Are you currently in an entry-level massage therapy job and want to take your career to the next level? Do you want to break into the burgeoning health-care industry and practice in a medical setting, such as a hospital, nursing home or sports-medicine facility? Perhaps you have a love of animals and want to practice in the growing field of canine massage. Or, maybe you need to fulfill an education requirement. If any of the aforementioned cases are true, then continuing education is what you need.
There are several continuing education options from which to choose, and these courses are specifically designed for massage therapists to keep current with trends, satisfy curiosity and engage in new areas of exploration, such as prenatal, canine, sports, Eastern massage or medical massage. In fact, 80 different types of massage, or modalities, exist according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Taking continuing education classes will not only benefit you as a person, but it also will benefit your practice. By learning new modalities, you can specialize in specific populations and increase your clientele. This provides the opportunity to increase your hourly rate depending on the type of massage you perform. Also, the more knowledge, comprehension and application of massage techniques you have, the more you will be able to define your clients' needs and support them with massage therapy. This allows you to make a more specific pre-massage assessment, which directly benefits clients and increases the possibility of them becoming repeat clients.
There are three main reasons for taking continuing education courses: to obtain an advanced massage therapy degree; to obtain advanced certification in massage therapy; and to obtain continuing education credits in order to renew your state license or professional membership.
Let's take a detailed look at each one of these reasons.
1) Advanced massage therapy degree
An advanced degree, such as an Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) degree, is geared toward students who want to explore advanced concepts in human anatomy and physiology, including neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, medical massage and other topics not covered in a basic training massage therapy certificate program. An advanced degree is ideal if you want to practice massage in a medical setting. Here are some examples of courses required to obtain an AOS degree:
- Medical massage. In this course, the study of advanced pathophysiology and critical thinking skills are combined with specific, practical hands-on techniques. Students learn treatment methods specifically geared toward clients with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia and postsurgical conditions.
- Trauma and the body. This course introduces the major concepts of post-traumatic stress, and outlines the benefits of massage therapy to survivors of trauma. Students learn techniques that help restore a sense of balance in the nervous system, as well as foster reconnection for survivors who often experience intense physical reactions, memories and a sense of disconnectedness from their body.
- Craniosacral therapy. Students will learn the fundamental skills that serve as the foundation of craniosacral therapy, including an introduction to the core anatomical and physiological relationships of the craniosacral system: the fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid, body articulations, reciprocal tension membranes, dural tube and spinal cord dynamics, and the motility of the central nervous system.
2) Advanced certification in massage therapy
Advanced certificate programs are designed for students who have completed basic training in massage. Students take advanced coursework in deep-tissue massage; energy work, such as reiki and qigong; Eastern styles, such as shiatsu and Thai massage; and spa-body treatments. This postgraduate training allows students to choose a focused track of specialization, mastering techniques that are immediately applicable and beneficial to clients, such as spa elements, prenatal, labor and postpartum massage, canine massage, orthopedic and sports massage, as well as energy healing. Continuing education hours are earned for each module taken.
3) Continuing education credits required to renew your state license or professional membership
The majority of states require you to have a license to practice massage therapy, and renewal of the license requires you to obtain massage continuing education. Even if you practice massage in a state that does not require continuing education, it is important to continually be challenging yourself, learning more about your profession and, ultimately, becoming more successful in healing others through the power of touch.
How to find continuing education courses in your area
- Determine the continuing education requirements in your state by contacting your state licensing authority. The state licensing board may list approved providers on its website; if not, you can search online for approved providers.
- Determine the continuing education requirements of your professional association. The association should list approved providers on its website; if not, you can search online for approved providers.
- After completing a course, be sure to keep your completion certificate on file, even if your state licensing board or professional association doesn't require you to submit proof of taking the course. If the state licensing board or association is audited, you may be asked to provide proof of completion.
Whether you choose to take continuing education classes to advance your career or simply for credits, the purpose of continuing education remains the same: it ensures massage therapists keep current on new developments in the field and continue improving their skills in order to help others.