Congratulations on your decision to become a massage therapist.
I also made that decision, and I would recommend this profession to many people. Your first step to getting on this career path is to choose a massage school that is right for you. I can't overstate the importance of this decision: Where you go to massage school might be the biggest factor in determining whether or not you will have a successful career as a massage therapist—so you need to choose carefully.
Make sure the school you choose is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Next, if you will need financial assistance to help afford massage school, make sure the school offers federal financial aid. Only accredited schools can offer federal financial aid. (Read "Financing Your Massage Education," MASSAGE Magazine, May 2013.)
To choose the best school, look at the educational quality of the program and the career opportunities available to graduates. These two factors are related.
Education Quality & Future Employment
Look at the school's curriculum to make sure it offers training that will prepare you for the massage therapy career you want. Massage therapists work in various settings, including spas, franchises, medical offices, sports clinics, private practice and more. The breadth of opportunities for massage therapists is one of the most attractive aspects of the profession.
If you want to specialize in one area, make sure the school's curriculum has a strong emphasis on that area. If you don't know what you want to do or if you want to practice in various areas, make sure the school teaches a variety of massage modalities. The more modalities you learn, the better massage therapist you will be—and the more career opportunities you will have.
Choose a school that offers a lot of practical experience as part of the curriculum. The best massage therapy schools operate clinics where students have the opportunity to practice on members of the public. The more experience you receive while in school, the better prepared you will be when you graduate.
Do some research on the school's reputation. If your goal is to work in a local day spa, for example, talk to spa directors at some venues you think you'd like to work. Or, if you are interested in working in a clinical setting, connect with local chiropractors. Ask them which schools they recommend and which schools' graduates they like to hire.
If you think you might want to live and work in a different geographical area someday, make sure the school has a good reputation beyond your locality. Find out how long the school—or the main campus of the school, if it is a branch campus—has been in business. The longer a school has been training massage therapists, the more likely it is to have built a solid reputation in the field. Including a prominent and reputable school on your resume will open many doors.
Research all the massage schools in your area and beyond your area, if you are able to consider moving somewhere else to go to school. Sometimes it is worth moving if you can get a better education elsewhere.
Choose Your Massage School
Request information from several schools, to compare programs and school offerings. Then make appointments to visit the schools you think might be a good fit for you. Don't be shy about asking questions and talking to the career-services staff. Ask them what their job placement rate is, and if the staff actively assist graduates in getting jobs or if they just post jobs that come to them. Talk to as many staff members and instructors as you can, and try to get a feel for the campus. The best massage schools feel like a family. It's hard to describe, but you'll know it when you feel it.
Take the time now to make sure this first crucial step in your career as a massage therapist is done correctly—because making the right decision now will have effects on your career for years to come.