This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Massage therapists manipulate the soft tissue of people's bodies to treat a variety of ailments, and to help people relax.
Pay rates for massage therapists vary depending on how many clients they work with.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for massage therapists varies depending on experience and how many clients they have.
According to the 2013 Census:
Many massage therapists will only see a handful of clients per week and may have to supplement their income with other work.
Most massage therapists charge an hourly rate of between $50 and $120. Some massage therapists earn less depending on their location and whether they work independently or on contract to a clinic.
Sources: Massage New Zealand, September 2014; Statistics New Zealand, ‘2013 Census’, 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Massage therapists may do some or all of the following:
- discuss clients' problems and make physical assessments
- massage and knead muscles and soft tissue
- advise on exercise, relaxation and stretching techniques, and lifestyle needs.
Skills and knowledge
Massage therapists need to have:
- knowledge of anatomy, musculoskeletal structure, and how the body functions
- knowledge of massage techniques and equipment
- knowledge of medical terms.
Self-employed massage therapists need small business skills.
- often work irregular hours to fit in with their clients, including evenings and weekends
- usually work from home or a natural health centre
- may travel locally to clients' homes and businesses to work.
What's the job really like?
Paula Cox - Massage Therapist
"I don't think massage should be painful. I know that some massage therapies do specialise in ironing out knots in a quite forceful way, but it's not my way. My whole massage philosophy is about helping people relax.
"People who aren't in a relationship might only experience rare amounts of touch from time to time, and the human body needs touch to remain healthy.
"That's what's so wonderful about massage – it encompasses so many things in the one service. It heals through touch, helps people relax and de-stress, it gets the body realigned, the blood flowing through the system more openly, and it enables toxins to be pushed out of the body.
"To be a good massage therapist you need to have a caring attitude and a willingness to help others. At the end of the day you are looking to do what is best for your patient – they are your number one concern. A big reward for me is seeing the results in the bodies and faces of people when they walk out the door. They're lighter and leave feeling revived."
There are no specific requirements to become a massage therapist.
However, Massage New Zealand, the professional organisation for massage, recommends a minimum of:
- a certificate in therapeutic massage from an approved provider
- a first aid certificate.
There are two degrees available in massage therapy in New Zealand:
- New Zealand College of Massage – Bachelor of Health Studies majoring in massage and neuromuscular therapy
- Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) – Bachelor of Therapeutic and Sports Massage.
- New Zealand College of Massage website - information on the Bachelor of Health Studies
- Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) website - information on the Bachelor of Therapeutic and Sports Massage
- Massage New Zealand website - training organisations that run approved courses
- Massage New Zealand website - membership and registration information
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, biology, chemistry and physics.
Massage therapists need to be:
- caring and sensitive
- mature, with good judgment and an eye for detail
- good listeners and communicators to help them accurately assess a patient's problems.
Massage therapists also need to be able to work with people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.
Useful experience for massage therapists includes:
- nursing or natural healing experience
- any kind of physical training (such as yoga or dance).
Massage therapists need to have strong hands and a good level of fitness and health as their work requires a great deal of stamina and concentration.
Find out more about training
- Massage New Zealand
- 0800 367 669 - email@example.com - www.massagenewzealand.org/
- Natural Health Practitioners of New Zealand Incorporated
- (09) 414 5501 - www.naturalhealthpractitioners.org.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
The number of people working as massage therapist is increasing due to:
- increasing numbers of people looking to massage therapy to remedy muscular ailments
- general practitioners increasingly advocating massage therapy
- some medical insurance policies covering remedial massage therapy.
However, because the number of people training in massage or establishing massage therapy businesses is increasing, competition for clients can be high.
According to the 2013 Census, over 60% of massage therapists work part-time and 70% are in self-employment.
Most massage therapists are self-employed
Most massage therapists are self-employed, but some work for:
- community service associations
- health clubs and resorts
- hospitals and rest homes
- sports organisations
- education institutions, as teachers of massage.
- Massage New Zealand website, accessed November 2013, (www.massagenewzealand.org.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers new Zealand, 2012.
- New Zealand College of Massage website, accessed November 2013, (www.massagecollege.co.nz).
- Statistics New Zealand, ‘Census of Population and Dwellings’, 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Massage therapists may move into teaching and research roles, a related area of natural therapy, or establish their own practices.
Massage therapists may specialise in a particular massage style such as:
- Swedish massage
- ayurvedic massage
- stone massage
- sports therapy massage.
Last updated 16 January 2017