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Laid-Off Workers Find Comfort in Massage Therapy (Careers, That Is)

In a stress-filled, economically depressed climate, laid-off workers are finding comfort in massage therapy careers. In fact, according to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), 83 percent of massage therapists are practicing massage therapy as a second career. If you're ready for a new career, why not use your healing hands to become a massage therapist?

Rewards of Massage Therapy Careers
Though massage therapy jobs are physically demanding, it's work that older adults can do (the average massage therapist is in her late 40s). And it's never boring, because there's always something new to learn. More than 80 different types of massage exist, including Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone, and sports massage. According to the AMTA, massage therapists complete an average of 22 hours of continuing education each year.

The flexible hours and good pay are a major perk, too. Almost half of all massage therapists in the U.S. worked part time in 2008, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and about 57 percent were self-employed. According to the AMTA, massage therapists worked an average of 20 hours a week providing massage, charged about $63 for one hour of massage, and earned an average wage of $45 an hour (including tips) for all massage-related work.

Getting Your Hands On a Massage Therapy Career
Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia legislate the massage therapy profession. Most require that massage therapists complete a 500-hour-plus formal education program and pass an exam in order to practice. There are more than 300 accredited massage schools and programs in the U.S.

In the past, massage therapy jobs were mostly available in spas and salons, but now they can be found in private homes and businesses, health clubs, hotels, airports, malls, and beyond. Health care settings like hospitals, chiropractic offices, and senior care communities have become a key source of massage therapy jobs, as massage becomes integrated into other treatments.

According to the AMTA, 71.2 percent of hospitals that offer massage provide it for stress reduction for patients, and 69.1 percent provide it to staff to reduce stress. Hospitals also utilize massage therapy for cancer treatment, prenatal care, physical therapy, pain management, and palliative care.

Massage Therapy Job Boom
Even in a downturned economy, consumers are seeking out massage therapy. It's no wonder, then, that the BLS projects massage therapist employment to increase 19 percent by 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Between 2008 and 2009, reports the AMTA, 32 percent of adult Americans who had a massage received it for medical or health reasons.

The following sobering statistics put the rising demand for massage therapy into perspective:

- One-third of Americans are living with extreme stress and nearly half believe their stress has increased over the past five years. (American Psychological Association)

- By 2020, the top five diseases will all have the underlying contributing factor of stress. (World Health Organization)

- People who go for a single deep-tissue massage reduce their blood pressure by seven points. Over time, lowered blood pressure can add six years to your life. (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)

Remember that a layoff doesn't have to have the final word. Study to become a massage therapist, and seize the opportunity to start a fulfilling career that makes a tangible difference.

Disclaimer: This site is not connected with any government agency or the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office. If you would like to find more information about government funding please visit: http://www.studentaid.ed.gov