March 15th, 2010 in Jobs
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The current state of the economy has resulted in job loss concerns, pay decreases, a housing crisis, individual and business bankruptcies and a range of other issues. These concerns are compounded by the present political tensions, constant terror threats and rapidly changing environmental issues. Add to these general worries the daily stressors of work, family, and endless responsibilities which must be attended to with a limited amount of time and resources and it is astounding that the majority of the population manages to remain sane. The need and demand for professional services which provide relief from the mental and physical effects of living in an increasingly fast paced and frantic society is substantial. Massage therapy is the profession which responds to this need and, as a result, is experiencing substantial job growth.
Massage therapists use touch to provide relief from both mental and physical stress and to promote health. There are more than eighty types of massage, labeled modalities, each of which attends to a different problem or area of the body. These include Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, acupressure, sports massage, neuromuscular massage and reflexology. Some modalities are intended to provide stress relief, enhance relaxation or to treat muscle injuries. Massage therapists often select an area of specialization and sometimes choose to work exclusively with certain types of clients; such as pregnant women, elderly clients or athletes. Specialization allows massage therapists to develop an expertise in a specific area which can translate into more clients.
Job growth, according to the United States Department of Labor, is expected to increase substantially in the massage therapy profession. The increase of job openings will be much more rapid for the massage therapy profession than for many other professions. The projected increase of 19 percent over the next eight years is directly attributed to all of the stressors and factors discussed previously. The demand for massage therapy professionals and massage therapy is causing an increase in the number of spa and resort facility openings. Massage clinics, a cheaper alternative to spas and resorts, are also experiencing an increase in the number of facilities opening. The affordability of these clinics is making massage services accessible to a larger segment of the population and correspondingly increasing the number of individuals seeking the services of a massage therapy professional.
The massage therapy profession requires skills in a number of areas. High school students will need to complete the requisite courses necessary for graduation. The courses in mathematics, science, social studies and English provide students with a general knowledge base of information necessary to be successful in any field. These courses also develop specific skills in communication, problem solving and analytical and critical thinking. Completing the college preparatory curriculum is helpful; even if the student doesn’t expect to attend a traditional college. The rigorous curriculum ensures students have the opportunity to attend, if not immediately after high school, in the future. Choose elective courses in business, technology and computers. These courses will provide valuable knowledge which is useful to every individual who will work outside their home.
A successful massage therapist will need to possess certain knowledge in order to become proficient in the essential areas of the field. A general knowledge of anatomy will be necessary. Take care to pay attention in biology and science courses when anatomy is being taught. A general understanding of how the body systems work will make the individual more effective at massage. Developing an ability to read people and to put them at ease is also important. A massage therapist must be able to interpret what a client is expecting and seeking from a massage; relaxation, pain relief due to injury or sore muscles, even restoration and rejuvenation. These types of skills are acquired through an understanding of people and even business. Psychology and social studies courses are invaluable in achieving this end. Business courses remind of the importance of developing this type of intuition.
Choosing the right school is essential to success in nearly every field. Massage schools are for profit institutions and as such, the potential and actual profit may be the primary interest of the school instead of the education of its students. It is important to choose a reputable institution which provides all of the necessary information, training and courses to ensure the individual will be equipped with what is needed to perform the functions of the job and to become licensed, if required. Choose an accredited massage school. Accreditation is usually approved by a state board. Independent accrediting agencies also evaluate and accredit massage schools. A massage school which adheres to a curriculum compliant with the state board licensing requirements will make the licensing process easier when the time comes.
The massage school curriculum will require both academic study and practical experience. All core areas of study should be included in the curriculum. The academic areas of study will include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, organs and tissues, body mechanics, ethics and business management. Many schools offer the option of concentrated study in a particular modality of massage. Students will complete experiential training with massage techniques. The programs usually stipulate a specific number of hours that must be completed in academic study and practical application of massage techniques in order to graduate. The average length of time is approximately 500 hours.
To determine if the massage school you are considering will meet the requirements to permit you to take the NCBTMB certification exam, go to this link. You can enter the school name, city and state to find if it has met the high standards of excellence required to earn a school code from the agency. Only certificate or degrees from schools with a school code will earn an applicant a place for testing without a portfolio review.
The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is one of the chief certifying agencies for massager therapy. The certification exam administered by the agency is accepted by most of the states requiring certification for licensure. There are two exams with different content; the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Deciding which test to sit for will depend on the applicants intended area of practice. In order to be eligible to sit for the exam the individual must complete a minimum of 500 hours of instruction. The areas of instruction should include:
- 125 hours of body systems (anatomy, physiology and kinesiology)
- 200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application, in-class and supervised
- 40 hours of pathology
- 10 hours of business and ethics (minimum of 6 hours in ethics)
- 125 hours of additional instruction in an area or related field that theoretically completes the massage program of study
The applicant must complete the standardized test to ‘demonstrate a mastery of cores skills, abilities and knowledge.’ The fee for the exam is $225. A background check is performed prior to the issuance of the authorization letter for testing acceptance. The test will include content in all of the above areas and include questions regarding professional standards, ethics, business and legal practices. Those who successfully pass the exam are required to adhere by the NCBTMB’s strict code of ethics and standards of practice. Recertification must be completed every four years. Candidates who pass the test and become certified will be required to complete continuing education requirements to maintain their certification. Six hours of ethics study from an NCBTMB approved provider are required along with 48 continuing education hours and 200 hours of work. More information can be found at their website.
Licensing requirements exist in the majority of states. These regulations and requirements protect the public by creating and enforcing health, safety and welfare standards to which the industry must comply. The regulations help eliminate possible fraudulent and unethical actions by the industry professionals. At least 42 of the states have laws regulating the massage therapy profession. Regulations or qualifications for licensing usually require a certain number of hours of instruction, the successful completion of the certification exam offered by one of the massage therapy national regulating bodies or the state boards, and a specific number of hours of practice in the field. It is important to check the state website to determine the licensing, certification and accreditation regulation prior to choosing which school to attend. You can obtain information on the licensing requirements for your state through this link.
Employment opportunities are available in a range of settings. Spas, resorts and sometimes health clubs offer massage therapy services to their members, guests and clients. Other potential employers may include doctor’s offices, hotels, recreational sports centers and chiropractic centers. The majority of those working in the massage therapy field were self-employed; working as independent contractors. These individuals either go to their client’s homes or have them come to theirs. Some self-employed massage therapists own their own businesses that provide massage therapy services. These types of services are offered across the country and around the world; providing extensive location flexibility. The demand for these types of services will be more concentrated in cities and near resort locations.