Masseur or Massage Therapist

Modern masseur or massage therapists are usually highly qualified professionals and the work is very similar to that of a somatologist.

The main responsibility of masseurs is to massage customers and administer other body-conditioning treatments. This is done either through electronic vibrating equipment or manual techniques such as kneading, rubbing and stroking the soft tissues of the human body, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, to assist healing, stimulate blood circulation, relax contracted muscles, relieve stress or pain and facilitate the elimination of waste matter.

Massage therapists may use techniques such as muscle stretching to assist with recovery and to enhance muscle performance, or finger pressure techniques in therapies such as Shiatsu and reflexology. They also use complementary aids, such as infrared lamps, wet compresses and ice, essential oils and herbal or mineral therapies to promote recovery, relaxation and well-being.

Masseurs who have acquired skills in specialised massage techniques, such as aromatherapy, reflexology and manual lymph drainage, are able to serve a wider client base. Masseurs may also recommend particular diets and exercise routines for clients.

Massage therapists and masseurs generally work in three broad (sometimes overlapping) areas:

  • Remedial Massage: this is a paramedical massage treatment to assist in healing parts of the body, which have been injured or left inactive due to age, illness or injury.
  • Relaxation Massage: this combines massage techniques to promote relaxation, improve circulation, relieve muscle tension and increase range of movement.
  • Sports Massage: this combines different massage techniques to enhance sports performance and recuperation and prevent injury. It can include pre-event, post-event and maintenance techniques.
Massage therapists may specialise in one or more of the following techniques:
  • Alexander Technique uses non-manipulative touch to improve coordination and posture
  • Aromatherapy combines the therapeutic properties of essential oils with other massage techniques to promote health and well-being
  • Feldenkrais uses movement sequences to expand awareness and self-image
  • Kinesiology uses methods that study motion, in particular how muscles act and coordinate to move the body, for detecting and correcting energy imbalances and movements in the body
  • Reflexology uses thumb and finger pressure on the reflex points (nerve endings) of the feet (which correspond to all areas of the body) for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes
  • Shiatsu uses a system of finger pressure along acupressure meridians to release discomfort and re-balance energy
  • Swedish Massage refers to a collection of techniques designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart.

Personal Requirements

  • strong, flexible hands and fingers
  • pleasant personality and appearance
  • empathy and tact
  • communicate well
  • enthusiastic
  • inspire confidence
  • professional
  • physically strong and fit
  • able to work independently

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

No specific requirements for part-time and correspondence courses


What to Study

Diploma: N.Dip: Somatology - CUT, CPUT, DUT, TUT, UJ.

Interest in the holistic approach to body and mind has led to recent changes to the curriculum of this course. The course now places greater emphasis on physical education, nutrition and stress management and less on aesthetic treatments such as make-up.

To practice Therapeutic Massage Therapy (TMT) in South Africa one is legally required to be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). All training that is undertaken needs to be accredited  so as  to permit registration. Holistic massage therapy, relaxation massage therapy and sports massage therapy are just a few types of TMT.

Aromatherapy and Reflexology are not types of therapeutic massage therapy but practitioners are also registered health professionals with the AHPCSA.

The AHPCSA website contains  the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirementsfor this occupation.


  • health and fitness clubs and clinics
  • health hydros and spas
  • sports clubs
  • gymnasiums
  • beauty salons and beauty clinics
  • medical centres
  • hospitals, particularly for palliative care
  • other health care practitioners, such as chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths
  • self-employment, can set up a private practice, or freelance between establishments that have a demand for applied massage therapy, or go into partnership with other somatologists

Further Information

Massage Therapy Association
P O Box 53320
Kenilworth, 7745
Tel: 079 846 0964

The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA)
Castelli Suite
Il Villaggio
5 de Havilland Crescent South
Persequor Tecknopark
Tel: (012) 349-2331 

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a gym or beauty salon where masseurs work
  • make an appointment to speak to a masseur or massage therapist about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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