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This guide is designed to help give an overview of the massage therapy industry to those considering pursuing a certification in massage therapy. Because there are so many options, aspiring massage therapists have a lot to think and learn about before they decide if, when, and where, to pursue such a certification. We hope this resource will bring you real insight into exploring an exciting career as a massage therapist.

Introduction to the Field

What does a massage therapist actually do?

Massage therapy is manual manipulation of muscles and other soft tissues in the body, including connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons, with the purpose of improving a person’s health and well-being. There are several types of massage therapies, such as, Swedish massage, sports massage, trigger-point therapy, prenatal massage, stone therapy, etc. People seek massage therapy for a variety of reasons that can range from relaxation to rehabilitation.

Massage therapists treat their clients by using touch to reduce pain, improve circulation, heal injuries, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and support general wellness. They use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes feet to knead muscles and soft tissues of the body.

Therapists use a variety of massage techniques or modalities. In Swedish massage, the therapist uses long strokes, deep circular movements, kneading, vibrations, and tapping. Sports massage is similar to Swedish massage, however, adapted specifically to the needs of athletes. Prenatal or pregnancy massage is specialized to the needs of new mothers or pregnant women. Stone therapy uses hot stones on various parts of the body to improve blood circulation. Other methods include deep tissue massage and trigger-point massage, which focuses on myofascial trigger points (muscle knots) that are painful when pressed and can cause symptoms in other areas of the body.

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What Are Massage Therapists Able to Do?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, massage therapists typically do the following:

  • Talk with clients about their symptoms, medical history, and desired results
  • Evaluate clients to locate painful or tense areas of the body
  • Manipulate muscles and other soft tissues of the body
  • Suggest personalized treatment plans for clients
  • Guide clients on stretching, strengthening, improving posture, and overall relaxation
  • Document clients’ conditions and progress
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Treat patients effectively with a wide variety of therapeutic methods

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Run their own business or work in a group practice

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Work at hospitals, collaborating with physicians to address patient needs

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Specialize in various fields such as sports medicine, prenatal/postnatal, orthopedics, immunotherapy, and pain management

Massage Therapists are also able to become licensed in 48 states. Those seeking licensure as a massage therapist, must pass one or more examinations in states with massage licensure. The Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) conducted by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) is currently utilized for licensure in 44 of the 48 regulated states, including Illinois. Students must also apply for licensure in the state in which they plan to practice. The professional organizations representing massage therapists include American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Career Outlook and Industry Statistics

Aspiring massage therapists can rest assured knowing that the career outlook in the next 5-10 years is excellent. Latest statistics show that the field of massage therapy continues to expand, offering solid benefits, including competitive compensation and a healthy job growth, as well as a rewarding career in health care.

Not only does massage therapy rank #5 in Best Health Care Support Jobs according to U.S. News, but the field of massage therapy is projected to be one of the fastest-growing job segments in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the field is expected to grow by 22% between now and 2024 – more than triple the overall job growth of 7%.

Massage Therapists Projected Growth 2016-2024

  • Massage therapy growth by 22%
  • Triple the overall job growth of 7%
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022
  • 2023
  • 2024

There are several reasons for this, including the increase in consumer demand for and belief in the efficacy of massage. In fact, according to the most recent consumer surveys by American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), roughly 43.8 – 57.6 million adult Americans had a massage at least once between July 2015 and July 2016. The surveys also state that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry in 2015 and is expected to grow even more over the next several years.

43.8 Million

Between July 2015 and July 2016, 43.8 million Adults (19%) had massages.

Source: 2016 AMTA Consumer Survey

12.1 Billion

Massage Therapy was a $12.1 billion industry in 2015.

Source: American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Industry Fact Sheet

Career Options for Massage Therapists

Massage Therapy graduates have a variety of different options after completing their certification, such as:

  • Spas and fitness centers
  • Hospitals
  • Integrative medical clinics
  • Chiropractic offices
  • Hospice care
  • Home business/private practice
  • Corporate wellness events
  • Cruise ships
  • Malls & Retail Centers

6 Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your Program

Selecting a school for your massage therapy program can be challenging. Before you choose a school, it’s a good idea to collect information about several programs through perusing school websites, visiting campuses, talking to admission counselors, auditing classes, and speaking to current students and graduates. Start by asking important questions like the ones listed below:

Which school boasts a high pass rate on licensing exams?

Which school boasts a high pass rate on licensing exams?

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In order to practice as a massage therapist, you must first pass a licensing exam. It’s important to know how students at the school you’re considering perform on the board exams because it reflects the quality of the program.

What We Offer: National University prides itself on having graduates consistently score among the top on national and state licensure exams. This not only assists in getting the top jobs in the field but also enables you to be confident in your training for any work environment you choose.

Which school trains you for multiple practice settings?

Which school trains you for multiple practice settings?

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Massage therapy is no longer just a service offered at spas and resorts. It is increasingly being utilized by the health care industry because of its many health benefits for patients. In order to help alleviate the various patient ailments, therapists must have a thorough understanding of human anatomy. This is why the best massage therapy programs don’t just offer training in massage techniques; a well-rounded MT program with a comprehensive curriculum will also include intensive courses in anatomy and physiology.

What We Offer: Students in National University's massage therapy program get a solid grounding in anatomy and physiology. At NUHS, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the human anatomy through instruction in a graduate-level medical cadaver lab. You will actually see the musculature, ligaments, and organ systems, not just read about them in books or through diagrams. MT students also have access to The Anatomage Table, today's most technologically advanced digital visualization system for anatomy education.

Which school offers the most beneficial opportunities for clinical training?

Which school offers the most beneficial opportunities for clinical training?

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Choose a program that offers hands-on clinical experience where you’ll learn the ropes of working in a real massage therapy clinic.

What We Offer: National University’s massage therapy students receive thorough clinical training at the on-campus integrative clinic located in the bustling Chicago suburb of Lombard. Under direct supervision and guidance of expert clinicians, students get real-world experience working with a variety of patients and clients. This includes people seeking relief from pain, pregnant women and new mothers, veterans suffering from PTSD, or other symptoms, etc.

Which school will best prepare you for the future of health care?

Which school will best prepare you for the future of health care?

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Massage is now well accepted as a health care therapy used in various medical settings. These may range from hospitals to integrative clinics where therapists often work with other health practitioners. It is important to look for a school that gives you experience in “integrative medicine.” This means a program where massage therapists train to work in collaboration with other health professionals, such as MDs, DOs, NDs, DCs, etc.

What We Offer: National University prepares massage therapy graduates for the future of health care by offering a campus dedicated to integrative medicine. At the on-campus integrative clinic, you’ll work alongside students and faculty from its naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and oriental medicine programs. This unique experience prepares you to understand and speak with a range of medical professionals when you graduate and make it easier to refer and co-manage patients.

Which school provides you with top-notch expert faculty and facilities?

Which school provides you with top-notch expert faculty and facilities?

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In addition to the curriculum, your education and training is very much a result of the quality of faculty and facilities available at the institution. It is important to consider both these aspects when selecting a school.

What We Offer: National University is a graduate medical school. This means you’ll learn from professors, instructors, and physicians with outstanding credentials. The majority of our faculty members are active in the practical field, and some are also involved in massage therapy research.

As a graduate medical school, NUHS offers graduate-level, science-focused facilities to all students, including MT students. You’ll benefit from working integratively at the on-campus whole health center, studying in our gross-anatomy lab, and practicing on the Anatomage Table housed in the health-science learning resource center.

Which school supports your success?

Which school supports your success?

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Tutoring and Academic Support: Find out if the professors teach classes directly or use assistants. Ask if the school offers free peer tutoring (where senior students provide help in specific topics).

Business Classes: Discover what business classes are included in the curriculum. When you graduate, you’ll either be starting your own business or working for someone else, so you’ll also need to understand insurance, billing, marketing, and business management procedures. Be sure the school you pick offers classes that give you these skills.

Additional Education: Consider what extra courses are available to students on the weekend or online, that could augment your primary degree. Does the school offer continuing education to MT students? Do they offer an opportunity to enroll in dual-degrees or multiple programs so that you can earn more credentials with less time and money?

Strong Alumni Network: Look for a school where alumni are involved, communicate with each other and current students, and where you can reach out to them for mentoring and career support.

Accreditation: Make sure the program you choose is accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation; this ensure you've received massage therapy education and training that has been proven to meet an accepted level of quality.

What We Offer: National University offers an array of student support services that contribute to a successful educational experience. These include academic advising, peer tutoring, flexible tracks, various student clubs, and more. Business classes designed to help you build, market, and manage your practice are included in the curriculum, often with industry experts as guest speakers. NUHS has an excellent post-graduate department where students are welcome and encouraged to take additional courses that provide specialty skills for future practice. Finally, National University has an engaged alumni network that make themselves available to provide current and prospective students with career support, mentoring, and shadow experiences.

The Massage Therapy Certification Program at National University of Health Sciences has been accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). COMTA is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit educational programs for massage therapy and bodywork professionals.

Download the Guide Today!

If you’re passionate about pursuing a future in massage therapy we invite you to download our educational guide—A Career Guide to Becoming a Massage Therapist.

National University of Health Sciences Massage Therapy Program

National University’s Massage Therapy program provides you with extensive hands-on instruction so that you can provide the highest quality of care to your clients.

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Our Academic Superiority

National University's academic programs are rigorous, uncompromising, and built on a solid foundation in the basic sciences. We maintain high admission standards for our students. As a result, the student body at National University is of a higher academic caliber. National University graduates often become leaders in their professions, and credit the school as the reason for their confidence and success.

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Our Dedication to Integrative Medicine

National University prepares graduates for the future of health care by offering a campus dedicated to integrative medicine. In fact, you’ll study and work side-by-side with students and faculty from its chiropractic medicine, oriental medicine, and acupuncture programs.

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Our History of Leadership

Founded in 1906, National University has over 110 years of experience in graduating leaders in the complementary and alternative medical professions. A driving force for moving natural health care into mainstream medicine, we began our massage therapy program in 1999 and have since become one of the few programs to use human cadavers to study anatomy within an integrative environment. This gives our massage therapy graduates a real advantage in the alternative health care market.

Next Steps

The team at National University hopes that this page was helpful as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue a Certification in Massage Therapy.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions about our programs or the student experience.

Call the Office of Admissions at 1-800-826-6285 or email us at admissions@nuhs.edu.

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