Being a massage therapist can be a satisfying career. You get to work one-on-one with people, and help them feel better, which can be very rewarding. Learning how the body works and what you can do to relieve pain and help it function better is intellectually stimulating. There are so many modalities that there is almost no end to the way you can further your knowledge and skill.
But being a massage therapist does have some downsides.
This is a physically demanding career with a big burn-out rate. There is a bigger demand at spas for massage therapists than estheticians, but many massage therapists stop working after two years. Either their body can't take it, or they can't make enough money.
Massage schools are a big investment of time, energy and money. Before you dive in, ask other massage therapists about the realities of the workplace – starting salaries, what they love and hate about being a massage therapist, and what makes a massage therapist successful long-term. Here are some other things that should be on your checklist when you're evaluating massage schools.
Be Wary of A Massage Schools' Salary Claims
Massage schools are in the business of attracting new students. They’re selling themselves! Don't believe them if they say you’re going to make $50,000 - $75,000 a year right out of school. It's not easy to get good jobs, even with experience, and it can be highly seasonal work.
Building your own practice takes time and isn't realistic for the new grad. You’re better off believing what other massage therapists and spa directors say about starting salaries in your area. Do your own research.
Talk To People About Massage Schools
Talk to people you know who are in the spa business and ask them to recommend massage schools in your area.
Massage therapists are especially helpful. Call the spa owners or directors at spas where you would like to work and ask which massage school they like to hire from. That will give you a good idea which massage schools have the best reputations.
Locate Massage Schools In The State You Want To Work
Look for massage schools in the state where you want to work. Each state has its own licensing practices and the massage schools can give you more information on the licensing requirements in your state. Here are two of the best places for searching for massage schools.
Call The Massage Schools
Once you narrow down your list, call the school for an initial phone interview. Massage schools have an admissions department that can answer your questions and send you an information packet. Ask staff about licensing requirements in your state, the curriculum, how much it costs, full and part-time programs, and financial aid.
Visit The Massage School
It’s also very important to make an on-site visit to the massage school. Do you like the atmosphere? Do the teachers impress you? Talk to students while you’re there and ask what they think (away from teachers or admissions counselors.) Some schools have an open house or free workshops so you can get a feel for massage therapy in general and the atmosphere at the school.
Ask Massage Schools About Their Philosophy
All massage schools teach you what you need to know to pass the state licensing exam. But ask about their philosophy and approach. Do they combine theory and practice from the beginning? How long have their teachers worked there? Do they have classes in Eastern modalities like Shiatsu? What is their continuing education program?
Talk To The Massage School's Graduates
Ask the massage schools for names and phone numbers of graduates. Call them to get get a candid assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of that school. Ask about the job market, starting salaries and what it’s like in the real world.