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Want to Know How to Become a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapy is thought to be among the earliest forms of medical care, and was popular in ancient cultures from China, Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Unfortunately, at some point, much of the world disregarded massage as a medical treatment, referring to it as merely a luxury for the wealthy.

Luckily, people today are re-embracing massage for its health-related benefits: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 20 percent growth in jobs between 2010 and 2020. Some insurance companies cover massage for medical conditions, such as sports and accident-related injuries, surgeries, and circulatory disorders. Of course, massage has benefits beyond medical: it's known to reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being. But then again, when you're less stressed, you're less likely to suffer medical problems.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do?

Massage therapists manipulate soft-tissue muscles to promote relaxation and relieve injuries in the body. Many massage therapists work for themselves, often out of their own homes; but usually they must first work outside of the home to build up a client base. Employment can be found in gyms, spas, hotels, doctors' and chiropractors' offices, physical therapists' offices--even on cruise ships and for professional sporting teams.

Many massage therapists specialize in one or more of the 80+ types of massage, called modalities. These include:

  • Acupressure
  • Deep-tissue
  • Reflexology
  • Sports massage
  • Swedish massage

In addition to performing massage, massage therapists keep records of patients' health background, set up equipment, clean linens, and--if self-employed--bill patients and insurance companies. With an average pay of $16.78 an hour, the 2010 median salary was $34,900, reports the BLS.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Massage Therapist?

If you're wondering how to become a massage therapist, you should first check out massage schools. Forty-two states regulate massage therapy, such as requiring licensure. Even where there is no statewide licensing requirement, cities and towns might have local requirements that must be met before you can practice. Massage schools can help you determine your state's and town's licensing laws.

Massage schools typically require 500 hours or more of study to complete, which includes plenty of hands-on learning time. Additionally, courses might include:

  • Physiology (study of organs and tissues)
  • Anatomy (study of the body)
  • Kinesiology (study of motion and body mechanics)
  • Business management
  • Ethics

Becoming a licensed massage therapist requires passing state and/or national examinations. Periodic licensing renewal is usually required.

How to Become a Great Massage Therapist

Even where it is not required, licensure gives you credibility and indicates a level of skill has been met. National certification can be obtained by passing the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).

Being friendly, having strong communication skills and a naturally-calming demeanor can also help you become a great massage therapist.