Hot to start a carrer in Massage

Massage parlors, as they were once called, did not enjoy a good reputation. What are some of the reasons why this career has changed?

Fifty years ago, massage in the United States was one of three things - an elite service for the rich and famous, a 'rubber' in a gym or spa who may or may not have had any formal training, or a front for sex-for-hire services. Three societal trends came together to give massage a new role in this country. One was 'the sixties' which brought an openness to 'alternative' ideas; another was the fitness craze that started in the 1970s, and the third was a general enhancement in the wealth of the middle class that evolved in the 1980s. By 1990, there were about 150 massage schools in the U.S. Today, there are over 1,000.

What are some of the physical benefits of massage and what kind of individuals might it help?

One benefit of massage is stress reduction and relief of nervous tension; simple relaxation is very therapeutic. Another benefit is relief from pain and stiffness caused by muscle tightness or spasm.Massage also helps in recovery from some illnesses and surgeries. It can also help with psychiatric or psychological issues if a well trained practitioner uses massage to help a client get in touch with feelings. It is also useful in athletic training and preparation for athletic competition. Massage is used on race horses and even sometimes on pets.

Most states have a licensure requirement, right? How difficult is it to get licensed?

The hours of training required vary from 500 to 1000 depending on the state. Courses of study usually run from a few months to over a year.Students must learn anatomy and physiology, which many find to be the most difficult part of the school program. For those who tend not to perform well on standardized tests, the licensing exam may be challenging, but pretty much all graduates go on to pass their licensing exam.

What kind of school do you recommend for massage therapy?

This is a very personal decision. Massage careers may include work on a cruise ship, gym or spa, work in a doctor's office, house calls, physical rehabilitation work, psycho-therapeutic work, or on-site chair massage. The various kinds of work you might do emphasize different skills and different awarenesses. Similarly, there is a wide variety of massage schools that emphasize different approaches to massage and to massage careers. You should investigate the options for schooling and try to assess what each school's emphasis is, and whether that is what feels comfortable to you. There is also a variety in cost between schools, with community colleges definitely being the low-cost option for massage education.

Lots of vacation places in beautiful locations, as well as cruise ships, employ massage therapists. What are the pros and cons of this career move?

The destination spas and cruise ships can be exotic locations that attract therapists because of the options they may have in their off hours, and because of the beautiful setting in which one can work. Drawbacks include low pay and, on cruise ships, long hours. The other drawback is that while you get lots of hands-on experience working in high profile locations, you are not building a clientele that you can use to branch out into your own independent practice. Working in someone else's shop will always be a lower paying alternative than having your own massage business, and most massage practitioners have the goal of setting up their own establishment. Working on vacationers does not help to build up a clientele.

One of your chapters deals with 'sex and massage.' Can you explain a little bit more about this topic?

This is an ongoing issue for massage therapists. I live in the NY metro area, and it seems that every few months I read a newspaper article about a massage parlor that has been raided by undercover agents who were offered sex. If you place ads for massages services, a sizable portion of those responding are going to be sex seekers whom you have to weed out. Even after using all cautions possible, most if not all massage therapists eventually wind up with a client who presents them with sexual arousal or a request for sexual services. So understanding and preparing for this part of practicing massage is an important part of becoming a massage practitioner.

How is the industry working to professionalize the massage business?

The main way is by state or local licensing, which guarantees a standard level of education and training. In addition, there are specializations which also offer advanced credentials, such as sports massage, medical massage, and structural bodywork.

What resources are available to aid a newly graduated massage therapist?

Some massage schools have placement departments, some don't. The basic options for a new graduate are to find an entry level job where you can get good hands-on experience and develop contacts, or to get some financial backing to start up a massage practice on your own.

Is there anything else that you would like to add for readers of this website?

Do your homework. Statistics show that the majority of massage school graduates never succeed at creating a self-supporting career in massage. Learn as much as you can about what the career of massage will be like, do some soul-searching about whether this is the right career move at this time in your life, and investigate potential massage schools thoroughly to ensure you get training that will give you good skills that will support a rewarding career.