Do You Have Massage Therapy Career Doubts?

I’m sure like many people, you wonder about the possibility of a career in massage therapy.

Here are the typical responses people hear when they say they want to become a massage therapist:

  • You’ll hear that you won’t have enough clients – that the market is saturated with so many massage therapists already.
  • People will tell you that you are too weak or small to give a good, deep tissue massage.
  • You’ll hear things that also make you wonder if you’ll be taken seriously: things like “happy ending massages,” or “why don’t you become a physical therapist instead?”

On Apples and Oranges

Sadly, many of these comments indicate ignorance of the massage profession, anCompare apples to orangesd that’s why people say the things they do about massage therapy. Some of the comments are also about fear and question how could you possibly work for yourself with no guarantees of a salary. You see, many  are so ingrained in the Monday – Friday, 9 to 5 job that they don’t understand how it would work any other way.  (They personally have bought into the job market / security blanket hook, line and sinker that is difficult for someone like them to see that someone CAN be successful working for themselves.)

Lets compare a full-time job at $20 an hour to a massage therapist working for $60 an hour:

Person A makes $20 an hour.  They have a full-time job from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and they make about $40,000 per year.

Person B is a massage therapist charging $60 an hour.   IF Person B worked the same number of hours –2080– they would earn $124,920 a year.

So, you see, we don’t compare on the number of hours worked. Many people who get into massage therapy do so because of the flexibility. Full time in massage is considered 15-20 hours a week.

IF we worked 20 massages a week, at $60 an hour for massage, we would bring home $62,400 – still higher than the person working 40 hours a week. That gives the therapist 20 extra hours in the week to do things they love to do – spend time with family, hobbies, etc.  It also gives enough money to buy your own health insurance plan, set money aside for vacation and get a decent savings account (if you are comparing to the $40,000 per year job.

Yes, there are supplies and overhead, taxes and such to pay. But the reality is that working in massage therapy does equate to making decent money while having a flexible work schedule.

Market Saturation

Let’s look at market saturation, as it is often a roadblock regarding massage therapy careers. In 2010, the US Census shows Thurston County having a population of 252,264. It’s tough to get an accurate idea of just how many people get regular massages currently (kind of like herding cats…) But, by some statistics, I’ve seen the number around 25%. That’s a good place to start…

25% of 252,264 leaves us with around 63,066 of the population AVAILABLE for a massage at once a month.

If there were 500 massage therapists in Thurston County, each would have a caseload of 126 clients. That’s a great client load. I could certainly make a living on 126 clients – at 20 massages a week, and charging $60 an hour (but I charge more than that!)
And that number is  just to keep up statistically with the number of people available for a once a month massage.

The reality is, we all could use more than once a month massage treatments to keep up with the life style we are leading. 20 massages a week leaves us with 80 massages a month. If our caseload is 126, we can certainly get enough clients to do 20 a week!
See where I’m going is this? Market saturation isn’t really the issue.

The flip side is that we still have 75% of the population to introduce to the wonderful benefits of massage therapy so the only way to go is up.

On Depth and Strength

For those of you who might be thinking that you aren’t strong enough to give a deep tissue massage, listen up…

Getting adequate depth is really about leverage and bodymechanics. we  can teach anyone how to use his or her body more effectively (without causing harm) to get the proper amount of depth required. At Bodymechanics, we teach theory on why the person believes they need the deep tissue massage – and why that thinking is often not necessary.

That said, we tell our students all the time that there isn’t a client out there worthy of losing their career over.  There are bigger and stronger therapists out there and yes; I would refer out if needed to help a client. Often times though, the client doesn’t understand that deep tissue isn’t always required. Students at Bodymechanics School understand the mechanics of treatment work and have the skills required to explain why deep tissue may be counterproductive to their goals.

Leverage and bodymechanics will do all therapists well!

The same is true for past injuries and range of motion limitations for the therapist. Those with past injuries learn adaptations to work around their limitations and provide a very good massage that doesn’t hurt their body.

We’ve had students graduate with all kinds of limitations: wrist fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, surgeries, leg problems, ankle problems, etc. A good school can work with the limitations and help develop good techniques to help the person excel in massage therapy.

At Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy & Massage, we talk about these problems every day – we dissect the problems, come up with solutions and help students to see that they will have enough clients, regardless of the economy. We help them to understand leverage and how to apply depth. We talk about self-care endlessly, requiring students to both give and receive massage monthly to increase their skills and learn how to take care of their own bodies. I can’t tell you how often I hear of massage therapists who don’t get regular massage themselves. We instill this into our students and require them to receive regular massages as a condition of graduation.

I like to say, I don’t want any one-year wonders. Self-care is something I take very seriously. Every class that we perform bodywork, our instructors look at posture, and leverage and help students become experts not only in helping others, but in helping themselves as well.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you!
Shari Aldrich, LMP FSC
Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy & Massage