Massage therapy is a branch of health care that uses a variety of manual techniques, called modalities, to treat illnesses and injuries, relieve pain and stress, and improve general well-being. When massage therapists treat their patients, they rely on touch, medical knowledge, and instinct to successfully alleviate patient conditions and illnesses that they cannot necessarily see. Most massage therapy programs involve 500-1,000 hours of study and practice. Along with regular classroom instruction, clinical experiences and lots of hands-on practice are a substantial part of the curriculum. Typical college courses include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, ethics, and different massage techniques. Classes in marketing and business will come in handy if you decide to start your own business in the future. As a massage therapy major, you must be prepared to practice techniques with other students and test subjects, and be comfortable with partial nudity and touching strangers. You must also be empathetic and be able to remain professional when working closely with another person in an intimate, one-on-one setting. You should be physically fit and/or take classes in physical education so you will have the stamina and strength necessary to do your job. There are more than 200 modalities (including acupuncture, deep tissue massage, Swedish massage, acupressure, etc.), and many massage therapists choose to specialize in several of them. Most professionals continue learning new techniques long after graduation to ensure they're providing all the services their patients may need. As a massage therapist, you'll be able to work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, private practices, private residences, gyms, or spas. Some massage therapists work as freelancers or launch their own businesses.