How to Choose a Massage Therapy School
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How to Choose a Massage Therapy School

Your office is designed to instill feelings of peace and relaxation and is warmed by gentle music, calming scents, and welcoming decor. Your tools are your hands, and your skillful, therapeutic touch relieves physical discomfort and relaxes the bodies and minds of your clients. Your clients leave their sessions groggy-eyed and grateful, better able to cope with the physical and mental demands of their stressful lives.

This is the vision that lures many career-seekers into the rewarding field of massage therapy. It's also the reality for many workers in the profession, and one of the reasons massage therapists enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction.

More Workers, More Jobs in Massage Therapy

The American Massage Therapy Association estimates that there are 280,000 to 320,000 massage therapists and massage school students in the United States, a number that continues to increase. Of practicing massage therapists, those who are self-employed account for 96 percent of the workforce. Thirty-eight percent work in a business or corporate setting, or in a client's home; 25 percent work in a health care setting; and 23 percent work in a spa.

Fortunately for those in the profession, as the number of massage therapists grows, so does the demand for massage services. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of 19 percent from 2008 to 2018. As of 2010, 40 percent of Americans had received massages to relieve their stress, and 86 percent of Americans agreed that massage can be beneficial for health and wellness.

Why is massage therapy so well regarded? A quick look at some recent research is illustrative:

  • Preterm infants receiving massage gain more weight and are discharged earlier from hospitals
  • Preschool children receiving massages right before bedtime fall asleep earlier and stay sleeping longer
  • Troubled adolescents receiving massage are less depressed, anxious, and aggressive after massage
  • Massage can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce headache frequency, decrease pain in cancer patients, alleviate low back pain, and ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms

In short, massage has been shown to have numerous psychological and medical benefits, and the research showing its value continues to emerge.

How to Choose A Massage Therapy School

If you're attracted to the field of massage therapy, whether to enter the workforce for the first time or break away from a stressful cubicle job, you may want to explore a massage therapy school to prepare for your new career. There are over 300 accredited massage schools and programs in the United States, so narrowing your options might be the hardest part.

How can you determine which massage therapy school to choose?

First, you'll want to make sure that your massage school meets state licensing requirements, if necessary. At present, 43 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapists or offer voluntary state certification. If the state in which you intend to work regulates the profession, you should enroll in a program that offers at least the minimum required hours of training and prepares you to take a certification exam.

Second, consider your career objectives. Are you interested in working with athletes? Schools offering sports massage may have the massage therapy programs for you. Do you want to work with hospital patients in rehabilitation? Look for schools with a strong curriculum in anatomy and physiology and that offer internships with local hospitals. Do you want to have your own practice and be a jack-of-all-trades? Look for schools that train students in a variety of modalities, and that offer courses in business development.

Massage Therapy Schools: An Online Option

Many adults seeking a massage therapy education don't consider the possibility of an online education. After all, you have to learn massage through a hands-on classroom setting, right?

Not necessarily. Online massage therapy schools are growing in number. Many of these schools use a combination of textbook and video instruction to teach students, who are able to study from home as they have time. Online programs are also a popular choice for massage therapists needing continuing education credits. For many busy massage therapists, the massage therapy classes are ones they can work on between clients at their own pace.

Online massage therapy schools offer a wide array of online courses and programs. For example, therapists can learn:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Canine massage
  • Cranial-sacral techniques
  • Hot stone massage
  • Polarity therapy

Online education may also offer the massage therapy courses for those wanting an introduction to the field, without the commitment of a full massage therapy education.

Will Your Education Pay Off?

As of 2009, massage therapists earned a mean hourly wage of $19.13. Many massage therapists work part-time, making it an excellent career for parents with family commitments or people wanting to supplement income from another job.

Perhaps most importantly, massage therapists can earn a livable wage while working in a low-stress profession they love. Does lowering your stress and increasing your happiness pay off? You bet.