A massage therapist is a healer who gives people massages. As health and wellness becomes more prominent in society, massage therapy is becoming more and more popular.
Massage therapists have many options as to where, when and how much they work. They also spend much of the day in physical contact with other people, something that research has proven promotes happiness and fulfillment.
What Do Massage Therapists Do?
A massage therapist gives massages for money. A massage is simply manipulation of the soft tissue that surrounds a sore or tender muscle group. There’s lots of science that explains why massages work and what a massage does on the cellular level. Without getting too technical, a massage increases blood circulation which helps the muscles drain lactic acid and other waste products. Increased circulation also helps reduce swelling and in general makes the body function more efficiently. A massage also relaxes the muscles which can counteract painful muscle contractions and spasms know as “cramps.”
How To Become a Massage Therapist
There’s a standard course in place for becoming a massage therapist. First off, you need to be 18 years old, and in most states you can’t have a criminal record. But those are the only two prerequisites as to who can or can’t become a massage therapist. You don’t need a college degree, but you do need to obtain a certificate in massage therapy and then pass a licensing exam.
Start by choosing a certificate program. There should be many options available to you at community colleges, universities and private institutions. Be sure to choose a program that’s recognized by your state’s licensing board. If a program is recognized by the state, then completion of that program will allow you to take the state licensing exam. In New York State, for example, you need to choose a program that includes 1,000 hours of instruction. In many states, you only need 500 hours of instruction, which is why it’s important to find a program that's pre-approved by your state’s licensing board. The median cost for these programs is $10 per hour. So if your program is 500 hours, that equates to $5,000 for the program. Not bad considering that once you become a massage therapist, you’ll have an income stream for life.
Most of these programs take about two years to complete. Much of the instruction they provide is in person on human subjects. In other words, you practice massage techniques on real humans. The rest of the program is classroom based. The classroom subjects range from kinesiology, pathology, anatomy and CPR all the way to ethics. Since the subject matter is so broad, these classes tend to be intense. It’s hard but doable to work a full time job while completing this degree. You’ll definitely be able to work a part time job if you find a program that offers night and weekend classes.
Once you complete the certificate program, you’ll need to pass a national licensing exam which your program should prepare you for. There are a few different exams you can take although you can only apply to take these exams once you’ve completed your training program. This test shouldn’t be a problem considering that you’ve spent many hours honing your craft throughout your training program. The application and test taking fees for this exam will add up to around $300.
Once you pass this exam, you need to apply for a state license in the state you plan to work in. Different states have different requirements for this application, but overall, this part of the process should be a formality. Once you get your state license, you’re ready to start working as a massage therapist!
How To Find Work As A Massage Therapist
Many different companies and organizations employ massage therapists. Gyms, nursing homes, hospitals, athletic centers, community centers, country clubs, spas, salons, cruises, corporations…the list goes on and on. Check local job listings for massage therapy positions. If you can’t find any, reach out to local organizations that you’d like to work for. If you're really having a tough time finding work, reach out to companies that currently employ massage therapists and offer your services part time. Many companies that employ massage therapists can always use another pair of hands part time.
Also, website like thumbtack.com allow you to find clients independently as well as set your own rates.
Many massage therapists start their own practices and work for themselves, although you need a strong reputation and the ability to attract a full time load of clients if you start your own practice. This would be impossible if you’re just starting out, although you could find a job at somebody else’s private practice and use their established brand to find clients.
Lifestyle and Salary
A huge perk of being a massage therapist is that there’s tremendous flexibility in the lifestyle. At many companies and organizations, your “office hours” will be the traditional 9 to 5, although depending on where you work, you may have to work weekends or have odd off days. Many country clubs, for example, are open on the weekends but closed on Monday and Tuesday.
The perks of working for a company, especially when you’re starting out, is that you’ll have a steady income, probably in the range of $25 per hour or around $40,000 per year. Many institutions require that you perform a certain number of massages per week, but as long as you meet that quota, your salary is guaranteed. Companies may also pay for benefits such as health insurance.
Once you gain experience and can find a steady stream of clients, you’ll be able to work for yourself if that’s what you want. When working independently, you determine your own hours and hourly rate. Also, massage therapy can always be a great (and stable) part time job to supplement another job or project.
The median income for massage therapists in the United States hovers around $40,000. The top ten percent of earners are in the $80,000 to $100,000 range. As with basically every profession, if you’re good at what you do, you can make a lot of money as a massage therapist. Build a brand for yourself. Choose a particular niche—let’s say dancers, for example. Specialize in post performance recovery for dancers. The more specialized you become, the more focused your brand will become. If your brand becomes strong enough, you could even create and sell your own instructional video series and make a boatload of money that way.