In the past, massage was viewed merely as luxurious pampering. However, research has demonstrated the real health benefits of massage, such as stress reduction, improvement in flexibility, and release of painful muscle spasms, which has increased the number of people seeking to improve their wellbeing through massage. In order to meet the demands of the growing industry, massage therapy schools provide students with both hands-on and classroom training in the practice of massage techniques so that they can become licensed massage therapists.
Getting in Touch with Massage Therapy Programs
Most states require that massage therapists have a license, although specific requirements will vary. Gaining licensure typically requires enrollment in an accredited postsecondary massage therapy program, which can take from one to two years to complete and generally results in either professional certification or an associate’s degree. During your massage therapy courses you might study topics such as:
- Introduction to medical terminology
- Massage clinic
- Medical massage
- Asian bodywork
- Anatomy & physiology
- Swedish techniques
- Sports massage
In addition to a strong educational background, massage therapists need good interpersonal skills in order to build a client base; manual dexterity and physical stamina for standing up through rigorous massage sessions; and excellent organizational skills for filing paperwork and managing their schedules. Depending on your state, you may have to take a nationally recognized test, such as the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB), in addition to a state exam in order to gain licensure. Some counties and cities will also require licensure for massage therapists even if no license is required at the state level.
Finding Your Client Base After Graduation
A growing body of research is demonstrating the health benefits of massage therapy for recovery from injury or illness, as well as long-term wellbeing. Most massage therapists work in comfortable environments. Although they typically work during office hours, a massage therapist might work early morning, evening or weekend hours to accommodate clients’ schedules. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, 75% of massage therapist were in part-time positions and 60% were self-employed. The majority of massage therapists work in a set location, such as a spa. However, some massage therapists make house calls. Individuals that work at resort spas may work outdoors if weather permits.
Employment growth in the coming decade for massage therapists is expected to be faster than average at a rate of 20%. The growing number of independent and hotel spas, as well as insurance companies that will reimburse for massage therapy, will likely comprise most of this growth. Also, the increasing population and dynamic luxury travel market will typically mean good prospects for massage therapists in all regions. In 2012, the median annual wage for massage therapists was $35,970. Wages can vary considerably depending on experience, client base, and geography. The lowest 10% earned approximately $18,420, while the top 10% had wages in excess of $70,140.
Many massage therapist gain new work based off of referrals, making networking an important aspect of developing clientele. Individuals with formal massage therapy training, licensure, and knowledge of a broad range of techniques, from Swedish massage to neuromuscular therapy, will generally find the best opportunities. Start your career as a massage therapist by exploring massage therapy schools today!
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