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Start a Massage Career

Updated on September 8, 2014

Start a Massage Therapist Career

A career as a bodywork therapist is a much sought after career because of the great development of the interest towards physical therapies and the great advantages of this complementary medicine. Massage as a job offers schedule flexibility, a great income, a calm and relaxing environment, healthy work, and personal and professional satisfaction. Massage as a career, offers a chance to live your passion while earning a good income!

One of the Best Healthcare Careers?

A Career in Demand

Massage therapy is one of the fastest growing jobs in America. In the US, the number of massage therapists has increased more than 10 times over the last decade from an estimated 24,000 massage therapists in 1999 to around 300,000 in 2010. Why the sudden increase? First, there is an increased interest in massage therapy as an effective healing practice and second, massage therapy is one of the best rated careers that offers a relaxing environment and rewarding income. Other great reasons people have become massage therapists: Flexible schedule, meeting interesting people, work that is active and healthy, and you help others to feel better. Becoming a massage therapist is not only one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it is a rewarding career that offers your skills to those who need it!

Additional Reading for starting a Career in Massage Therapy

Less Known Facts and What Massage Schools will Never Tell You

You think massage therapy is a great career, and it is true for most of the people, but for some, a massage therapy career is not the right choice. There are different facets of the trade that you will not know until you commit to a program. Oftentimes the difficulties you come across will prevent your ability to succeed as a therapist. Sometimes the massage institution will not show you the negative aspects upfront, since it is not really in their interest. Ensure you evaluate all of the job requirements for a massage therapist and ask as many questions as you can at the prospected school prior to signing up. Read a few of the difficulties experienced by massage therapists in the following paragraphs. Inform yourself concerning every aspect of this profession, as it might not be for everybody. Here are some things that you will probably not hear from a school:

  • As a massage therapist you need skills and aptitudes that are very hard to learn if you are not natively inclined. Are you good with your hands? Do you have people skills? Do you like to work with people?
  • Are you in good shape? Massage can be physically demanding, you adapt after a little while, but at first it is very hard. Can you stand for long periods, (see spine problems here)? Do you have any physical limitations that will restrict your massage ability?
  • Choosing massage as a career for the wrong reason is the most common mistake. If your motivation is tied to the financial aspect only, you will probably fail. What are your reasons for choosing this career?
  • Some people find the repetitive nature of a massage session boring. Do you think you could do this up to eight hours per day without getting bored?
  • Do you really like to do this as a job?
  • Did you know that men practitioners are less likely to get clients or jobs? In USA the percentage of women versus men bodywork practitioners is about 85% vs. 15%.
  • 50% of the massage therapists quit within a year after their graduation. Make a thorough assessment of the above and if you still think massage is right for you proceed further.
  • Some of the other 50% that didn't quit within first year will change career after 6 years.

Are you still interested? OK, if you are still interested, the positive facts follow.

Learning Massage Is A Life Changing Experience

Studying the art of massage is a special experience and you could register right away, even if you will not exercise it as a profession. Massage, as a hobby, can significantly enhance your life; nevertheless, education can be costly and not everyone is able to spend that time and money on a hobby. I recommend anyone who is looking at physical therapy as a career, and they have the time and energy to pursue it, to not hesitate. Having that experience, learning about the human body, and interacting with fellow students and teachers, is a life changing experience, that will help you appreciate life differently.

Will I get a job after massage school? - A Career Consultant Speaks about Massage Job Opportunities

Hot Stone Massage
Hot Stone Massage

Potential Employers for Massage Therapists

Job Opportunities for Massage Practitioners

With the increasing interest in massage as a viable complementary medicine, a lot of settings are currently hiring massage therapists. Some of these options include, but are not limited to:

  • Self Employed/Private practice
    Massage therapists with entrepreneurial talent choose to open their own private massage practice. This is one of the most financially rewarding ways of practice.
  • Spas and wellness centers
    Almost all of the Spas are hiring massage therapists. This type of employment can be well-paid.
  • Doctors' or chiropractors' offices
    Massage therapy as a complementary medicine gains more and more adepts even in places where traditionally it was not found before.
  • Hospitals
    Massage is gaining more popularity in hospitals, being currently the most common complimentary therapy offered in U.S. hospitals.
  • Rehabilitation centers
    Massage can be a useful adjunct to healing. For that reason, massage therapists may find employment opportunities at rehabilitation centers.
  • Health clubs or fitness facilities
    This type of opportunity can vary widely. Becoming associated with a high-end club would be a great opportunity, while being associated with a budget facility might be less productive. It's unlikely that you will be hired on a full-time basis, but having a few hours at two or three fitness clubs in your area could be very lucrative.
  • Sports teams and sports medicine clinics
    An increasing number of sports professionals recognize the advantages of using massage in the athletes preparation, recovery and injury treatment. A very rewarding setting.
  • Outcall massage
    Some therapists only take house calls and this is a good way to start as a self employed, but it involves certain risks.

Foot Massage
Foot Massage

Research Massage Before Enrolling

To get a better feeling of what working as a massage therapist is, consider these tips before taking a decision:

  • Receive several massages yourself to see what it feels like to to get one, and what technique you like the most.
  • Shadow another therapist while working, if possible even during the session although this might prove difficult.
  • Talk to a few massage therapists and get as much as possible feedback. You will have a better picture getting different points of view.
  • Do your homework and try different types of massage and choose to study the ones that you are most comfortable with.
  • Search your area for schools of massage therapy and review all of their programs.See what schools offer your preferred modality and if there is a recognized certification path.

Massage School
Massage School

Choosing A Massage School

Choosing a massage therapy school requires a little effort.Inform yourself what are the requirements for practising massage in your area or target area if you plan to move. If massage is not regulated by the state/province it might be by your city.Based on these requirements start looking for a program that meets or exceeds these requirements. It makes sense to find more that one program.Once the program or programs found, study the curriculum and see if it matches your interests.Learn here how to find the best massage therapy schools.

Massage Therapy Regulations

Massage Schools and Training

Massage therapy is a regulated job in most of the states in the US and most of the Canadian provinces. In states without statewide regulations for the trade, municipalities generally require a business license. This means not everybody can work as a massage therapist and this is for the consumers protection.

Training is compulsory for getting licensed. The required training is different in North America. The minimum of training in the US is around 500 hours in most states, and in certain states the requirement goes up to 1,000 hours, such as New York and Nebraska. In a few states massage therapy is unregulated.

Some provinces of Canada require as a minimum of training around 2,000 hours.For more details, check A.M.T.A. (American Massage Therapy Association) for U.S. requirements, or the provincial regulatory Institution for Canada. In the US, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is a national agency that accredits schools and programs for massage therapy. If you enroll in a school, check if the school is accredited by COMTA or another national agency. Enrolling in an accredited school will help you get all the credentials you need. In Canada, Provinces have their own accreditation systems, but bridging programs exists between some provincial massage associations.

Massage Career Video

Your Turn - What is Your Opinion on Massage as a Career

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    • profile image

      Jenna 2 years ago

      I'm currently considering a massage therapy career. I go into college soon. This article has opened my eyes to the many aspects of this career. I still wonder if this career is worth searching more into. Can I be financially stable enough to support myself? I do not plan to marry or have a second job/second source of income. Can I still live comfortably with a massage career?

    • Coffee-Break profile image

      Dorian Bodnariuc 6 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      @LiveToEat: There is a slight conflict of interests. Don't despair though, I still think that massage is one of the greatest careers. You have to adapt it to suit you though. I've seen people succeeding in the SPA industry, or as mobile massage therapists, or on a cruise ship.

    • profile image

      LiveToEat 6 years ago

      Good lens - I wish somebody told me about the less known facts before I committed to massage school! Sometimes I feel that my teachers are withholding information about massage as a career..

    • MikeyMoran LM profile image

      MikeyMoran LM 6 years ago

      One of my friends is changing his career to this field, I am recommending he reads! Good job!

    • Coffee-Break profile image

      Dorian Bodnariuc 6 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      @JoshK47: Thanks Josh, I still think that massage therapy is a great career. It helps you in many subtle ways to succeed in life.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Very good lens you have here - I'm a licensed massage therapist, and I've definitely seen a lot of this in some of the people I went to school with, and hit a few road blocks of my own. Good to show people what they may be getting into!

    • UptonGoodwin LM profile image

      UptonGoodwin LM 6 years ago

      When should you learn the techniques for the happy ending?

    • nyxxie profile image

      nyxxie 6 years ago

      You have some good things to think about here. I once pondered massage therapy as a career. However, I'm not that great with people and standing on my feet so much wouldn't be great either.

    • Coffee-Break profile image

      Dorian Bodnariuc 6 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario Canada

      Thanks for your insights Jennifer, you are right, the accreditation is an expensive way to prove you are doing everything right. If you can show your prospects that you have a strong curriculum and great instructors, you don't need accreditation.I will review that paragraph a bit...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I liked your article. In fact some of the reasons at the beginning of it on how to carefully choose massage as a career and what schools won't tell you is why I started my school last year. I did work at a school that wasn't always upfront on how physically demanding massage can be and how hard you have to work at becoming successful. The one thing I did not agree with is that the school should be accredited. I do not believe that to be true and I explain to all potential students why I am not. Being accredited does not make it a good school it means the school had the financial ability to pay an accreditation agency to visit and look at the schools curriculum. I also worked at a school that did that. We were accredited by COMTA and as the Administrator is was my job to inquire what drove the student to sign up with the school. Not one student in the 5 years I was there said it was because we were accredited by COMTA. To me that says that if you have a solid curriculum, an energetic and loving staff and you come from compassion, truth and love you will have students come to your school. Thank you for your article. I will pass it on with my comments.