Practice and research in Australian massage therapy: a national workforce survey

  • Jonathan L. Wardle, PhD University of Technology Sydney
  • Rebecca Barnett, BA (Hons) Association of Massage Therapists
  • Jon Adams, PhD University of Technology Sydney
Keywords: massage, workforce survey, professional education, research, Australia


Background: Massage is the largest complementary medicine profession in Australia, in terms of public utilisation, practitioner distribution, and number of practitioners, and is being increasingly integrated into the Australian health care system. However, despite the increasing importance of massage therapists in Australian health care delivery, or the increased practice and education obligations this may entail, there has been little exploration of practice, research, and education characteristics of the Australian massage therapist workforce.

Purpose: To identify practice, research, and education characteristics among the Australian massage therapist workforce.

Settings: The Australian massage therapy profession.

Participants: 301 randomly selected members of the Association of Massage Therapists (Australia).

Research Design: A 15-item, cross-sectional telephone survey.

Main Outcomes Measures: Massage therapists’ demographic information, practice characteristics, and education and research characteristics.

Results: Most respondents (73.8%) worked 20 hours per week or less practising massage, nearly half of all respondents (46.8%) treated fewer than 10 massage clients per week, and over three-quarters (81.7%) of respondents were self-employed. Massage therapy was the sole source of income for just over half (55.0%) of the study respondents. Only 5.7% of respondents earned over the average wage ($50,000) through their massage activities. Nearly half of all respondents (43.3%) reported regularly exceeding their continuing professional education (CPE) quota mandated by their professional association. However, 21.1% reported struggling to achieve their CPE quota each year. Over one-third of respondents (35.6%) were not interested in acquiring further CPE points beyond minimum requirements. Respondents were significantly more likely to have an active approach to research if they had higher income (p = .015). Multivariate analysis showed factors associated with access to CPE to be the only significant predictors for increased CPE.

Conclusions: The massage profession in Australia remains largely part-time and practitioners earn less than the average Australian wage. The factors that underlie research and education involvement appear to be highly individualised and, therefore, policies targeting specific groups may be arbitrary and ineffective.

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How to Cite
Wardle, PhD, J. L., Barnett, BA (Hons), R., & Adams, PhD, J. (2014). Practice and research in Australian massage therapy: a national workforce survey. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Research Education &Amp; Practice, 8(2), 2–11.