When massage therapists finish school and start working, they may not immediately think of developing their skills for a niche market – after all, massage school is just the beginning and you will learn some of your most invaluable skills on the job! While most massage therapists focus on perfecting their Swedish and deep tissue skills before moving on to advanced modalities, it’s always a good idea to keep thinking about how you want to develop your massage career. This way you can get the classes and training needed to develop your specialty early on.
Making the most of continuing education
Across the country, massage therapists are required to adhere to a professional licensing code that requires continuing education in areas such as communicable diseases, CPR training, ethics, and general education. While many massage therapists take the minimum number of courses, or choose available courses close to home that are convenient or inexpensive, it’s important to take advantage of this educational opportunity and choose classes ahead of time that match your specific interests.
For example, students who have considered advancing their massage career within Reiki, neuromuscular massage therapy (NMT), or medical massage should keep in mind that these modalities require several lengthy and in-depth courses and can take several months or years to complete. And while the process toward this type of certification does indeed take longer than, say, a weekend class in hot stone technique, it’s a step toward a valuable skill that not only boosts a resume, but also lands new clients, massage therapists help. market themselves more effectively and lay the foundation for a long-lasting and profitable massage career.
Start by looking at several continuing education options offered at schools in your immediate area, as well as in the region. Educate yourself on the time requirements, costs and specifics specific to each modality, and really think about what it takes to become a seasoned professional in that field. This way you can maximize your time and money for the required further education.
Sports massage, Reiki, Pregnancy massage and more
If you picture yourself working as a massage therapist in a few years – where do you see yourself working? In a chiropractor’s office? For a ballet company, football team or running club? Perhaps in a holistic center, spa or independent practice? Every massage therapist comes into the business for different reasons, and it’s important to understand what excites and motivates you in a massage career. Some massage therapists are particularly athletic or interested in sports, and it is this type of therapist who is most often drawn to sports massage. Therapists entering this practice often work with athletes before, during, and after sporting events to prevent injuries and treat existing injuries.
Medical massage encompasses several techniques and may include sports massage, craniosacral therapy, and NMT. Medical massage and its associated practices are often performed by therapists with an interest in injury treatment and prevention as a full-time massage career. Other massage therapists are drawn to energetic healing, such as Reiki, which is said to have a healing effect on the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Therapists interested in Reiki may also be interested in acupressure or aromatherapy. Therapists looking to expand their practice to accommodate pregnant clients may be interested in becoming certified in pregnancy massage, which helps massage therapists understand and perform a medically appropriate massage for an expectant mother.
Whatever your interest in a long-term massage career, continuing education courses are available to advance your chosen specialty. Again, think about why you want to pursue a specific specialty and what you think it will return to you and your customers. Have you seen yourself using your specialty with your customers for years? Then think carefully about who you want to spend your time and money with. Find the right program and embark on a new educational journey. You and your clients will benefit from your efforts as you pursue your favorite niche in the vast world of advanced massage education.
Certification and training
Finally, continuing education courses and experience are sometimes not all that massage therapists need to practice a specialty in the field. Check with your state licensing commission to make sure you’ve met the minimum credit hours for a special modality. To date, there is no licensing body for Reiki, but it is required to have achieved “Level III” status to promote yourself as a Reiki master in your massage career.
Similarly, pregnancy massage is not administered by an accredited body, but most continuing education providers do not issue certification until the student has completed a minimum number of credit hours, usually supported by graded exams, practical sessions, and homework. For certification in neuromuscular therapy massage as a career, massage therapists must complete continuing education courses, schedule and pass an exam, and receive a score demonstrating competence in the field. The school or instructor of a specialization in advanced massage therapy must be able to explain all applicable certification requirements.
Finding a specialty is an excellent step for massage therapists in their long-term careers because it not only allows them to be well trained and better treat clients, but also exposes the therapist to a whole new area of massage and its benefits. So if you’re considering developing a specialty, do your research, ask questions, and have fun learning how to advance your massage career while helping your clients.
Laurie Craig, winner of the prestigious 2007 Jerome Perlinski American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year award, is a respected health science teacher, who serves as subject expert and test item writer for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. She has also participated in writing test items for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. With over 25 years of diverse experience in massage in Atlanta, Laurie used her deep industry knowledge to open Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia. She combines her unique teaching skills, professional acumen and passion for teaching with a comedic edge that students remember and embrace years after experiencing her classes.