How Long Does it Take to Become a Certified Massage Therapist?

We live in a fast-paced world — there’s just no two ways about it. People today have more information than ever, and sometimes it seems we also have less time. These factors effect virtually every facet of life, including the educational decisions we make. Recent studies and statistics about student loans and college tuitions have been fast and furious in recent years. People are questioning the time and money they put into various educational programs, and weighing the disadvantages against the benefits. How much it’s going to cost, and how long it’s going to take, are important deciding factors in deciding what kinds of educational programs to pursue.

Massage therapy has emerged as a more viable option than ever for these reason. It’s generally a program that you can get through in less than a year, and the cost is extremely low when compared to something like a liberal arts degree.

And what about the career prospects? Newly certified massage therapists are able to start work almost immediately, whether they’re hired by a spa or massage therapy studio, or deciding to go into business on their own. That’s one of the things we’re hearing more and more in the news lately: Specific trades like massage therapy offer real job prospects and long-term career possibilities right out of the gate, whereas something like a liberal arts degree can be much more difficult to pin down, in terms of long-term economic value.

But let’s back up a minute. Can you actually become a certified massage therapist in less than one year?

The answer is yes — and that’s assuming the program you choose is highly reputable. 600 hours is a good benchmark for education in massage therapy, and schools that offer 600 hour programs usually offer flexible nighttime and daytime options for meeting these requirements. In many programs, enrolling in the fall will have you graduating near the beginning of summer. That means you can be working as a fully trained massage therapist less than one year after starting school — and as many therapists will tell you, the money and career prospects are real. Professional satisfaction and fulfillment also scores high amongst massage therapists.

Well-rounded training

It’s important to realize, however, that choosing your massage therapy certification program is a very important moment. This is the moment when you’ll decide whether to learn from a highly reputable program with a range of modalities, including classroom instruction and supervised field work — or whether you’ll end up in a less reputable program that doesn’t offer the same comprehensive standards of training.

To make sure you find the right program for you, talk to past-graduates and asking the school itself plenty of questions. This is a great way to get a fuller idea of what the school offers and what you can expect as a student and a graduate. There are a lot of massage therapy schools out there, but they’re not all going to give you the same blend of technical and business-related preparation to actually work as a massage therapist in the real world.

3 Common Complaints Against Massage Therapists

As professional massage therapists, we meet a lot of different people. If you’re interested in working as a massage therapist, or if you’ve recently been educated and certified in massage therapy, you’ll find that working with people is a vital part of running a good business. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that people skills have a direct impact on your ability to do well in your practice, whether you’re working solo or part of a team.

1. Too much pressure or not enough

This is the complaint massage therapists hear most often, but there are also a surprising number of cases in which they don’t actually hear about it (even though the complaint exists). People are sometimes reticent to talk directly to the therapist about pressure that’s too firm or not firm enough. Instead, they’ll complain to others after the fact, and/or take their business elsewhere. Actively seeking feedback on the pressure is a good way to do this, since patients are more likely to answer honestly when prompted. The other thing to point out is good, honest training. When you’ve been through a quality massage therapy program with abundant hours of classroom instruction and hands-on practice, your ability to find the right pressure for different patients and different needs is much greater.

2. Smoke, perfume and other odors

Because massage is such a personal experience, with a great deal of physical closeness between therapist and patient, it’s important to pay close attention to odors or fragrances that might cling to clothing or linger in the treatment room. If you’re a smoker (and we hope you aren’t), this can cause a fair bit of discomfort to your patients, and take away from the sense of professionalism. Perfumes and other strong odors should also be avoided. In general massage therapy should only involve natural and unobtrusive fragrances, such as natural essential oils.

3. Lack of focus

This is often a “nebulous” complaint that manifests itself in other ways, including insufficient pressure, or taking time out of the client’s treatment to answer a phone call or use the restroom. Clients are going to think more highly of you and your practice when you stay focus and present throughout the entire duration of the treatment. Being able to do this — especially if you have a full day of treatments to get through — can be challenging. It takes a professional attitude and a good deal of endurance. Legitimate massage therapy schools will address this and many other practical issues involved in being a top-level massage therapist.

Getting to the next level

Massage therapy can be a tough trade — but it’s also one of the most rewarding out there. Being consistent and successful as a practitioner of massage therapy takes practice, patience, and a careful study of common mistakes. If you’re thinking of enrolling in a massage therapy certification program, make sure it’s one that covers all aspects of the business, and gives you the technical as well as the practical skills you need to thrive in the long term.