How To Become a Massage Therapist (Skills & Qualifications)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Massage therapy involves a trained therapist massaging the body's soft tissues to improve health and well-being. It's a diverse field for those interested in health and medicine, where therapists work in clinics, hospitals, spas and fitness centres. Education and training are as essential in becoming a massage therapist, as theoretical and physical skills are important to their work. There are different courses and training programs that can lead you into a massage therapy career. In this article, we outline how to become a massage therapist, detail what they do and explain valuable skills for massage therapists.

How to become a massage therapist

Below we list a step by step guide to become a massage therapist:

1. Complete a massage therapy certificate course

The first step to becoming a massage therapist is to complete a Certificate IV in Massage Therapy from TAFE or another registered institute. This certificate is a nationally recognised entry-level massage therapy course, so there are no prerequisites. You can take it as a complete beginner, so it's an excellent start for anyone pursuing a career in massage therapy.

A Certificate IV provides you with specialised skills and theoretical knowledge and requires you to complete practical clinical hours. This course can provide you with essential relaxation massage techniques, which include neuromuscular techniques and sports massage. It also teaches massage business practices so that you can run your own massage therapy business. You'll be able to provide massage therapy advice and deal with challenges that arise in your work after finishing.

2. Gain industry experience

As part of your Certificate IV qualification, you can complete a specific number of practical clinic hours in massage therapy. Depending on the institution you take your course at, the minimum is 80 hours, with some schools requiring 90 hours of clinic work.

Your school may help you find a clinic where you can complete these hours under supervision, or it may have its own in-house clinic. You may also consider pursuing an internship at a local massage therapy clinic where you can gain valuable experience under the supervision of a licensed massage therapist. During your practical hours, you'll likely assist in creating therapy plans, performing massage techniques and communicating with clients on their needs and progress.

3. Further your training with a diploma

While a Certificate IV is excellent for entering the field, furthering your training by completing a Diploma of Remedial Massage is recommended for professional massage therapists. To qualify as a health fund rebate provider, you can complete this diploma. The diploma aims to prepare you for a career as a massage therapist.

You'll learn practical massage skills, human anatomy, pathology and business management. You'll also study clinical assessment techniques and a broad scope of remedial treatments, including cupping, myofascial release and remedial sports massage. Clinic employers usually hire massage therapists with this qualification, so it's a valuable achievement for people pursuing a career in massage therapy.

4. Consider joining a professional association

Once you have earned your diploma, you're well on your way to a rewarding career as a massage therapist. You can consider joining a professional association at this point to establish yourself among other massage therapists.

These associations aim to represent and support massage therapists and encourage them to pursue the highest professional standard in their work. Being a member of an association can boost your resume and help you network in the industry. It can also demonstrate your dedication to professional growth and possibly increase your earning potential.

What does a massage therapist do?

A massage therapist uses their hands to manipulate the soft tissue of a client's body. By rubbing and applying pressure on muscles, tissues, and tendons, they can improve clients' health and well-being in a session. They can specialise in massage therapy, which covers sports therapy, injury recovery, promoting blood flow, enhancing physical well-being, and decreasing mental stress.

A massage therapist typically has the following duties:

  • Discuss each client's wants and needs, such as physical therapy or stress relief.

  • Develop a tailored massage therapy plan based on client needs and preferences.

  • Create a relaxing and therapeutic environment for each client.

  • Use specific massage techniques to particular areas of the body and manipulate muscles or other body's soft tissues.

  • Check in frequently with clients during the session to ensure comfort.

  • Keep track of a client's progress.

  • Assess soft tissue dysfunction.

  • Provide clients with advice on how to manage or improve soft tissue conditions.

Required skills for massage therapists

Massage therapists typically rely on the following skills:

Communication skills

Massage therapists help with client well-being and the healing of clients injuries, so they need to understand the client's needs clearly. Strong communication skills can help you to listen to and understand the client's symptoms and discuss the therapy plan.

You can improve your communication skills by consciously practising over time. We all have communication habits that we rely on to connect with people every day. Increasing your awareness in conversations by focusing on active listening and articulating your thoughts clearly can help you improve this skill.

Physical stamina and strength

Providing a physical massage to clients involves continuous physical work. Massage therapists apply pressure to muscles while standing on their feet for long periods. They need a substantial amount of physical stamina and strength to provide multiple messages per day. Physical strength also allows you to apply the right amount of pressure and manoeuvre into positions to perform specific massage techniques as required.

You can improve your stamina and strength by exercising regularly. Working out your arm muscles as well as long-distance running can help you develop fitness. However, working as a massage therapist over time can naturally build your strength and stamina.

Decision-making skills

The ability to make decisions enables massage therapists to provide the best solution for clients' needs. After assessing a client, they can use decision-making skills to create a therapy plan that helps them recover and improve their physical and mental well-being.

Some free online courses focus on improving people's decision-making skills. Next time you need to make a decision, consider how the options, the desired outcome and your experience all factor into making an informed decision. You may then be able to recognise ways to make your decisions more informed.

Empathy

Empathy skills are important for massage therapists working with clients. Clients can seek massage therapy when they're injured or experiencing physical or mental stress. Massage therapists can use empathy to listen to the needs of their clients and care for them with a sufficient therapy plan.

Considering others' emotions and experiences is a great way to build empathy skills. If you develop a habit of understanding other people's perspectives, you can grow your empathy skills.

Frequently asked questions about becoming a massage therapist

Below we answer some of the frequently asked questions about becoming a massage therapist:

What's the average salary for a massage therapist?

The average salary for massage therapists is $54,253 per year. The salary varies widely depending on the work environment. Many massage therapists work as freelancers and run their own business, which means they can take the total rate. Others who work within a clinic or spa may earn less per hour but can benefit from the job security of working in a position with a salary.

Is it hard to become a massage therapist?

With some dedication and practice, becoming a massage therapist is relatively easy. It's a skill that can't be outsourced or done with technology, so it has a high level of future job security.

You can gain your first certificate without prior experience. Most adults who are physically capable and have the ability to undertake two years of study can become a massage therapist. You can start earning money once you've received a Certificate IV, so only a small investment is required before you can begin practising.

How long does it take to learn massage therapy?

Learning massage therapy can take anywhere between one to four years. If you want to start working as soon as possible, you can study Certificate IV full time and begin working in a year. Gaining the Diploma in Remedial Massage is recommended, and this pathway typically takes at least two years. If you don't complete the clinical hours while you study or study part-time, it can take up to four hours to be qualified.

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