Is it Hard to Learn Massage Therapy?

students at a massage therapy school

Millions benefited from massage, it’s a billion-dollar industry and poised for continued growth. If you’re enthusiastic about wellness, there’s never been a better time to consider massage therapy as a career. You may be asking yourself is it hard to learn massage therapy? Let a vocational school program put you on the path to success, it’s easier than you think.

Is it Hard to Learn Massage Therapy?

Anything worth doing is worth working for. Vocational schools give full-time students the hundreds of hours of instruction required for licensing in under a year. The pace is brisk, and programs can be demanding. For students with a passion for health and the willingness to work with others, classes are engaging and feel less like work and more like a study group with friends. You’ll grow as an individual while learning new skills that prepare you for an exciting future.

What Qualities Do You Need to Become a Massage Therapist?

Anyone can become a massage therapist, but it’s a better fit as a career for students with specific personal qualities, such as:

Quality #1: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. It’s essential for recognizing how the client feels about getting a massage. Many of the million-plus potential customers who say they’d like to try it don’t because of physical and psychological barriers.

Massage is an intimate service, so it can provoke discomfort, many people, for example, are reluctant to have one because of body image issues. Empathy lets massage therapists evaluate their services from the customer’s perspective, helping them anticipate concerns so they can adapt massages to meet their clients’ preferences.

Quality #2: Passion for Massage

Passion not only predicts a massage therapist’s job satisfaction, but it also helps build their client base. The ability to self-market without being overbearing is a prerequisite for success in business. You’ll need to feel comfortable reaching out to people and discussing the benefits of your services, so the customer develops the same enthusiasm. Passion shows through in everything you do.

Quality #3: A Thick Skin

Massage is a service industry, so the focus is always on the customer. Most clients are pleasant, but others may be challenging to deal with. Part of working as a wellness professional is the ability to accept criticism and use it to improve your practice, so having a thick skin is a plus. Most complaints are not personal.

Quality #4: A Positive Attitude

Clients choose massage to help them relax or relieve pain. As professionals, it’s up to massage therapists to set a positive tone that enhances the experience. Since most of a massage therapist’s income comes from repeat customers, a welcoming demeanor and an upbeat attitude improve the bottom line. Being positive makes you a pleasure to work with.

Quality #5: Open-Mindedness

The world is shrinking. Like healthcare professionals, massage therapists should be culturally competent, meaning that they’re willing to accommodate different expectations for their services.

Personal space, for example, is valued in Western culture, so it’s not unusual for Americans to feel apprehensive about strangers laying hands on their body. Clients from other countries may have strong opinions about disrobing for massages. It’s important to keep an open mind to different requests and find ways to make your client as comfortable as possible.

Quality #6: Flexibility

One of the benefits of being a massage therapist is employment opportunities. You can work for others, franchises, hotels, spas, gyms and more, or start your own practice. Millions of Americans had a massage last year, and many more are open to it if it becomes more accessible. If you’re flexible, success is waiting.

Business opportunities include starting a fixed practice, an office where clients come to you. But the initial investment can be high, so some massage therapists are taking their skills on the road with chair massage. Once you become registered, travel massage therapy gives you the ability to grow your client base beyond those who are in your immediate area. Travel massage is similar to traditional bodywork except that clients kneel on specially equipped portable chairs. Clients stay clothed, so massages can be performed anywhere with less need for privacy.

Chair massage can be a full-time business that boosts your income when table bookings are light. Why wait for clients to come to you when you bring your services to them? Malls and gyms are courting massage therapists to open kiosks to attract customers, while companies are increasingly offering massage as a wellness benefit for staff. Massage is one of the few fields with as much business potential for massage therapists willing to be flexible.

Skills for Success in Massage Therapy

Vocational schools teach practical skills plus the soft skills massage therapists need to be successful in a competitive field, including:

Skill #1: Communication Skills

Massage therapists work with clients to create custom treatment plans, it’s an information exchange process requiring the ability to listen, build rapport and communicate concepts clearly. Comfort with conversation is a must.

It’s easier said than done however but massage therapy school teach therapeutic communication techniques from active listening to evaluating clients’ body language. You’ll learn how to coax thoughts out of clients while enhancing how they perceive you through body language.

It’s also crucial in the digital age to master electronic communication. At least half of people regularly shop for personal services online, and when they have the option, they prefer to communicate via e-mail or text. Whether it’s advertising on social media or reaching out to clients by text with a special offer, messaging should be concise, appealing, timely and relevant.

Skill #2: Physical Stamina

Massage therapy is physically demanding. Massage therapists need upper body strength to apply pressure to stiff muscles, and they spend most of the day standing. A full-body massage can last up to ninety minutes with only a few short breaks. And since sessions are scheduled when clients are available, some days can be long. Being in good physical condition reduces fatigue and prevents injury.

Skill #3: Manual Dexterity

Massage therapists apply pressure to soft tissue with their hands to promote relaxation. Techniques must be precise to have the intended therapeutic effect. It’s a skill that requires both flexibility and excellent hand-eye coordination. Vocational school programs offer plenty of practice, so with time, most students’ dexterity improves. But if you don’t like to work with your hands, massage therapy isn’t for you.

Skill #4: Problem Solving Skills

Massage therapists develop individualized treatment plans for each client, no two are the same. You’ll need to adapt services for people with physical limitations, medical restrictions or time constraints. If a client can’t visit because you’re booked every evening, consider adjusting your hours to free up more time when demand is highest.

Skill #5: Commitment to Learning

The wellness field evolves. Bodywork techniques improve as researchers learn more about their benefits. Successful massage therapists embrace new approaches, honing their skills through continuing education. Membership in professional organizations, gives graduates access to online courses and other resources. Massage therapists with advanced skills attract more clients.

Skill #6: Time Management Skills

Time is money, so generating income requires sticking to a schedule. In massage school, you’ll learn about time management techniques, from prioritizing tasks to avoiding distraction, by practicing in real-world settings. Appointments are often back-to-back, requiring streamlined check-in and check-out processes plus, massage therapists who own their business have managerial responsibility. Making the most of every minute controls personal stress and maximizes revenue.

Skill #7: Business Management Skills

A quarter of business start-ups fail in the first two years because of poor fiscal management. Being your own boss is a perk for massage therapists but working independently means maintaining a financially healthy practice.

You may need to hire an accountant for complex money issues, such as taxes and investing, but you’ll be responsible for tracking income and expenses, paying bills on time and making sound spending decisions based on cash flow.

Vocational school massage therapy programs teach you the basics of business management. Students learn about accounting and graduate with the skills they need to be successful.

Skill #8: Good Hygiene Habits

Bacterial infections can occur via skin and surface contact, so massage therapists need good personal and environmental hygiene habits. Vocational school diploma programs cover the basics of infection control, from sanitizing equipment to screening patients for illness. It’s an essential part of safe practice and critical in states that inspect massage therapy practices for licensure.

Skill #9: Trustworthiness

The public views massage therapy as a wellness service, expectations are similar to those for healthcare providers. Clients trust you with their private medical information, and they want to know you’ll be discrete.

Trustworthiness also extends to the way you do business. Listening, being empathetic, maintaining competency in your field, and keeping your promises builds clients’ confidence.

Skill #10: Customer Service Skills

Serving people with integrity is the key to building a profitable client base. Satisfied customers spend more because they perceive they’re getting a good value for their money, and they’ll refer you to family and friends. Referrals power the massage industry.

What constitutes superior customer service? Punctuality and personalized attention to a client’s wish lists. Flexible hours, prompt communication and a comfortable atmosphere are plusses. Slow response times on inquires and being rushed are the most common complaints. Massage is a personal service, so the most effective way to retain clients is to give them the experience they deserve. Give them more than their money’s worth, and they’ll likely be back.

Final Thoughts

As other careers become obsolete, opportunities in massage therapy are expanding. Demand for massage therapists is expected to rise in the coming decade. The key to success is investing in quality vocational school training, your effort and dedication accomplish the rest. Your future is waiting.

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 12 months. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

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