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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: research, 2023

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 supplement their income with other work.

Source: research, 2023

(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.

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:

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 male massage therapist presses on the back of a woman lying face down on a massage table

Massage therapists fix pain by manipulating muscles

Last updated 12 December 2023