Massage Therapist

Published on: 11 Apr 2016

Job Description (What the job involves)

If you're working as a spa therapist or beauty therapist within a salon then it's likely that massage will be part of your treatment repertoire. Massage therapists however may only provide massage treatments. There are many different branches of massage that a therapist can specialise in (i.e. Swedish, aromatherapy, sports, shiatsu) and each will have its own special discipline and techniques. Massage specialists tend to be specialists in more than one type of massage.

Massage therapists will typically be expected to carry out the following duties:

- Find out through consultation any medical issues currently affecting the client
- Establish what their client would like to get out of their massage. Common requirements are for the alleviation of stress, removing stored tension, working to ease pain in a particular area of the body and promotion of wellbeing in mind and body.
- Manipulate, press and knead their clients soft tissues and muscles. The client may be seated or lying down for the session and the therapist will often apply oils and lotions to the skin.
- Maintain treatment records for their clients

Massage therapists can use a variety of techniques and parts of their body to provide massage including fingers, forearms, elbows, hands and even feet! Using different parts of their body in this way can be useful in reducing overworked tendons or muscles in the therapists own body. Repetitive strain injuries can be common in massage therapists so this is an important consideration for anyone considering this line of work.

Hours and Working Environment

An individual massage treatment can typically last anything from 15 minutes to an hour. However, treatments can be booked in back to back and so it's not unusual to be providing massage treatments for several hours with only 10-15  minutes break in between each one. A massage therapist has to be careful however about the total number of hours they work per week otherwise they might put too much stress on their bodies and risk burn-out. Injuries to a therapists elbows, knuckles and fingers can be commonplace if you're regularly working fully booked shifts 

Massage therapists can find work in a whole variety of different workplaces including medical clinics, cruise ships fitness centres, spas, hotels or alternative therapy clinics to name but a few.

Upsides and Downsides

The main downside of this job has to be both fatigue and repetitive strain injuries. A good employer will be sensitive to this risk and help by adequately spacing appointments, providing adequate breaks for the massage therapist and provide training on using different techniques throughout each massage to spare one part of the body being used more than the other.

Skills and Personal Qualities

The following personal qualities and skills are important in a massage therapist:

  • Stamina - Individual massage treatments can last up to an hour and you may be frequently booked in with back to back sessions. During this time you may be on your feet the whole time and therefore stamina is a must!
  • Physical fitness and strength - In order to provide massage treatments with the correct pressure and intensity it's important that the massage therapist is themselves physically fit and with sufficient strength in their arm and hands.
  • Empathy - Your client may have suffered from recent hardship, health issues or stresses in their everyday lives which has led to them seeking a massage. A good massage therapist will be able to empathise with their clients
  • Good communication Skills - A good massage therapist is expected to be a good listener and also be able to communicate well should their client wish to chat during their treatment. 
  • Excellent personal hygiene
  • Good appearance
  • Sense to know when a client needs to be referred to other specialists
  • Provide clients with advice to aid their general relaxation

Entry Requirements

Don't skimp on the training! Your job opportunities and earning potential will benefit if you undergo proper training. This means acquiring training that lasts between 6 months and a year. Make sure you acquire a proper recognised and accredited massage qualification. It also helps if you have a GCSE in biology or some other certificate in anatomy/physiology. 

Examination bodies you might want to look at for training include VTCT, CIBTAC, ITEC

To specialise in different forms of massage expect to undergo additional training in that discipline. It might help when choosing qualifications  to imagine where you'd like to work. For example if you have a certificate in sports massage it may make it easier to secure employment in a clinical environment or health and fitness centres. If you are qualified in holistic, aromatherapy or swedish massage then you would be well equipped for working in a spa.

Opportunities and Progression

There are plenty of salaried opportunities for massage therapists and your massage career can take you abroad whether it be working on cruise ships or for a holiday operator.

For those with commercial accumen there is also excellent scope to go self employed.

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Potential Salary and Benefits

Please note that you should regard salary expectations as a guide only as they often depend on other factors such as location, business type, therapust experience etc
As of Sep 2015 the website puts the average massage therapist earnings in the UK at £19,518 if paid annually or £8.00 per hour 

Massage therapists also have the option to go self employed and set up their own practices.