Dream Job: Massage Therapist

Just What America Kneaded

Just What America Kneaded

What occupation is everyone noticing in 2005? Hint: It's not astronaut, professional athlete, or CEO of a major corporation. Try massage therapist. Massage therapist is currently one of the hottest emerging job titles of 2005 according to the list of most-searched jobs on Salary.com. Upon further examination, it's no wonder that massage therapy is gaining steam. In 2005, the number of massage therapists in America jumped to well over 100,000; up from only 24,000 in 1999. Massage therapy licensing programs, like that of Apollo College in Arizona, are also quickly filling up. Jim Miller, Campus Director at Apollo, attributes the popularity of the massage therapy profession to the fact that a massage therapist can "build a business and design it for their own needs, while helping others to enjoy life and improve their lifestyles."

In fact, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is reporting that due to the high volume of applications they have recently received, the certification process for prospective massage therapists will be delayed. But it is well worth the extra wait for these entry-level rubbers who will soon get their hands on 6 billion dollars, the current amount that Americans are spending per year on massages. AARP Magazine reports that 21% of Americans had at least one massage in 2003; up from only 8% in 1997. So why is a 4,000 year-old healing method finally getting popular? Perhaps because massage therapy is finally getting respected.

Over the past few years, it has been the top priority of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) to gain the respect of the healthcare industry. There has also been a national effort to standardize massage therapy practices by requiring training and licensing. Recently, medical personnel have come to realize that massage therapy is not only a valid, but also a highly effective means by which to manage all types of body pain. Miller holds that America has "realized that we need to be healthier in order to live better and massage therapy is a way to make that happen." Countless medical studies have revealed that massages do in fact reduce pain. Massage therapists are now learning how to blend this science into their art. Not to mention, some of America's favorite TV characters earn their TV livings as massage therapists, particularly Lisa Kudrow of "Friends". This has also served to heighten curiosity about the occupation.

Getting Down Deep

Let's face it- America is getting old. And with old age comes back-pain and foot-pain, that crick in my neck, and how my right shoulder pops out when I, you know, go like this. The aging American public has discovered massage therapy in a big way; people aged 55 to 64 being the most massaged. Just ask any massage enthusiast: "There's nothing more relaxing than a good rub; it always makes you feel like you're being pampered in a spa or on a cruise, even if you're only getting massaged down the street." Besides reducing physical pain, massage therapy has been used to increase flexibility, treat Alzheimer's patients, relieve high blood pressure from stress, and alleviate depression.

But getting a massage is not just for seniors. In fact, you are never too young to get rubbed. The AMTA reports that children suffering from leukemia show improvements when their parents massage them everyday. Massage therapy also played a role in the last Olympics in Athens, where competitors enjoyed pre-event rubs. While we're at it, maybe your dog also needs a massage. Nowadays, it's not out of the ordinary to see a massage therapist in a vet's office, animal shelter, or police department. Some pets, particularly Golden Retrievers, commonly suffer from muscle pain and arthritis in their old age. Massage therapy can save your best friend from that pain he can't tell you about.

Sign Me Up For A Rub

While massage therapy is still the most requested service at most spas, maybe you didn't have to take vacation days from work to get rubbed. More and more companies are including massages in their benefits packages in an effort to relieve workplace stress. Some therapists will even come to the office. Insurance companies also often cover massage therapy when prescribed by a physician, practitioner, or chiropractor. It is not uncommon for a chiropractor to send a patient to massage therapy before they do a correction. Miller holds that "massage therapy prepares the individual and his/her body for the healing adjustment." Automobile insurance providers may even pick up the tab for massages prescribed in relation to auto accidents.

Most massage therapists either work in the personal care services industry, in a physician's or practitioner's office, at a college, or are self-employed. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest concentration of massage therapists, which reflects demand for their services, exists in Hawaii and Nevada. Massage therapy fees range from $50 per hour to some self-employed therapists who will fetch $100 per hour. Plus tip.

Click to see the median base pay of the typical massage therapist

Now that massage therapy has become widely respected within the healthcare industry, not to mention that Americans are more than willing to shell out their hard-earned dollars to get rubbed, what does the future hold for this hot occupation? The AMTA cites national licensing, regulation, and educational standards as their primary focus of '05. As of 2004, 33 states had official massage therapy licensing regulations in place. Other states are also trending in the direction of requiring 500 hours of training for one to become a licensed rubber. Some institutions, particularly Apollo College and the National Academy of Massage Therapy, offer massage therapy programs where students can earn their certificates. Courses like Human Anatomy, Professional Ethics, and The Business of Massage are included in the program. Other places, like Harvard, are even beginning to incorporate massage therapy into their healthcare programs.

So if you're ready to join one of the hottest professions out there, start working out your fingers, enroll in a massage therapy program… and dream on!