Massage therapy careers are being advertised as being the fastest growing careers with the most potential for earnings and success. The truth is that there is another side to all of this.
Currently there are more available jobs in massage than there are massage therapists to fill the jobs. There are many things that have happened in the past 10 years to create this situation.
The increase in the number of franchises since their start with the first Massage Envy in 2002, created an increase in the number of massage schools. Community colleges and careers schools started popping up all over, thinking they would cash in on the demand for massage therapists. Many of these schools were providing false information about careers in massage and have led to many massage schools going bankrupt and closing. (Just do a Google Search on Corinthian Colleges ). The issue was that the schools were giving potential students misleading information about how much you can make as a massage therapist and were caught up in the frenzy of putting students through school just to fill their massage schools.)
The increase in the number of massage schools over the years, has led to more and more franchises opening up. The massage franchises offer entry level jobs and pay $8-$15 an hour depending on the location which makes it very difficult to make a living as a massage therapist and pay back your school loans.
Then came the significant drop in the number of massage schools, with many going out of business. Since about 2012, the number of schools has decreased significantly meaning that the number of people going to massage school and graduating is leaving a large gap in having enough massage therapists to fill the deamands. Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (ABMP) reported in 2017 that “The number of massage therapy training programs in the United States is at its lowest since 2003.” Their report in 2019 looks pretty much the same:
According to the results of the survey, the number of massage therapy training programs in the United States is at its lowest since 2000, and the number of graduates from those programs is the lowest since ABMP began conducting the survey in 1998—surpassing 2016’s previous low water mark. ABMP’s biennial census of massage school programs indicates 23,877 students graduated from massage therapy programs in 2018—a drop of over 15 percent from 2016’s total, which had fallen 22 percent from 2014’s total. ABMP
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports similar numbers in their 2021 Massage Profession Research Report:
Massage Therapy Career Research
With all of the issues in the massage job market and with the massage schools, you will really need to do your homework and research the profession thoroughly so you know what you are getting into.
A career in massage is much more than just learning how to do massage. Many of the massage schools and associations will show you all the positive things about a career in massage. Before you decide that you want to be a massage therapist – start with researching massage careers and what it will really be like.
- How much does massage school cost?
- How much can you make as a massage therapist?
- What are your career options? You can start your own massage business or find a job in massage. You can specialize and become a sports massage therapist or medical/clinical massage therapist or one of the many other specialties.
- You will need to know what the requirements are for being a massage therapist in the state that you are in and any state you may be thinking of moving to in the future. Look into massage state licensing requirements.
- You will need to understand what it means to be an accredited school and what the different types of accreditation mean when you choose a school. Does a school need to be accredited?
- You will need to know the difference between licensing and certification to make sure you find the school that is best for your success.
- You will need to explore the costs of massage school and look into financial aid if you need it and figure out how to find a massage school that is affordable, yet will help you be the most successful. The most expensive school is not always the best school. The cheapest school is not always the best choice because it may cost you more in the long run.
- You will need to understand the massage job market and decide if you want to get a job in massage or whether you want to open your own business. Most massage therapists will open their own massage therapy business.
- Becoming a massage therapist is much more than just learning how to massage. You will need to assess whether or not you have what it takes to be a massage therapist today, with all of the challenges of low paying jobs and the ever-changing market for massage.
You will need to understand the basics of what it takes to become a massage therapist. If you haven’t already be sure to go out and get as many massages as you can. Talk to the massage therapist about what it is really like. Ask them things like:
- How much do you make an hour?
- Are you an employee or independent contractor?
- How long did it take you to find work after massage school?
- How long did it take you to start your business?
- What massage school did you go to?
- What did you like or not like about your school?
- Did they help you find a job or start your business?
Research Massage Therapy Schools.
Part of researching careers in massage is also looking into massage schools. They can also help you get an idea of what it is like to be a massage therapist. You will need to know what to ask the massage schools when you call or visit. Here are some ideas:
- What training is required to get your professional massage license in your state or area?
- Is your school accredited?
- How much will school cost?
- How long will it take?
- What help do you provide for starting a business or finding a job?
- How much do massage therapists make?
- How many of your graduates are working 1year, 2 years, 5 years and 10 years after graduation?
- Can I sit in on classes and talk to current students and graduates?
- Most importantly, ask the schools how they create their curriculum. Do they use the Entry Level Analysis Project results that was a research study into what is required to be an entry level massage therapist?
Knowing more about what you are getting into can help you to make an informed decision about a career in massage.
See also: choosing a massage school.
The things they never tell you in massage school about careers in massage.