What You Need to Know About Becoming a Massage Therapist

Lots of skills go onto this vital healthcare role

Massage Therapists need to have a through knowledge of anatomy and physiology. (top left) One of the life-size skeletons used in the classroom is shown with shoulder and arm muscles attached. (top right) Student anatomy and physiology project showing internal organs and bone placement. (bottom) Two Massage Therapy students provide chair massage during a Family and Friends day held at the school.

Are you interested in a job where you are able to be physically active while helping others? Are you interested in human anatomy? Do you enjoy communicating with people about their needs? If you answered yes to some of these questions, you might consider a job as a Massage Therapist. This is a fun and invigorating profession, and can lead to a career path with a lot of options.

There are technical aspects as well as business skills and people skills that go into the field of massage therapy. It’s a good idea to look into training programs in your area, but first here’s an overview of this profession. See if these activities and qualities align with what you see for yourself, including ways you would like to grow:

What massage therapists do

Massage therapists are healthcare practitioners who use their hands to massage clients and reduce tension in the body. Before each session, the therapist will ask the client about any specific symptoms or medical issues they are having now or in the past. Then the therapist uses one or several massage techniques to address these issues by focusing on certain body parts. Massage therapists communicate with patients before and during the massage to check in about the level of pressure and how the massage is affecting the tense or painful areas. Sometimes this job can also include educating clients about good posture as well as useful stretches and strengthening.

Work environments for massage therapists

One of the advantages of working as a massage therapist is that you can work in any number of different environments. These include clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and out-patient centers as well as spas, hotels, or fitness centers. Some therapists travel to their clients’ homes, while others have clients come to their home or private practice. What makes a good setting for massage therapy is relaxation, so a space that is quiet, peaceful, and private has potential.

Techniques massage therapists use

If you train to become a massage therapist, you will learn a number of different modalities for treatment and relaxation. Good programs provide a solid foundation on the anatomy and physiology of the human body, as well as the nuances of movement and how it affects the muscles. Hands-on training is an important aspect, so you gain practical experience in classical massage techniques (such as Swedish and deep tissue massage) as well as advanced therapeutic procedures. When you train you are likely to learn about:

  • Special populations, such as Geriatric, Infant and child massage, and Prenatal massage
  • Medical and Sports massage
  • The Japanese technique of Shiatsu
  • Thai massage
  • Reflexology and Trigger point therapy
  • Chair massage
  • Popular techniques including Aromatherapy and Hot stone massages

What makes a good massage therapist

  • Communication skills
    Like many jobs in healthcare jobs, it’s important to practice clear and proper communication with your clients. Therapists begin each session by discussing expectations. It is part of the job to keep clients happy and relaxed.
  • Physical strength and stamina
    Giving massages throughout the day requires that you are strong and have the endurance to give the clients the physical attention they need. Working with your hands is demanding work, and requires concentration for appointments that usually last nearly an hour. Physical and mental alertness will serve you well in this position.
  • Commitment to helping others
    You may be interested in becoming a massage therapist because you want to help others. Clients seek out massage therapy for relief from pain, tension, and stress they may be holding in their bodies. Others are looking for a more general sense of well-being that bodywork can provide. Whatever the motivation, there is satisfaction from seeing a client walk out the door feeling better than when they arrived.

Skills massage therapists need

  • Business skills
    A good massage therapy training program will not only help you with technical skills; it will also teach you about sound business practices and professional and ethical standards. Communicating with clients is just one aspect of doing this well. With some experience under your belt, you may even be in the position to start your own massage therapy practice.
  • Decision making
    When a client comes to you, you will need to evaluate their condition to determine what techniques and treatments will best serve them. This requires asking thoughtful questions and good listening, but also making decisions based on what you are seeing and hearing. Learning about muscle groups and trigger points in your training program will help to prepare you, and you will have learned how to perform a number of different modalities. Making smart business decisions will also help you succeed in this work.
  • Time management
    Being a massage therapist often means treating many different clients over the course of a day, so it’s important to be aware of the time you have to spend with each one, and to use it wisely. You’ll want to leave adequate time between appointments to greet and talk with the client, and then conclude the session in a calm and relaxing way. Using a timer during a session can make sure you don’t go over the time you’ve allotted for each client.

Hours massage therapists work

For some people, the flexibility of a massage therapist’s schedule is a big advantage. Working in a doctor’s office or spa may require more conventional business hours. But if you work out of your own home, or travel to clients’ homes, you can vary your work hours according to what fits your schedule and your clients’ availability. The amount of strength this work requires means that you may not work 8 continuous hours. Many massage therapists work part-time, and their schedules often vary from day to day.

How long it takes to train

The massage therapy training programs at the Harris School of Business are relatively short. The program requires 750 hours of coursework. Daytime classes make it possible to complete the program in less than seven months. If you opt to take nighttime courses, you can finish the program in a little more than a year.

If you think you have what it takes to become successful in this profession, why not take the next step and research a training program near you? This can provide the skills and practice you would need to work in the field. Right now Harris School of business offers massage therapy programs at its campuses in Dover and Wilmington, DE, and Cherry Hill and Linwood, NJ. This could lead to a satisfying career helping others. Best of luck, whatever you decide!

This post is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We’re dedicated to supporting all our students in pursuing their career goals. Reach out to us for more information about our number of career training programs. Call us at 800.510.7920 for more information or to schedule a tour of one of our eight campuses in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut.