Hi, my name is Kelly and I have been a massage therapist for 14 years and I wanted to create an article to highlight what it means to be a massage therapist in the industry today. I will discuss the steps needed to become certified, how to find the right massage therapy school, the mental and physical toll it takes on the body, and potential career options. I have seen many changes in the industry in the past decade and I am excited to share my thoughts with you as you research your career options.
How To Become A Certified Massage Therapist?
The massage industry has changed dramatically in the past decade and it has been all good changes. It may surprise you but not all that long ago you didn’t need any formal training to label yourself as a massage therapist. A person could simply walk into a spa, apply for a job and start working on people, that’s kinda scary, right?
This is not the case anymore. In the early 2000s a major shift took place requiring documentation of formal training at an accredited school, pass a final exam which you will either take the MBLEX or the Board certification exam (more on that in a minute) passing a federal background check, CPR certification, and you must maintain massage liability insurance at all times.
All of these changes happened before I became a MT and I am thankful I came into the industry when I did because for many MTs who had been practicing for many years prior to these changes had a hard time getting grandfathered in because they didn’t have proper documentation.
If you decide massage therapy is the career for you, it will be a much smoother journey for you. Although the industry standards continue to change as long as you attend an accredited massage program, you will be fine.
How To Find A Massage Therapy School?
Finding a massage therapy program is just a Google search away. The biggest thing you need to keep in mind when looking into different programs is MAKE SURE IT IS AN ACCEDITED SCHOOL! Also, look at reviews from past students, not just testimonies you find on the school’s website. Google things like “what are people saying about Kentucky school of massage?”
Back in the day when I was new to massage I learned from other new Mt’s that all massage programs were not created equal and the price differences were insane. I went to a wonderful school in Saint Louis, the teachers were dedicated and had years of experience to share. If a student was struggling they went above and beyond to help as best as they could. You could even audit as many classes as you wanted after you graduated which I took advantage of as a refresher in Anatomy and Physiology which I greatly appreciated.
Others were not so lucky. I heard stories of students paying 3x the amount I paid and they did not have the same one on one treatment that we had. In 2005, I paid $10,361 for my program and I have heard some people say they paid upwards to $30K. That is absolutely insane! As you research massage programs I would not even consider a program that charges more than $15K and that’s on the high end.
Since I graduated a million years ago the program requirements have changed slightly
Massage Therapy Program Requirements
When looking into school’s you will likely see two options; first option will be a certificate program that will run for 10 -12 months. Once completed you will be able to sit for the MBLEX exam. Option two, will be an associate degree requiring 4 full semesters where you will major in massage with a minor in something related to health like alternative medicine, sports science, nutrition, you get the idea.
Both programs are fine to take as long as it is from an accredited school. When I was in the program an associates degree was not an option. Our program was 500 hours and lasted 10 months. The new industry standard is a minimum of 750 hours and can go longer if you choose the associates route.
Again both programs are fine it just depends on your career goals. I only have a certificate but I have gone above and beyond with continuing education as well as maintained my Board Certification all these years. When I graduated from Missouri College the MBLEX exam did not exist. We took the National Boards Exam which labeled us as Nationally accredited massage therapist. It was than up to the massage therapist to maintain that accreditation if they so chose to. Now upon graduation you will be able to sit for the MBLEX exam and your title will be either certified or licensed massage therapist.
There is not much of a difference between certified or licensed it simply comes down to how your state labels your profession. If you than want to sit for the National Board Exam (NCBTMB) you will need 250 hours of documented hands on time or roughly 2 years experience before you can apply.
For more information on the NCBTMB please visit there site at NCBTMB.org
Certificate Or Go For The Associates Program?
If I had the option when was in school I would have gone for the associates program, hands down. I say this because no education is a waste. You don’t know from one year to the next what your goals are going to be. Did you know the average adult will experience 2-3 career changes in there working life? Being educated is power, knowledge is power! The more education you have the more possibilities you will have later on in life. Just about every massage therapist I know (and I know a lot of them) have more than one career. Two of my best friends are MTs; one is a RN and the other is a yoga and spin instructor in addition to massage therapy. I run my own massage business and I am a blogger.
Not saying you have to have 2 jobs as a MT, I know plenty of massage therapists that stricky do massage only but it is a taxing job that can beat up your body overtime. If you have your associates, you could later build onto your massage business like my friend the RN. She wants to get her next degree in nutrition and one day be a life coach. I just want you to keep in mind that to be successful in this world you need to keep growing. So get your education!!
Is Massage Therapy A Good Career?
To be truly successful as a massage therapist you need to care about people plain and simple, this is not a career you can fake. If your looking for an easy degree this isn’t it. A massage program is fast pace; you go over anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, business, ethics, you have hours of clinic time all rolled into less than a year or two years if you’re getting your associates.
Massage is hard on the body but you can have a long career if you take care of yourself. I am going on 13 years and I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon! I have taken steps to ensure this by practicing proper body mechanics and I workout regularly. You also need to eat right but chances are if your interested in massage you probably have a good sense about health and fitness to begin with so I don’t need to preach this point to ya.
I will say if you decide to get into this industry you have picked a good time to do so. Massage is growing and we are busier than ever. I have to turn people away weekly because I am so busy. Massage school’s can’t pump out students fast enough for the demand. At least that is the case where I live currently which is in Indiana.
Where Can You Expect To Work?
The obvious places are spas or major franchises like Massage Envy or Hand and Stone but sweetie it goes way beyond that. I’m talking hospitals, post op, rehab, doctor offices, chiropractors offices, or open your own office like I did. You can have an incredible career and it could go in so many directions. Truly skies the limits!
But, proceed with caution. Many massage therapist can have a hard start to there careers because they get started on the wrong foot.
Don’t Undersell Your Talents!
I made a big mistake in my career that many MTs make and that’s sticking with a job for the sake of a mediocre paycheck. I worked for Massage Envy for 9 years. Yes that’s right, 9 years. I fell into a rut, I got stuck in my comfort zone and couldn’t get out. This is something many people fall victim to.
Massage Envy is not a bad place to get your feet wet but don’t stay there forever. A place like Massage Envy or a Hand and Stone can be a great opportunity to work on a lot of people in a short amount of time with little effort on your part. They provide everything you need and you pretty much just show up and do your job and leave.
It’s easy to get comfortable in this situation, but this comfort comes at a cost. You can expect to earn around $15 an hour starting in one of these places. When I left Envy after 9 years I was making $18.80 an hour and I was killing myself doing 6-7 massage a day 5 days a week just to make a decent paycheck. I was burnt out and my body was falling apart.
Don’t get stuck! If you choose to work for a place like this, gain some experience and move on! I opened my own office and it only took me 8 months to build a successful business, 8 months! I tell people all the time, I wish I would have done this sooner. I had it in me all along, I just needed to believe I could do it.
This is why I wanted to start a blog, I want to show you guys that your career can be anything you want it to be. You simply need to go for it!
I hope you found some clarity with this article. The biggest take away from this; make sure you are looking at accredited programs only, know that this career is physically and mentally taxing but it is a rewarding and for filling career, and know that once you graduate don’t just take a job for the sake of a paycheck. You have many options for employments so don’t sell yourself short.
If you liked this article and found it helpful please let me know and if you have any question or need me to go into more details please don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂