Massage Therapist

Difference Between Massage Therapist and Physical Therapist

Venice Nuyda
Aug 8, 2023
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Ever wondered about the difference between a physical therapist and a massage therapist? Is it possible to heal with bodywork? In this blog, we’ll unravel the roles and benefits of each profession. Continue reading to understand how these experts can empower your well-being.

In a nutshell, A Physical Therapist (PT) works to restore function, manage pain, and treat conditions. They work to return patients to their previous lifestyle due to an injury or medical condition. Massage Therapists (MT) focus on relieving tension in the body to promote relaxation and well-being. They can offer spa-related advice but not much on the medical scope.

MT vs. PT: Job roles

While both professions aim to enhance the body’s functionality and relaxation, they still have different job roles. Recognizing the difference between these two can help individuals seek the appropriate treatment for their specific conditions. Check out the checklist below to better understand their responsibilities:

Job Responsibilities
Administering therapeutic interventions to promote pain management and improve mobility.
Conducting gait and balance assessments to address walking and stability issues.
Assessing clients' needs, health history, and specific goals for the session.
Promoting relaxation, stress reduction, and overall well-being through massage therapy.
Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to coordinate care and optimize patient outcomes.
Incorporating additional therapeutic modes like aromatherapy, hot stone massage, or reflexology when appropriate.
Implementing specialized techniques such as neuromuscular reeducation or proprioceptive training.
Maintaining accurate and confidential client records, including health history, treatment plans, and progress reports.
Performing various massage techniques. This includes Swedish, deep tissue, sports massage, or trigger point therapy.
Applying appropriate pressure and manipulating muscles and soft tissues to address specific issues.
Developing personalized treatment plans based on client preferences and concerns.
Performing comprehensive evaluations to determine the impact of physical impairments on functional abilities.
Using advanced technologies and equipment for therapeutic purposes. This includes laser therapy and electrical muscle stimulation.
Providing pain relief and addressing muscular tension, injuries, or chronic pain conditions.

MT vs. PT: Education and Certification

One of the biggest differences between the two professions is education requirements. While MTs may qualify for a license in a year or less, PTs can complete extensive education to earn their doctorate in physical therapy. They usually earn their physical therapist license within eight to 10 years.

For MTs, you need to complete a training program with 500 - 1000 hours. Then they need to earn certification by passing the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and a Background Check. Your employer may want you to have CPR Certification as well. 

Indiana, Virginia, and California require MTs to have a massage therapy certification. Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Vermont don’t currently license MTs. Each state has its own specific requirements for MTs to be eligible to work. Make sure to learn about your state’s specific massage therapy certification status.

Here’s a quick run-through of the steps to be an MT:

  • Enter a massage therapist training program
  • Complete hands-on experience
  • Complete the MBLEx license exam
  • Apply for a state license

PTs need to embark on years of education to earn their license, but they can do this in several ways. Depending on the program, they can finish through a 3-year undergraduate program or enter a freshman PT program right away. Some programs will accept a bachelor's degree in a related field as well.  These programs will give them a knowledge foundation in neuroscience, pharmacology, and anatomy. 

You can also start off as a PT Assistant. Or you can do the traditional way, which is obtaining a DPT and then passing the exam. Here’s a general but subjective overview of the steps to become a PT: 

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in a related field 
  • Earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) from an accredited program
  • Complete clinical rotations
  • Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)
  • Get a license in your state

MT vs. PT: Career Overview

When it comes to rewarding careers in the healthcare industry, Both MT and PT offer immense opportunities. May it be through hands-on healing or rehabilitation and movement, both professions provide excellent career prospects. Read below to see the career overview of both professions.

Job Outlook (in May 2021)
Work Environment
Massage Therapy
  • $46,910 average annual salary.
  • $22.55 average wage per hour.
  • An employment projection of 20% from 2021 to 2031.
  • A projection of about 25,300 job openings each year.
  • Massage Therapy Clinics.
  • Spas and Resorts.
  • Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Offices.
  • Sports and Fitness Centers.
  • Medical Facilities.
  • Corporate Settings (Employee Wellness Programs).
  • Home-Based Practices.
  • Mobile Massage Services.
  • Mall.
Physical Therapy
  • $95,620 average annual salary.
  • $45.97 average wage per hour.
  • An employment projection of 17% from 2021 to 2031.
  • A projection of about 15,400 job openings each year.
  • Hospitals.
  • Outpatient Clinics.
  • Rehabilitation Centers.
  • Private Practice.
  • Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities.
  • Schools and Educational Institutions.
  • Home Health.
  • Sports and Fitness Centers.
  • Research and Academia.

MT vs. PT: Our recommendation

Whether you choose to become an MT or a PT, you are on a path of positive impact and fulfillment. As an MT, you can provide relaxation, stress relief and promote overall well-being. As a PT, you can empower individuals to regain their mobility and independence, and manage pain. It all comes down to your interests, skills, and desired involvement in healthcare. Whichever path you choose, Dreambound can help you achieve your goals. By receiving the right education, you are already in the making of a bright future.

Written by
Venice Nuyda

Venice Nuyda is a student-support representative at Dreambound. She is responsible for helping students through their training journey in the allied health space. She is passionate about helping others and writing informative articles to aid candidates in advancing their vocational careers.

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