Do you need to schedule time to study every day? When you graduate, your employment strategy will include your personality, the setting you wish to work in and the population you wish to work on.
This past decade has seen tremendous growth in the acceptance and opportunities for massage. Some employment opportunities include:
• Asian medicine (acupuncturists') offices
• Assisted-living homes
• Corporate on-site massage
• Cruise ships
• Medical (physicians', chiropractors' and dentists')
• Health clubs
• Hospitals and integrative-medicine centers
• Rehab (physical therapists' and occupational therapists') offices
• Day spas
• Specialty fitness (Pilates, Gyrotonics, yoga) centers
• Sports teams and dance troupes
• Movie sets and theaters
With all of these choices available to new graduates, how do you choose? Many massage therapists work at a combination of places. Many places, such as hotels, are seasonal, but working at different places can ensure a consistent volume of clients.
Your first strategy should be to know yourself. What is your work personality like? Do you prefer working alone? If you do, then a private practice or room rental works best for you. You can charge competitive rates based on your competition and what the market will pay for your services. But with a higher return on your services comes higher risk and overhead.
Do you love traveling? Resorts and cruises are ideal for those who love to travel, but be prepared to work hard. Many companies will hire massage therapists for three to six months. They usually cover room and board and pay a small stipend. In exchange, you will be required to work long shifts, and your recreation time is usually limited to off-hours. You'll also be eating and socializing with the rest of the staff. The trade-off is you'll be spending a few months in a beautiful resort or cruising the seas to exotic locales.
Are you interested in the medical arena? Massage therapy is increasingly accepted by the medical community. This acceptance is being driven by two things: more research showing the efficacy of massage; and patients wanting it.
Working in a medical facility, however, is not for every therapist. If you choose to work in a physician's office, you will probably answer to one or two medical professionals. In a hospital, you are usually part of a medical team, which means your treatment is part of a bigger plan for the patient. Most hospitals hire therapists with several years of experience and high grades in biomedical course work.
Are you a natural salesperson? Spas offer therapists an opportunity to earn commissions on product sales. For massage therapists who are not comfortable selling products, this business model may not be ideal. In some cases, massage therapists are given monthly quotas for clients, and some therapists do not want that kind of pressure.
Are you interested in Asian medicine? Find an acupuncture office. You may have learned some Asian bodywork, such as shiatsu, jin shin do, Thai massage or tuina, but finding a place to practice may be difficult. An acupuncturist will be familiar with the principles that underlie Asian bodywork.
Are you interested in working with athletes or performers? You've got to be at the top of your game for these clients. Professional athletes are paid to be at peak performance and they can pay for the best. The strategy here is knowledge and experience. Enlist in more than one sports massage class and volunteer your time at sports events to gain experience.
Are you interested in working with celebrities? If so, recognize your schedule is not your own. You will need to be on call at any time of the day or night, and your sessions will probably be house calls. Some therapists also travel with celebrity clients to different cities, especially if they are tied to a specific project.
Come to terms with your work style and determine the demographic of the type of client you want to work with. Work on as many people as possible and continue learning and adding to your massage skills. These strategies will help your massage career take off.