Colleges

All Hands on Back: The Advantages of Majoring in Massage Therapy

Massage therapy involves manual manipulation (using the therapist’s hands, fingers, elbows, forearms, and even feet) of a customer’s muscles and soft tissues to bring on relaxation, ease aches and pains, destress, help with injury rehab, and promote general health and wellness. Plus, with the allure of self-employment and the satisfaction of seeing how your work can set customers on the road to good health, it has become a growing field with attractive job prospects.

How does one major in massage therapy?

You typically can jump into a massage therapy program right out of high school, though it helps if you have some other undergrad courses to your credit (anatomy, physiology, and business classes can be particularly useful). You’ll want to sign up for a comprehensive program at an accredited massage therapy school that’s recognized by your state’s licensing board. After completing the necessary classroom hours and clinical experience, this will set you up to take any needed final exams—such as the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) offered in most states—and apply for state licensure.

Coursework will involve natural science classes centering on the body, such as pathology, nutrition, and kinesiology, as well as classes on the ethics, business, first aid, and legal topics relevant to this type of career. You’ll also take intensive classes in the niche you choose to specialize in, whether it’s relaxation massage or therapeutic massage—a type of massage that goes beyond relaxation and actually tries to change the underlying parts of the body that may be causing pain or stress issues.

There’s more than work available at your local massage-therapy franchise.

Of course, nabbing a job at a chain could be a good fit, especially if there’s one close to where you live, but you could take your hands to a variety of venues, including private spas, hospitals and rehab facilities, nursing homes, chiropractor offices, and upscale resorts (who doesn’t want a massage while on vacation?). If you like sports, you could become the on-call masseuse for a local team. If you’re into travel while you’re toiling, you could even vie for a job on a cruise ship. And, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you may be able to branch out on your own with private clients, making your own hours and working either full time or part time. Being master of your own schedule is one of the reasons some choose this profession.

Job growth for qualified massage therapists is on the increase.

The job growth rate for massage therapists for the decade leading up to 2026 is 24 percent—much faster than average. Although the median salary hovers around $40,000 as of 2016, you could supplement what you make as a full-time employee with your own clients on the side, or you could even start your own full-fledged business, where what you make is directly affected by your own initiative and the time put in. You can put your financial fate, quite literally, in your own hands.

You’ll likely never be bored.
By offering customers a range of different techniques, and customizing sessions to each client, you can ensure every session is different from the last—there’s even a special technique you can offer just for moms-to-be. Most masseuses know how to perform a variety of massages, including Swedish, Thai, shiatsu, deep-tissue, aromatherapy and hot stone, and reflexology. And because massage therapists need to take continuing-education courses to remain certified and licensed, you’ll always be privy to the latest innovations in massage therapy. It’s especially important that you keep up on how not to injure yourself while at work—massage therapy is a physically demanding job that requires proper technique and self-care on the therapist’s part.

You’ll be helping clients manage their pain and destress—and maybe even your own.

It seems like these days there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everything we need to. People turn to massage therapy to help them handle the maladies that this everyday stress can cause—and unlike the dentist, they’ll usually enjoy coming for an appointment. Plus, there are worse things than working while engaging in small talk and getting to know others while soothing music is playing in the background. You may find your own stress levels dipping as well!

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