Ballpark Estimate: $1,500 to $10,000 and up
If you are looking for a job that will enable you to help people to feel great, you may want to become a professional massage therapist or masseuse. This is a flexible career that requires extensive training, but the time and money you invest will allow you to work in a variety of settings with a broad range of populations and most importantly, to give your clients a host of health and wellness benefits.
The Scope of the Field
Despite the challenging economy, the massage therapy business continues to be strong as many people turn to this approach to help manage stress, combat illness and heal from injuries. This is because massage treatment can be an appropriate choice for people of all ages and situations, such as professional athletes, busy executives, pregnant women, newborn babies and senior citizens.
There are a wide range of accepted massage styles today that range from traditional techniques to therapeutic ones and even some that incorporate a variety of holistic and energy healing techniques. Some of the most well-known options include deep tissue, Reiki, reflexology, hot stone, trigger point, sports massage, craniosacral, acupressure, Shiatsu and Swedish massage. Some therapists specialize in a certain angle, while others choose to blend a combination of these approaches or even to tailor their style for a patient’s specific needs.
A Range of Settings
Depending on the type of massage techniques you prefer and the audience you choose to serve, there are a number of diverse settings where you can practice this art. This can include working in a physician’s office, rehabilitation center, hospital, nursing home, hotel or resort, spa, health club or even a shopping center or mall. Or, if you prefer, you can start your own private practice, seeing patients either in your own office setting or bringing to equipment into the client’s home.
Requirements Vary by State
What you will need to legally practice as a massage therapist varies from state to state. You will want to start by finding out exactly what your state requirements are, since this can help you determine what type of training to get. Most states today require that massage therapists undertake a minimum number of hours of training and some also make it mandatory that you pass a practical exam demonstrating your knowledge and expertise to become certified and/or licensed. To find out more about your state’s laws, check with the American Massage Therapy Association. Their website offers a list of regulations by state. Also keep in mind that some cities and towns also impose additional requirements, so you will want to also check with your local health department for more information.
In general, you can expect that you will need some sort of professional certification. The most common ones are the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage. Both of these are given by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Alternatively, some states accept a licensing program provided by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. It is also worth pointing out that if you get trained and licensed in one state, then relocate to another state, your credentials may not meet the new locality’s requirements. Finally, if you plan to start your own business, keep in mind that in addition to a professional license, you may also need a license to own and operate a business in your state and town.
What to Look for in a School
Different schools have different approaches and different styles, so once you understand your state requirements, you will want to find a school that matches your needs and your goals. For instance, some schools focus on specific massage techniques and styles, while others offer a broader introduction to the field as a whole. In addition, some schools train students on various areas you will need to be successful in your chosen area, such as medical basics if you want to work in a health care setting, hospitality information if you plan to work at a hotel or spa, or business tips to help you to establish and market your services as an independent business.
Once you have a few schools that meet your criteria in mind, you will want to make sure they are accredited. You can check with the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that meet the national standards will typically be accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation or a similarly recognized national organization.
Other Factors to Consider
Other factors to consider when shopping for a school include where they are located, whether you will need to commit to attending full or part-time, the cost, what type financial aid is available, the reputation and what kind of career placement services they offer. These details can be important to helping you to choose the right place for you.
What It Costs
The price of becoming a massage therapist can vary a great deal depending on where you plan to practice. In general, larger cities and states tend to require therapists to undergo more hours of training than more rural areas.
The requirements start about 150 hours and can go on up to 1,000 hours or even more in order to earn a certification. Keep in mind that beyond the basic training, you may also want to take some extra classes in specialty techniques that can be essential to helping you to build a successful practice. The average length of time to become a massage therapist can span a few months to a few years, depending on your circumstances and goals.
The price to attend a massage school can average about $10 for each credit hour, which means that a 150 hour program would cost you $1,500, while a 1,000 hour program would be $10,000. (While 150 is the minimum of credit hours, keep in mind that many programs start at 500 hours or more.) In addition, some private programs can charge twice as much, meaning you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $20,000 depending on where you go and what you get. On the other hands, community colleges that offer massage certification may cost you a little less than the average, so you should plan to do some research and find out what options exist in your area and make the most sense for you.
So you can expect to spend a minimum of $1,500 to $10,000 or more to become a massage therapist.
When pricing tuition, it is important to ask if supplies are included in the fees, since massage tables can cost about $500. If this isn’t provided by the school, you will need to plan to add this into your overall expenses. You should also take into account other items, such as books, transportation and living expenses.
Just keep in mind that while massage therapy training can be a pricey endeavor, it also brings you a highly marketable skill. Once you have the proper training, you should be able to find a job or start your own business and get a good return on your investment.