Where Massage Therapists Can Work
As a trained massage therapist, you have your choice of places to work. The wide variety of career options is exciting!
Many therapists have worked in more than one area within the broad field of massage therapy. Consequently, they’ve acquired a variety of skills which makes them even more marketable—and has helped them determine their favorite types of massage therapy to perform.
Learning about the types of places where massage therapists work will help you choose a satisfying career path after graduation, and help you select the right school now.
Many working massage therapists say a good way to decide on a career path is to think about what techniques of massage most appeal to you, and especially what you most enjoyed learning during massage school. So if you are in or about to start your massage training, make sure to remember which techniques you like.
If hot stone and deep tissue massage, for example, are your favorite techniques, perhaps you would most enjoy working in a spa. If, on the other hand, you like physiology and trigger point massage, maybe working in a medical or chiropractic clinic would be the best fit for you.
Though there are many career paths for a qualified massage therapist, the most common are listed and explained here.
Spas are one very common place for massage therapists to work. There are many types of spas; therapists can work everywhere from private spas to those located in a hotel, resort, or even on a cruise ship. Some spas hire massage therapists on-call (reporting to work when needed); others require their therapists to have set hours during which the therapists take walk-ins when they’re not already giving massages.
There are both positive and negative aspects to working in a spa. On the plus side, all equipment is provided, and it is possible to make good tips. You may have free or discounted access to other services the spa provides. It is also possible to have steady work, though on some days you may have quite a bit of downtime in between scheduled clients. Spas may pay lower wages than other massage venues. There may be strict rules, such as no talking to the clients, or a specific massage structure that you are required to follow. When working in a spa, you may encounter a more demanding clientele, many of whom could become regular clients.
Before taking a job at a spa, make sure you know exactly what your responsibilities are. Some spas require their employees to take on non-massage tasks during any downtime, including folding towels, stocking supplies, and performing such receptionist duties as answering the phone and greeting clients. Sometimes, this is simply unavoidable—you have to pay your dues when you’re starting out—so don’t necessarily avoid working at a spa for this reason alone. Also, clarify the payment structure, as well as how appointments are distributed (by seniority, skill level, rotation, etc.).
Another common type of employment for massage therapists is to work within a medical practice, such as in a physical therapy or chiropractor’s office. Work in this area may include the actual massage or treatment, as well as insurance paperwork or note-taking. If you enjoy helping people who are disabled or in pain, or working with athletes, the elderly, or children, this may be the right environment for you.
Again, this type of employment has both good and bad qualities. On the positive side, you will learn a lot about the body and its medical issues, and you will feel satisfied to know you helped people recover from pain, for example, or regain range of motion. On the negative side, the pay can be lower than other types of massage therapy employment, and you may be dealing with difficult people who are in pain or frustrated with their insurance companies. Also, you may have to fill out the required paperwork for insurance or make medical notes, so be sure to find out if this would be part of your duties.
Many massage therapists work in massage-only practices, such as a massage franchise or chain, or as a self-employed massage therapist. Though these two types of work environments allow you to practice massage, there are many differences between them.
In a massage franchise or chain, therapists often have steady work and regular clients, which can foster an environment of trust. The therapists get a chance to use their extensive training, because massage is the only treatment offered (unlike in a spa, which may have only a minor focus on massage therapy). However, therapists who work in massage franchises often face strict rules, such as non-compete clauses and sales quotas.
A self-employed massage therapist, on the other hand, must deal with the challenges of starting a business, and will probably have to work very hard to get his or her business off the ground. For many massage therapists, it’s worth it: they experience the freedom and satisfaction that comes with owning their own business.
Both massage franchises and self-employed businesses may require long work hours, including evenings and weekends, and the income may not be as high as it is at other locations, at least in the beginning. But these jobs can be extremely rewarding in a variety of ways.
These are just a few of the major areas of employment for trained massage therapists. The great thing about a career such as massage therapy is that you can work wherever you’d like—in malls or airports, on cruise ships, in a medical practice, even from your home. Massage therapists can change locations, too, which gives them the opportunity to constantly try new things.
Decide what you want, and what will work for you. Then go for it!