So You Want To Be A Massage Therapist

Massage therapy really is an excellent choice for a career. The job market is actually pretty good, particularly compared to some others, or at least it is in my little corner of the world.
But what is it like, and what does it take to become one?
First and foremost, a little disclaimer. While many of my readers are local to me, there are also a fair few who are not. Requirements can differ pretty widely, especially once you hit the global level. What is true for most of Canada is not true for the United States, the UK, Australia, etc. I will mainly be speaking to my own experiences here, you will want to look into how things work for your area.
So, firstly, what is it really like? It is hard, glorious work. Massage therapy is one of those careers that requires exercise of both your brain and your muscles. Physically, it can be strenuous, especially once you venture into the realms of deep pressure. But you can’t just turn off your brain and exert yourself, as you do need to figure out what is actually causing discomfort/pain/tension/reduced mobility, etc, and help the client correct it.
You will get to meet and interact closely with a wide variety of people. How much you interact with the same people really depends on the sort of place you work. The place I work at, for example, has a high rate of regular clients as it is built around encouraging that. Someone working at a hotel spa, or the sort of clinic that specializes in injury recovery, may only see someone once or for a limited number of visits. Neither way is “better”, in and of itself, it all depends on where your preferences are. Mine are for building a working relationship with my clients and working with them to promote long term improvements in their physical health.
You don’t need to be an extrovert to do this job, though. I am not. In fact, I am a massive introvert socially, and quite comfortable being one. But I do enjoy one on one interactions with people, and that is precisely what I get. You also don’t need to be a chatty Kathy, as some clients prefer silence. On the other hand, some prefer to talk a lot. Don’t worry too much about being one or the other, whatever your style is, clients who prefer it will stick with you. What you do have to be is comfortable with being in close proximity to strangers. You will, after all, be all up in their personal space for extended periods of time. A healthy sense of boundaries, both yours and others, is important.
For the most part, I have found massage therapy to be a pretty low stress work environment. Generally speaking, the people you meet are very happy to be there. You are making them feel better, and most folks are nice to the person making them feel better. Is that always the case? No. You’ll encounter jerks no matter what career you follow, but the jerks, for me at least, have been an extreme minority. You’ll also get the very real satisfaction of feeling the positive changes you’re helping your clients achieve happen right under your hands.
So, yes, I think it’s a wonderful career choice. But how does one become a massage therapist?
Here in Canada, you can’t just decide to be one and go apply for a job. Or at least, you shouldn’t, and can’t in a lot of places. Here in Nova Scotia, a bill is currently being worked on to protect the term “massage therapist”. We call ourselves Registered Massage Therapists (RMT’s) because we are, in fact, registered with a professional association.
To achieve that state, you have to go to school. In most of Canada, that involves a 2200 hour long program. I’m going to be blunt here… that program is no cakewalk. I urge anyone considering this to contact their local colleges offering this training and find out in advance exactly what you’re going to be getting yourself in for. It is absolutely worth it, but it isn’t easy.
I didn’t just learn various ways to rub sore muscles. I learned an incredibly detailed amount of anatomy & physiology. I studied pathology, neurology and kinesiology. I did a course on medical research, and how to do it properly. Passing grade was 70%. Comprehensive exams lurked at the end of it all where we were again tested on everything and anything covered, with again, passing grade of 70%.
It was a lot of work. It was also a lot of fun. And at the end of the day, I came out of it with a deep understanding of exactly what I was doing, and thanks to copious hours working in the student clinic, a lot of real world experience, so that by the time I treated my very first client as a fully registered therapist, I knew exactly what I was doing.
Is massage therapy right for you? Honestly, I can’t answer that. But if it interests you, do check out your local colleges. If they have something like a student for a day program, go ahead and do it.  Ask any questions that crop up, and if it seems right, go for it. I haven’t regretted for one moment my decision to do this.
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to I post blogs every Wednesday.

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