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How to Become a Massage Therapist

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Women giving a massage to a woman on massage table

How do you become a massage therapist? If you have been thinking about the next steps in your career, you might have been considering studying massage therapy. Whether you're just coming to the end of your high school studies, or if you're looking for a change of career, becoming a licensed massage therapist could be right for you. It’s an ideal career for people who enjoy looking after others, and who are interested in learning more about how the body works. Practitioners can work in a wide range of settings from salons to physical therapy offices and hospitals. But what do you need to study to be a massage therapist? Find out what it takes to qualify and start your new career in this five-step guide.

Step 1: Learn more about the job.

Massage therapy is an area of the job market that is consistently growing and is forecast to grow faster than other sectors in the coming years. You’ll need a passion for your future career in massage and dedication to spend time learning how to practice the art. You will want to take some time to look into the different types of jobs practitioners can have, what the job market is like where you are, and whether you think the career would be a good fit for your lifestyle.

Step 2: Research schools and massage therapy courses.

Once you've decided that you want to work in massage, you need to consider how to become a massage therapist. In short, you will need to go to school to study for enough time to be eligible for a license. Course requirements vary by state, and within each state, different schools have varying course lengths. The first thing you will want to make sure of is whether the schools you're researching fit your state's massage therapist requirements.

Then, you’ll need to think about how you want to study. Does part-time or full-time studying suit your lifestyle best? Does the school you are interested in offer tuition in the modalities you are interested in learning? The answers to these questions will help you when it comes to deciding where to study.

Step 3: Complete your course and take your state's licensing exam.

Once you've decided where and how you're going to study, you can expect to spend anywhere between six months and a year studying. The course will involve a mix of theory and practical learning to prepare you to look after your clients safely and professionally. You will also often learn how to operate a business and increase repeat bookings. Your teachers will guide you towards learning how to become a licensed massage therapist by readying you for any applicable tests; most states require future massage therapy licensees to take a standardized exam.

Step 4: Start out in your career.

It's finally time to start your career! Now that you've learned how to be a massage therapist, it's time to get to work. Throughout your time researching the career and during your studies, you will likely have decided which kind of environment you would like to work in. Whether you choose to apply your skills for treatments at a spa or salon, or if you decide to take a more medicalized approach working alongside a physical therapist or chiropractor, the skills you learned in school will continue to develop as you gain real-world experience.

And, as you develop your client base, you may even want to start your own business. Many massage practitioners choose to work for themselves. Self-employment in massage can take many different forms, from working freelance at several different salons to setting up a salon of your own. Either way, you may find it gives you the freedom to set your hours and share your knowledge with even more people as you grow an excellent reputation.

Step 5: Help people feel better.

You will soon discover how rewarding it is to help people feel better, whichever setting you decide to practice in. Whether it's helping stressed-out clients who come to the salon for a relaxing massage after a long week at the office, or if it's helping patients recover from post-surgical pain or discomfort. Working with massage puts wonderful power in your hands – quite literally! With no two days of work being the same, you will soon have years of fulfilling work in front of you to enjoy.

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