study at a Board of Massage Therapy Approved School or completed a Board-approved apprenticeship program,

– A 2-hour course on the prevention of medical errors,

– And you must pass one of the four exams recognized by Florida for licensure;

  • The National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB),
  • The National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage (NCETM),
  • The National Exam for State Licensure (NESL) as administered by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork; or
  • The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

In addition to providing proof of all of the above, applicants must pay a $250.00 application fee.

Salary Information

According to Salary.com the median national annual salary for Massage Therapists as of July 2013 was $45,480.  However, the top 10 percent employed as massage therapists earn more than $69,000.   The median annual salaries for select major cities in Florida fall just slightly below the national average as shown below.

Boca Raton $44,116
Fort Lauderdale $44,116
Miami $44,616
Orlando $41,797
Tampa-St. Pete. $42,752

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in massage therapy to grow by 20% through 2020.  This is faster than the average for all occupations.  This projection is partly based on the growing number of spas that employ a large number of therapists.  Massage clinic franchises have also been increasing in number, making massage more affordable than what is typical at a spa or resort.  This has made massage available to a wider range of customers.

A growing number of people recognize the benefits of massage therapy as a way to promote an optimum state of health.  Nursing home residents and those living in assisted living facilities are finding that massage therapy increases their energy level and can help to reduce the unpleasant side effects of various chronic conditions, such as arthritis.  The Baby Boomers, who are leading active lives well into their 60s, are finding massage therapy useful in reliving sore muscles and tissue.  The field is also gaining greater respect due to the many states that have now implemented more stringent regulatory requirements for the practice of massage therapy.

After earning your diploma, take advantage of the resources available to you through your school.  The majority of education institutions have a career placement office where you can seek out help in landing your first job.  There are also trade associations like the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the American Massage Therapy Association, Florida Chapter that are there to assist you.

Ready to move forward towards a career in massage therapy?  Review our list of Massage Therapy training programs in Florida.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.