Things they never tell you about being a massage therapist

Being a massage therapist is becoming a popular career choice for many.  People are drawn to the field for many reasons. Wanting to help people is one of the main reasons and wanting to have a career where you can make a difference compared to having a corporate job where you often feel like a prisoner at your desk is often a motivator.

The massage school admissions people seem to forget the details though and most do not even know to ask about these kind of things and many of it won’t really matter to most – it is just part of ‘the job’.  People want to know if you can make a good living and things like that.  Just like any career, the answers depend really more on YOU and your abilities to put everything you learn in massage school together into something that creates a successful massage career.

So here goes:  things that they don’t tell you about when thinking about a career in massage

  1. Massage school teaches you how to give professional massage for wellness or medical purposes. It does not teach you how to actually BE a massage therapist and neogitate pay rates/jobs or start your own business. You have to be willing to learn on your own or have that experience already.
  2. You will be doing a lot of laundry, especially if you choose to start your own business.  Each client requires a fresh set of very clean and sanitized sheets, face covers, bolster covers, pillow cases/covers.  As an employee in the massage profession, there may be others doing the laundry. You can also hire laundry companies to do the work.
  3. You will need to know how to fold a fitted sheet (if that is what you choose for your massage sheets – most do).
  4. There are some really hairy guys out there that will challenge your use of oil/lotion and application methods in order to give an effective massage. Massage school will teach you how to deal with such things.
  5. Yes, You will need to trim your nails really, really short or you will be scratching the client.  They will need to be filed smooth and kept that way.  Forget long nails, fake nails or fancy nail polish. (I have seen some massage therapists get around this by learning to use their fingers differently, but not sure how that effects the efficiency of the massage or injuries to your hands.)
  6. Yes, the big E (erection) happens. The male body in a relaxed state can lead to erections and ejaculate on tables, into towels, ask for happy endings, mess up your sheets and will challenge your boundaries.
  7. You will get clients that have crushes on you, want to date you, want to give you expensive gifts. (Dating clients is illegal in many states and is against the code of ethics of most associations.) Massage school will teach you how to deal with them and it takes practice. Some massage therapists will freeze during a challenging session and not know what to do. Be prepared.
  8. No you don’t have to take math, but you have to take basic college level anatomy and physiology – science! You need math to do your bookkeeping, taxes and such.
  9. Clients may come in sick, with runny noses, icky skin conditions, smelly feet, dirty hair and will come in right from the gym/workout sweaty from head to toe and expect you to touch them. You can learn to deal with it by setting boundaries with each client.
  10. You will glide through massage school easily and graduate with honors and get a high paying ($45 an hour or more) right away – NOT.  Massage school often brings up peoples issues around touch and will often be a big growth process.  You will learn more about yourself.
  11. You want to be a massage therapist because you want to help others.  They don’t tell you that helping others is the surest way to end up in burnout and that there are many deeper issues around helping others that are more about you than anything else.
  12. People who are under stress can be rude and demanding. I once had a client who refused to fill out intake paperwork and just got on the table. At the end of the massage, they were open to filling out the paperwork.
  13. You will need to learn that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and with various personalities. They bring it all to the table. You will need to be flexible and courteous and be the professional when clients often act out their scenarios.
  14. Touch has a way of bringing up various emotions and issues when people are getting a massage. You need to be prepared to be the blank slate for them to project on and hold your boundaries too.
  15. Massage school will be challenging, learning anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology and the massage techniques themselves. It will teach you about yourself in ways you might not have ever experienced. You will also be getting regular massage from your fellow students.
  16. Give as many massages as you can while in school to start developing your routines and methods. Staring with a good foundation of routines will help you learn as you go and help you adapt and be more flexible as you get more experience.

What do you wish someone told you about becoming a MT?  What did they tell you in the admissions department or during school that you wished you had known about before deciding on a career in massage?