Your Massage Therapy Career: where will it take you?

massage therapist choices

You know you want a massage therapy career. You’re zoomed in on this perfect massage career in your head: you’re giving a massage, your client is happy, you’re happy, you’ve got plenty of work and you’re financially secure. What a great image! But zoom out for a moment. Where do you work? Who is your boss? (Or do you even have one?) Do you work nights and weekends and holidays, or is this strictly a 9-5 gig? How much money do you want to make doing massage? Who are your clients, and why are they coming to you.

There are so many different kinds of careers in massage therapy. Before setting yourself on one track simply because it’s the only one you knew about, it makes sense to explore some of the options. Here are just four of the biggest possibilities. Where will your massage therapy career take you?

Spa Massage

Who doesn’t love a trip the spa? Relaxing music, a soothing atmosphere, and an amazing massage … what more could you ask for? For many people, providing this kind of much-needed opportunity to unwind is exactly what they’d like to do with their massage education. People who do well in a spa environment are customer-service focused, friendly, and can handle a fast-paced schedule without imparting any sense of rush to the clients they work with. These qualities can lead to repeat clients as well as good tips. Skills that can benefit a massage therapist who is interested in a spa career include hot and cold stone massage, and other deeply relaxing styles like lomilomi. And for those who are willing to go the extra educational mile, a double-certification as an esthetician can lead to a LOT of job prospects.

Medical Massage

Medical massage is a great field for massage therapists who would like a career in healthcare. It may take place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or a private practice. Folks who do well in medical massage have good scientific and clinical reasoning skills, can write brief and precise notes, are able to deal with the emotional stress of working with sick and injured clients, and maintain good boundaries while still showing a caring and compassionate attitude. A medical massage career typically requires advanced training and a couple years of experience, but skills that come in especially handy include medical terminology, research literacy, and a solid foundation in anatomy and physiology. Start with those before deciding whether to pursue advanced training in oncology massage, lymphatic drainage, or other in-demand specialties.

Mobile Massage

Not interested in being tied down to an office? Take your massage skills on the road! Mobile massage careers can take many forms, from in-home massage for busy moms or clients who have limited mobility, to onsite chair massage for harried professionals in the workplace, to providing in-room massage to guests at an upscale hotel. People who succeed at mobile massage are organized, flexible, assertive with their personal boundaries, and have a demeanor that exudes both trustworthiness and squeaky-clean professionalism. Skills that come in handy for mobile massage therapists include a variety of massage techniques that don’t include a lot of extra equipment (who wants to lug a box of rocks around?), as well as chair massage. And a defensive driving course couldn’t hurt, for the massage therapist who’s constantly on the road!

Private Practice

For a lot of therapists, private practice is the golden goose of massage therapy careers. Be your own boss! Keep your own money! Sounds great, right? Well, it certainly can be, provided you’ve prepared for it. People who do well owning their own practice are willing to work hard in the face of setbacks, are just as interested in the business side of their work as the hands-on part, and are engaged in their communities. Skills for starting your own practice include whatever modality isn’t being offered by many other massage therapists in your area, population-specific training (like pregnancy massage or pediatric massage, for example), and basic marketing, bookkeeping, and writing skills. If you plan to hire contractors or employees, learning about how to hire the right ones and manage them effectively is also important. These aren’t necessarily the skills students think of when they consider a massage therapy career, but this is exactly why they can help a new massage business stand out from the crowd.

These are not the only possibilities.

Your massage therapy career is not limited to the big four. Infant massage instructors teach new parents to provide massage to their babies. Equine massage therapists work with horses. Sports massage therapists may work one-on-one with individual athletes, or follow a team across the country. Massage is now available in social spaces from airports to shopping malls. The path you choose is up to you. Build on your strengths and work hard, whatever avenues you decide to pursue. Remember, your massage career is in your hands.

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