Here’s the in-depth answer to this question.
We’re so glad you are asking how to determine if a massage therapy career is a good fit for you. It deserves a book. That’s why our school founder and our quality improvement consultant is in the process of finishing up an extensive e-book on the subject: The Insider’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Massage Therapy School for You!
Although The Insider’s Guide focuses on finding a school that’s a fit for your values, a large section of The Insider’s Guide focuses on assisting you to determine if a massage therapy career is a good fit for you.
We think it’s valuable to be thoughtful about the realities of a massage therapy career. We strongly encourage you to visit the member survey results from professional massage organizations such as the AMBP and the AMTA:
ABMP Massage Profession Metrics
AMTA 2013 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet
Now a few words about statistics. Remember what Mark Twain wrote about statistics: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Just because 85% of successful massage therapists are female, is not a valid reason for men to avoid a massage therapy career. Some of the greatest massage therapists in the world are men. Massage is a healing art, women are naturally more likely to gravitate to healing work.
Just because the average age of massage therapists is 45, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt a massage therapy career if you are younger. The fact is, many people value contribution as they get older. If you are already there at a younger age, trust your intentions and remember that the drive to contribute is one of the keys to success in this field.
Just because 77.9% are independent practitioners doesn’t mean that you should avoid a massage therapy career if you want to learn massage to get a job. A massage job is a great way to“get your feet wet” in the field and discover what aspects of the massage therapy career you enjoy the most.
Explore and Test Your Interests in a Massage Therapy Career
In very practical terms, we also encourage you to do the following:
Interview two or three massage therapists who have been practicing for at least 7-10 years. It’s important that you speak to people who are in private practice and who have been able to be successful for many years because there’s a significant sorting out period for massage therapists in their early years in of a massage therapy career, particularly therapists who are employed rather than in private practice and who are under the age of 30.
Receive massage from experienced students in a student massage clinic at a school you are interested in attending.
Start with a class or a small program to “get your feet wet” and see if you enjoy contributing to others in the ways that massage affords. At World School we offer an Introduction to Healing course so that people can test whether our perspectives and values and approaches are a good fit for them.
Find the Best School For You
The quality of your education deeply influences your experience and development of your massage therapy career.
Since the federal government started the practice of giving loans and grants to massage schools to prop up national employment statistics, a lot of shenanigans has been introduced into the field of massage therapy career education.
What used to be a field with small “proprietary” schools focusing on great education has become one with a growing population of corporate and trade schools that have, in the great majority of cases, diminished the overall quality of education available to students.
This is why it’s important that you understand the differences between an education from a proprietary massage school, a corporate massage school and trade schools.
World School is a proprietary massage school. We encourage you to explore other types of schools and see what you prefer.
Also, be sure to take the time to read as well our School Performance Fact Sheet (our Admissions Advisors will give you one before registration) and see how our massage therapists are doing in the field. Ask us questions about these performance statistics.
Values and Attitudes for a Massage Therapy Career
Massage is a values-driven career for most. Here’s something that ABMP has written about massage therapists that may be helpful in your process:
Attitudes Toward Employment
The vast majority of massage therapists are independent practitioners (77.9%). Almost half of massage therapists earn income from another job in addition to their massage practice. Massage therapy is often a second or third career.
Many cite lack of fulfillment in previous careers, and a desire to be their own boss, as reasons for choosing a career in massage therapy and bodywork. They may have left other careers to pursue the opportunity to help people on a one-to-one basis. Practitioners report they are motivated by a genuine desire to improve the health and wellbeing of clients.
Practitioners often see themselves less as business people and more as individuals with a calling or mission. Research suggests many are hesitant to embrace aggressive, sustained marketing tactics.
With a median of 12 hours a week spent in direct contact with clients, the independent practitioner spends many additional hours weekly on administrative or other business tasks: maintaining the massage room, ordering supplies, returning phone calls, keeping books, promoting the practice, and other aspects of running a business.
That said, we encourage you to find a fit between your values and the type of school you are considering attending.
World School of Massage San Francisco is a healing massage school rather than a school that trains massage technicians to perform a procedure on someone—such as you will find with most trade schools and corporate massage schools.
If contribution and facilitating healing is important to you, than we are likely a very good fit for you. And because therapists who work in the field for more than 10 years all know that the work you do on yourself emotionally and spiritually profoundly affects your ability to contribute to others, if you are open to self-healing an personal transformation, than we are likely a very good fit for you as well.
Attributes of Massage Therapy Career Success
To be successful on the business side of the career, Monica Rosenberry, author of “Marketing Massage” shares that after hundreds of interviews of successful and unsuccessful therapists, she believes that the following four attributes are key to success in having a successful private practice:
#1: A Desire to Serve
#2. The Commitment to Succeed
#3. A Strong Emphasis on Professionalism
#4. A Commitment to Excellent Customer Service
We believe that Monica is on to something really valuable here. For decades we have been teaching students how to embody these qualities in their lives.
A Few More Considerations About a Massage Therapy Career
One of the great realities of life that many people resist is the fact that everyone is amazingly unique. We live in a mass consciousness society that wants people to conform to standards. Yet as an individual, only you can know if a massage therapy career is a good fit for you.
This also means that no one else can determine what’s best for you despite their belief that they can. You neither serve yourself nor others by avoiding what makes your heart sing or by complying with others in an attempt to please them.
Steve Jobs said it well:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.