What should you know before you become a Massage Therapist?
What are the benefits and the possible disadvantages of advancing your career in Massage therapy?
What are the physical and mental demands? What about continuing education requirements?
These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before you decide on a life long career choice.
This article will delve into some of the important considerations you must think through to ensure you are fully aware of what’s to come.
Physical Rigors and Demands
One of the most underrated considerations (which later turn into objections) in becoming a massage therapist is the physical rigor involved in the profession. Imagine kneading dough for 6 to 8 hours a day? Could you keep up with that pace indefinitely? That’s exactly how it feels on the hands and joints.
The burn out rate within the industry has been estimated at 50 to 88% within the first 3 to 5 years after graduation according to a study completed by Associated Bodyword and Massage Professionals, a reputable industry organization. Enrollment statistics seem to support this with over 50,000 students enrolling per year with 45,000 that leave the field annually.
The burn out rate is high mainly due to improper techniques being applied and not enough rest in between massages. If you are expected to massage 40 hours per week, it is almost guaranteed that you will burn out in a very short amount of time.
The best schools advise that you work 4-6 hours a day in massage and take at the very least 10 minute breaks between every massage. The physical damage that can accumulate by over working your body include tendonitis in the wrists, elbows and shoulders, carpel tunnel in the wrists, tennis elbow and trigger finger/thumb. All of these injuries can quickly end your career if you are not careful.
It is important to develop the ability to keep healthy and fit over the long term. You may consider questions like: Do you like to work out? Do you eat healthy? Are you currently overweight or have weight gain issues?
These can exacerbate any problems you encounter later on due to the physical demands of the job. If you cannot keep fit, you may want to choose a different, less rigorous profession.
Professionalism, Behavior and Demeanor
The massage therapy profession is unique in the sense that it initially developed from the traditions of mental and spiritual health and not as a medically advanced profession. However, in recent years medical massage is used to heal muscle tension and injuries of all sorts. Most consumers of massage therefore expect both spiritual wellness as well as physical wellness.
As a good therapist, you need to constantly stay upbeat and positive with all your clients at all times. In addition to requiring a gruelling physical workout, dealing with a constant stream of patient and client demands requires mental health and stamina.
Needless to say that in order to succeed in this profession you need to be mentally tough, stable and ensure your own long term mental health. To discount this aspect would lead to a declining client base and the failure of your business or job loss.
Continued Education Requirements
With the professionalization of the massage therapy industry, continued learning and educationhas become a mandatory long term requirement if you want to continue to be licensed and practice massage.
States post a minimum amount of “Continuing Education Units” required to maintain your massage license. These CEU’s can range anywhere from 8 to 48 hours of yearly education. You can find your specific State requirements here.
Just like being a lawyer, doctor or an accountant, this profession is not for anyone who never wants or expects to look back to school after graduation. In these professions, learning is a career long process. For a massage therapist, continuous learning can help specialize in various massage techniques, often referred to as modalities.
An expansion of your skill set can lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road.
One of the more attractive aspects of this profession is the income (whether a salary as an employee or profits as a business owner) you can earn relative to the time and resources you invest in your training to become a therapist. Salaries in the massage industry has been on the rise due to the sheer demand for the services, the professionalization of the industry and recognition by insurance companies as a health treatment for certain injuries.
Another advantage can be flexibility. As a home-based business or travelling massage therapist the profession can provide extreme flexibility for a second income earner in the home. It allows you to take on the amount of hours you need to earn the income you desire. In addition, you design your work schedule around your personal schedule. For specific types of individuals, this can be a very rewarding and fulfilling career.
If you decide to choose a traditional workplace setting you can be assured that your services will be in demand and that you will be busy. The increase in demand for clinical settings for massage therapists and the current burn out rate ensures quick placement in the workforce. Traditional settings also offer higher pay rates initially. And as an employee, you can rest assure that you will not have to deal with the daily operations requirements of running a business.
The biggest disadvantage is inherent in the profession, in the sense that if you were to stop practicing massage in just a few years after graduation, you will have spent a significant amount of time and resources in becoming a licensed therapist in the first place.
That said, if you approach your job knowing the physical demands involved and accordingly taking steps to manage them, you should be fine. There are thousands (probably millions worldwide) of people that stay in the industry for decades. These folks have learned the right way to apply themselves within the profession, manage their schedules effectively and take good care of their body to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
Development of professionalism and the mindset required to make it in this profession are not a true disadvantage as these are demanded in many other professions today. It is, however, newer to the massage profession and thus many therapists discount their importance. Now that you know, we hope you wouldn’t make the same mistake.