There has never been a better time to pursue massage therapy as a career because demand for massage therapy is increasing as baby boomers retire.
Since many retirees look to massage as a form of preventative care, this is a career you might want to consider if you’re interested in a healthcare career that is in high demand.
While not part of traditional medicine, massage is considered part of complementary and alternative medicine.
Fifty years ago, few would have thought of massage therapy as a professional career. Almost no one could have imagined that someone could get certified after attending a massage school.
When you go out and buy the right massage equipment, ranging from tables to linens and lotions, you really can set up a prosperous clinic or spa. In fact, many massage therapists today own their own clinic or spa easily and earn six figures a year.
The reason this is possible is that the demand for massage services is high and in most states, the average going rate for a massage is around $60 an hour.
Two Career Paths
Massage can be considered either as a form of health care or as a personal service. Since both types of practitioners do similar work, the difference between the two can be difficult to discern.\
However, each type of massage service has a slightly different professional and educational emphasis to make the distinction clearer.
It’s important to recognize that there are two career choices as a massage therapist early on so that you can make the best choices when it comes to the education and training that you need.
Before we look at the difference between working as a healthcare practitioner or as a personal care provider, let’s briefly cover how the steps to take to become a massage therapist.
How to Become a Massage Therapist
Choose a massage program that is recognized by your state’s licensing board, then work to earn a diploma or certificate in massage therapy.
After you have earned your certificate, you must take an approved national exam in massage therapy. Once you’ve passed, you can apply for state licensure.
Then, after you’ve started your career, either opening up your own clinic or working for someone who has a clinic or spa, you must continue to meet continuing education requirements.
Deciding between Healthcare and Personal Care Service
It can be difficult to decide whether you should specialize in a massage career in healthcare or personal care service. Ultimately, it’s a personal preference rather than one clearly being a much better choice than the other. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
A Career in Healthcare Massage
Massage therapy was recognized as a healing modality for a long time but it is only now that the healthcare practice in the United States is more often defined as a form of pharmaceutical and technologically-based medicine that the benefits of massage as a way of healing has been challenged.
As a result of this bias, massage therapy is considered an alternative form of healthcare rather than a career in the more traditional healthcare system. However, the acceptance of alternative medicine as a legitimate form of healing is mainly due to the research was done by David Eisenberg.
In a PBS interview, he recollects: So we all predicted that the prevalence of use of complementary therapies, acupuncture, chiropractic, meditation would be about ten percent or fifteen percent. And we powered the survey to prove that.
But we were shocked by the time we got the data and I remember going home to my wife, almost shaking and saying:
“Honey, the numbers are huge, it’s one in three Americans, it’s thirty-three percent of the United States adult population. It’s thirteen billion dollars, it’s not reimbursed. Very few of these people are ever discussing it with their physicians; this is enormous.”
Because of his research, massage is now considered a part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practice.
What this means for you is that the outlook for you as massage therapists working in the alternative healing community is bright. There is a great demand by the public for practitioners who will help them relieve pain and injury, stress and anxiety that traditional medicine has failed to resolve.
Personal Care Massage
Personal care massage is better known by consumers. Most people who have had a personal care massage are likely to tell you how wonderful they felt after it. The focus here is not to resolve a particular health problem but to increase a sense of overall well-being, relaxation and feeling good.
This massage is not considered a form of palliative care, although, of course, people with pain or injury do benefit from it.
On the high end, this type of massage is offered in luxurious hotels, resorts, and day spas. It is also offered in private clinics and home-based practices. Moreover, due to the convenience of chair-based massage, you can even find a personal care massage therapist working in a health food store, a corporate office, a mall, or an airport lounge area.
Regardless of what type of massage you decide to specialize in, you will find that the work is both personally and financially rewarding.
By Valerie S.