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Massage Therapist

Kaihaumanu Mirimiri

Alternative titles for this job

Massage therapists manipulate the soft tissue of people's bodies to treat health problems and to help people relax.


Pay for massage therapists varies depending on how many clients they have.

Source: Statistics New Zealand, '2013 Census', 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a massage therapist are average due to demand for massage increasing, but high competition for clients.


Pay for massage therapists varies depending on experience and how many clients they have. 

Over 60% work part time and 70% are self-employed.

Many massage therapists have to supplement their income with other work.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay 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
  • massage techniques and equipment
  • medical terms.

Self-employed massage therapists need business skills.

Working conditions

Massage therapists:

  • often work irregular hours, 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.

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."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a massage therapist.

However, Massage New Zealand recommends minimum requirements of:

  • a certificate in therapeutic massage from an approved provider
  • a first aid certificate.

There are two degrees available in massage therapy:

  • New Zealand College of Massage – Bachelor of Health Studies (Massage and Neuromuscular therapy)
  • Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) – Bachelor of Therapeutic and Sports Massage.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include biology, health, physical education and te reo Māori.


Personal requirements

Massage therapists need to be:

  • caring and sensitive
  • professional
  • 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

Useful experience for massage therapists includes:

  • physiotherapy
  • nursing or natural healing experience
  • any kind of physical training (such as yoga or dance).

Physical requirements

Massage therapists need to have strong hands and arms, and a good level of fitness and health as their work requires a great deal of stamina and concentration.


Massage therapists are recommended to register with Massage New Zealand.

Find out more about training

Massage New Zealand
0800 367 669 -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Demand for massage therapists is increasing due to:

  • more people choosing massage therapy to fix muscle pain
  • general practitioners recommending massage therapy
  • some medical insurance policies covering massage therapy.

However, because the number of people training in massage or establishing a massage therapy business is increasing, competition for clients can be high.

According to the Census, 2,349 massage therapists worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Most massage therapists are self-employed

Most massage therapists are self-employed, but some may work for:

  • community service associations
  • health clubs and resorts
  • hospitals and rest homes
  • sports organisations.


  • Clayton, R, 'ACC Paid out $163 Million on Alternative Therapies and Physiotherapy in 2015', 29 April 2016.
  • Massage New Zealand website, accessed March 2017.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data', prepared for Careers New Zealand, 2015.
  • New Zealand College of Massage website, accessed March 2017.
  • Parangi, J, and Smith, J, 'What Opportunities are Available for Degree Qualified Massage Therapists within the New Zealand Wellness Industry?', 2017.
  • Radio New Zealand, ‘The Detail: Podcast’, 01 July 2020.
  • Smith, D, 'Perceptions and Benefits of, and Barriers to, Degree-Based Education for Massage Therapy', March 2015.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

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:

  • ayurvedic massage
  • haumiri (Māori massage)
  • reflexology
  • Swedish massage
  • shiatsu
  • sports therapy massage
  • stone massage.
A sportswomen of african ethnicity has her back facing the camera while a massage therapist is holding her arm and massaging her back

Massage therapists fix pain by manipulating muscles

Last updated 1 April 2022