Is Massage Therapy School Difficult?

Woman at massage therapy school

Massage therapists heal through the power of touch. Embraced by the mainstream medical community as a drug-free way to treat pain and stress, massage therapy is a multi-billion dollar industry and growing. If you’re motivated by wellness, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The key to success is getting the best education but you might be wondering, is massage therapy school difficult?

Is Massage Therapy School Difficult?

Education is never easy. Learning new things and pushing out of your comfort zone can be tough. But as a student, you’re exchanging your time and money for skills, so going to school wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t challenging. For students with a passion for wellness, massage therapy programs are intense but exciting, demanding but not grueling and engaging but not difficult.

What Do I Need to Do to Become a Massage Therapist?

Becoming a massage therapist requires two steps:

Step #1: Graduate from a Diploma Program

A diploma from a vocational school in massage therapy is all you need to take the next step, passing the MBLEx exam.

Step #2: Pass the MBLEx Exam

Massage therapists are expected to be competent in their field. The MBLEx, or Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, is a nationally recognized certification exam used by most states, including Minnesota, to evaluates graduates’ understanding of key massage concepts. Administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, a passing grade qualifies students who’ve met all other criteria for certification. The good news is, vocational schools “teach to the test,” so a large portion of graduates pass on their first attempt.

What Do I Learn in Massage Therapy School?

There is a lot to learn during a massage therapy program. You will learn medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, massage techniques, kinesiology, pathology, clinical lab, and professional business practices.

Medical Terminology

Science has a language of its own, and if you don’t have a medical background, it’s challenging to learn. There are hundreds of thousands of terms, far too many to memorize. Instead, medical terminology courses teach you how to make sense of words based on their four parts, so analyzing any term is stress-free.

Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy is the study of how the body is made; physiology looks at how it functions. As a massage therapist, you’ll collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to achieve wellness for your clients, so having an understanding of the 12 body systems and how they work together is essential.

Introductory Massage Technique

You have to walk before you can run. Introductory Massage Techniques teaches you the fundamentals of massage, from draping and positioning to hygiene and hand techniques. You’ll learn about the history of massage and its most popular forms. It’s foundational to the rest of your education, and you’ll continue to build on these skills in more advanced courses.

Kinesiology and Pathology for Massage

Kinesiology is the study of human movement. Since massage therapists treat problems associated with skeletal muscle dysfunction, the course also includes a pathology primer to familiarize students with the most common muscle disorders, including acute injury, weakness, and stress-related muscle pain.

You will learn how to assess patients for balance, mobility and stability, plus other factors that could affect why patients feel symptoms. Once exclusively physical therapists’ domain, incorporating kinesiology principles into massage is now an expected and holistic approach.

Advanced Massage Techniques

Once you have a grasp of massage basics, the advanced massage techniques course covers bodywork in-depth. You’ll learn more about the most popular types of massage:

  • Swedish
  • Shiatsu
  • Aromatherapy
  • Hot stone
  • Trigger point
  • Reflexology
  • Sports
  • Prenatal

It’s during this class that many massage therapists fall in love with one type of bodywork or another. By the time it’s over, you’ll be better able to envision a path for your individual practice.

Clinical Lab and Practicum

No education would be complete without a chance to practice new skills in the real world. Select vocational schools have student-run massage clinics, others partner with local practices to allow students to work with clients. It’s your opportunity to get a complete view of both the practical and business aspects of massage.

Professional Business Practices

Many new startups fail in the first twelve months because of poor business practices. Since many massage therapists work as independent contractors or own their own businesses, embracing professional business practices is a must.

Courses cover topics such as basic accounting and practice management. While an accountant may be necessary to tackle complex business set-ups and tax issues, a massage therapist should grasp the fundamentals of revenue, expenses and cash flow. Financial planning is critical to making sound spending decisions.

Vocational school programs also teach the essentials of customer service because nothing increases profits like taking good care of your clients. Because massage therapy is a holistic practice, the best way to retain customers is to offer an excellent start to finish experience.

Is it Tough Finding a Job as a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapy is a growing industry, generating billions. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says job opportunities for massage therapists are expected to grow more than 21 percent in the next ten years, it’s an unprecedented opportunity.

Employment options include working for yourself, as an independent contractor for an established practice, or for a salary in a hotel, spa or massage franchise. The American Massage Therapy Association also reports that some massage therapists work part-time hours in healthcare settings, including hospitals and hospices, with treatment goals ranging from relief of post-surgical pain to stress management for cancer patients. It’s not unusual for massage therapists to work in more than one place, flexibility is what attracts many students to massage as a career.

But while getting your foot in the door in the massage industry is easy, finding your dream job can be a challenge, everyone starts at the bottom and has to pay their dues. Seasoned massage therapists advise working hard to set yourself apart as an expert in one particular type of massage, whether it’s your passion or a niche in your community. Your skills become more valuable with experience, and soon, the sky’s the limit.

Starting Your Own Massage Therapy Business

Millions of Americans had a massage last year, and millions more would try it if it were more convenient. Massage therapists are capitalizing on that idea by starting their own business.

Vocational school programs give you all the skills necessary for success, and with a little business savvy, you can be your own boss. Business opportunities include starting a practice in a fixed location. The initial investment can be high but setting up shop in a high-traffic area can defray advertising costs, bringing clients right to your door.

Other massage therapists are making the most of portable massage chairs, taking their practice on the road. It’s a business you can start on a small budget. Chair massage is similar to conventional massage except that clients kneel forward in an adjustable chair with padded cradles for the chest and head. And because they remain fully clothed, there’s no need to maintain a private changing area.

A massage chair is inexpensive, lightweight, portable and small enough to store in a closet. Instead of waiting for customers to come to you, put it in your car and bring your services to them. Shopping centers, for example, are offering massage as a value-added service for their customers, while businesses are increasingly paying for short sessions as a wellness perk for employees. However, if traveling to clients, make sure to abide by all city and county regulations for approval and certification.

Final Thoughts

Massage offers proven relief from everyday stress. It’s growing in popularity as an adjunct therapy for stress-related disorders, and as a career opportunity, it’s just hitting its stride, there’s much more room for growth. A massage therapy program can be demanding, but anything worth doing is, and the skills you gain will last a lifetime.

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 with full time enrollment*. 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.

*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.

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