Becoming a Massage Therapist | Harris School of Business
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5 Things to Know about Becoming a Massage Therapist

Learning about the career field can help you make the decision that’s right for you

Have you noticed massage franchises opening up near you? Have you ever experienced a massage yourself? According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, massage therapy is a field that is growing, If you are interested in pursuing massage therapy training, you may want to consider what it means to start a career in this field. This article is intended to help you think about this career path and whether it is a good option for you.

1. What do massage therapists do?

As you consider your future career, sometimes it helps to imagine the types of tasks you might be doing on a typical day on the job. Are these tasks that you would enjoy? Here are some of the responsibilities that massage therapists might do on a typical day:

  • Prepare for the day’s appointments
  • Organize and arrange sheets, lotions, oils, tables, and chairs as needed
  • Have discussions with the clients about their needs and what they hope the massage will achieve
  • Assess a client’s condition, to identify tense areas
  • Provide client education about how to develop flexibility, good posture, and relaxation techniques
  • Keep client records and document progress
  • Perform a variety of massages throughout the day, depending on the clients’ needs, such as Swedish or deep tissues massage, reflexology, or special techniques for sports injuries, pregnancy, or elderly clients
  • Take phone calls and make appointments
  • Collect payments from clients
  • Keep up with business and marketing tasks required to maintain a base of clients

If you think these job responsibilities are a good fit for you, you may want to learn more about this career field. You should think about the work environment, job outlook, and earning potential that works for you.

2. How is the work environment?

As the field of massage therapy expands, the types of environments where these services are offered have also expanded. You could work in a spa, hotel, hospital, physical therapy office, client’s home, shopping mall, or other health and wellness facility. The work environment in these facilities will vary. While spas may have private rooms that are dimly lit with soft music and incense, a physical therapy office may be brightly lit with several patients receiving services at the same time. Part of choosing a career in this field is knowing what kind of work environment best suits you.

Keep in mind that this is a physically demanding field. You will spend most of the day on your feet, actively working with clients. Many massage therapists develop good hand, arm, and upper body strength so that they can manipulate patients’ muscle tissue effectively. They must also learn proper techniques so that they do not injure themselves or their clients.

The working hours are also something that varies a great deal. Many massage therapists are self-employed, and set up appointments around the clients’ scheduling needs. Others who work in spas may need to work evenings and weekends, when most of their clients are available for appointments.

3. How do you get massage therapy training?

Finding a massage therapy school is the first step that most people take to begin their careers in this field. Most programs require at least 500 hours of study, and are offered at community colleges, private career schools, and other postsecondary education institutions. Many institutions offer both full- and part-time options for adult students.

What will you learn during your training? Most programs begin with the basics of human anatomy and physiology, so that you gain a better understanding of how the body works, as well as the motion and mechanics of the body. You will learn a variety of different techniques—called modalities—such as Swedish, deep tissue, special needs, reflexology, sports, geriatric, prenatal, and more. Most programs also offer courses on business development and business ethics.

After you have completed your training, you will probably have to obtain a license and/or a certification. In most states, you must get a license and/or pass a certification exam after finishing your training.

4. How much do massage therapists make?

The wages and earnings in this field can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as where you work, what hours you work, how many clients you have, and your years of experiences. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook provides data on the median annual wage of massage therapists throughout the entire country.

If you are trying to find out more about wages in your local or regional area, you can try looking at job listings, to see what kind of starting wage most area spas are offering. This will help you get an idea of your earning potential in this field.

5. What is the job outlook for the future?

When deciding on a career path, it is a good idea to do some research on the job outlook for your field. The Occupational Outlook Handbook offers job outlook projections for approximately the next ten years. In this handbook, there is a discussion of the job outlook for massage therapists. It says:

“Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings.” The handbook goes on to suggest that demand will increase as aging baby boomers are increasingly enjoying longer, more active lives.

The handbook does caution that the demand may decrease if the overall economy is doing poorly. The handbook also explains that building a strong client base takes time. It suggests that new professionals in this field “should expect to work only part time until they can build their own client base.” It also recommends marketing, networking, joining a professional organization, and getting additional training in specific modalities as strategies to build a client base.

Like any big decision in your life, making a decision about your future career takes time, research, and careful thought. We hope this article has helped you to get a better understanding of choosing massage therapy as your career path.