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Career Profile: Massage Therapist

Why Is Massage Therapy a Job of Tomorrow?
Some health ailments do not need a doctor's appointment to be addressed. Conditions such as achy muscles caused by the everyday stresses of life can be alleviated through a massage therapist's skillful touch. With the rising cost of medical care, the role of massage therapists—who can treat simple discomforts like aching limbs for an affordable price—will increase dramatically. Employment opportunities for massage therapists are predicted to rise 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average earnings for massage therapists, including gratuities, is $16.06 per hour.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do?
Massage therapists specialize in treating pain and sore and achy muscles, reducing stress, and promoting general health and well-being. Depending on the client's needs, therapists can offer a variety of services, including recreational relaxation massages or ones geared toward relieving pain from an injury. There are more than 80 types of massages, according to the University of Minnesota, and each type deals with a different kind of client need. Targeted areas for massage therapy may be muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints or even internal organs. Massage therapists may use their hands, arms, knees or feet to apply pressure to any of these targeted areas to achieve the client's desired result. For example, athletes are more likely to request a deep tissue massage that reaches down into the muscles and tendons to relax their overworked bodies, whereas elderly clients are more likely to receive lighter skin massages due to their more fragile state. Massages are beneficial because they improve circulation, relieve pain and stress, and can even alleviate some symptoms of chronic conditions like cerebral palsy.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Massage Therapist?
Most states require massage therapists to complete an educational program before becoming licensed to practice, though these regulations vary greatly among states. Massage therapists can complete certification programs, or even earn a diploma in massage therapy, depending on the school's curricula and their state's criteria for licensure. Courses include anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. Regulating massage therapy by requiring practitioners to complete a formal training and education program ensures that they are providing a safe and effective service to clients.