Each massage school program has its own orientation and unique offerings, both in the massage styles covered and in preparing students for future employment. Some are science-based, ideal for preparing to work in a medical setting. Some require more clinical practice. Some offer spa courses, whereas others may emphasize energetic healing aspects of massage therapy.
A thorough soul-searching is important, so you can spend your time and money on the most advantageous educational opportunity available to you. To help you formulate your goals and understand the many factors involved in your decision-making process, you can:
- Talk to local massage therapists,
- Spend a day shadowing a massage therapist, or
- Attend a meeting of one of the professional organizations, such as the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals or the American Massage Therapy Association.
In addition, here are several questions to consider when choosing a school.
1. What is your career goal?
Do you want to work in a spa, medical or sports setting? Do you want to combine massage with another career such as being an esthetician or a physical therapist assistant? Do you hope to own your own business or be an employee?
2. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
Writing out your goals before you start looking at schools is a worthwhile exercise. What do you want your workday to be like--do you want your schedule to be fixed or flexible?
3. What type of population do you want to work with?
Would you be thrilled at the prospect of working at a resort, where some of the wealthiest people in the world come for health and wellness promotion? Or do you envision yourself in a private office in a rural area or maybe working with the elderly or in a hospital, working with cancer patients?
4. What personal resources do you have?
You should look at how much money you have for your education and how the length of a program and class hours will affect your work and family schedule. Do you have the time and desire to immerse yourself in a good deal of study of anatomy, physiology and pathology, or do you need a more abbreviated program that can get you right into the workplace?
5. Where do you want to practice?
With the variety of choices available for employment in this field, you might prefer working on a cruise ship or perhaps moving to a resort area. Or would you be interested in opening a business in your own town?
Once you have answered these questions and identified your criteria, you can compare them to each school's features to find the best match. Use your answers as talking points when you visit the campus. Ask about the school's placement rate, and make sure the school is accredited. Check the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) Web site, www.comta.org, for information about accreditation.