There are three different massage therapist careers: massage therapist, instructor, or business owner. A massage therapist has completed a three- or four-year program and is knowledgeable in human anatomy, muscle disorders, treatment plans, and holistic health practices. The type of massage therapist careers available depends on many factors, such as the size of the local economy and acceptance of massage therapy by the community.
A massage therapist offers physical massage treatments to clients. The type of massage used depends on the client's preference, health issues, clinic focus, and time available. A traditional massage session ranges from 50 to 90 minutes. During this time, the massage therapist manipulates and stretches the major muscle groups. There are a wide range of massage options available, including the use of hot stones, underwater techniques, and ultrasound wave machines.
Massage therapists are usually independent contractors, who work for multiple massage clinics or spas to develop their own private clientele. They usually purchase a portable massage table, so that they can offer massages in clients' homes or offices. Some rehabilitation centers or hospitals hire massage therapists to work with patients as part of a holistic health philosophy. Increasingly, doctors will refer patients to massage therapists to assist with recovery from major surgery or after a traumatic injury, such as a motor vehicle accident.
Massage therapist careers can be short, due to the level of physical intensity in the job. Many experienced massage therapists turn to teaching to move away from the physical aspect of the job. In order to become a massage therapist instructor, you must have at least ten years' working experience as a massage therapist. Current certification and an extensive continuing education background are necessary to make this transition. Many therapists take certificates in adult education, curriculum development, and other skills required to become an instructor in anticipation of making this change, as part of their long-term career plan.
As an independent contractor, many massage therapists develop a clientele that is too large for them to support. In order to meet their clients’ needs, they may hire an additional therapist, or combine the practice of several therapists in one location and open a clinic or spa. There are many opportunities for expansion of massage therapist careers through entrepreneurship. The set-up and equipment costs are minimal. All that is required is a physical space with multiple small rooms and minimal equipment. Spa ownership is more complex, requiring a larger space, more equipment, and a host of other services.