So you’ve decided to make it happen: You’re going to be a professional massage therapist! It’s something you’ve always wanted to do – and as a career, it offers so many things that interest you. Other people will directly benefit from your services, and being able to offer that kind of help is hugely appealing. It can also be one of the most flexible careers out there, and it’s a part of the booming wellness industry. You may have a friend or family member who became a massage therapist and loves it. These are all valid reasons to pursue your new career path without ever looking back.

Well, hold on just a second. The first and biggest step toward becoming a professional massage therapist is choosing a school and a course. This is how you’ll acquire the professional skills, knowledge, and certification needed to practice therapeutic massage in your community. But are all of these courses the same? Is there really much difference between them, and is it really necessary to research carefully before signing up?

The answer is yes – taking your time to carefully choose the right program will have benefits that continue for years into your career. On the other hand, choosing a substandard program could fail to give you even the most basic skills for working on your own or being part of a team. Here are 4 questions to ask before you enroll in massage therapy school.

1. What techniques does the school teach?

Every massage therapist has their own style. If you work independently, you’ll be able to offer your own custom menu of massage therapy services. If you work with a team, you may have to offer specific types of massage whether you like it or not. Either way, a good massage therapy school will carefully build your knowledge and techniques in several areas, including Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, reflexology, hot stone therapy, myofascial release, pregnancy massage, chair massage, thai massage, and others.

2. Does the coursework include “hands on” experience?

When it comes to massage therapy, classroom leaning is certainly important – but it’s just not enough on its own. The best schools will offer a constructive mix of classroom teaching and hands-on training with real patients.

3. How long will the program take?

Obviously, you’ll want to know how long the program will take and when you can expect to start earning a living as a massage therapist. But it’s important to maintain a “no shortcuts” mindset in order to give yourself the skills you truly need. Different states have their own requirements for massage therapy courses. In New Jersey, for example, the requirement is 500 hours. You’ll often see the better schools offering programs of 600 hours. Why? Because they really want their students to succeed!

Finding the right answers to your questions

You’ll probably have more than just these four questions when you approach potential massage therapy schools ­– and that’s a good thing. The patience and time taken to answer your questions is an important indicator of how that school will treat you as a student, and how prepared you’ll be for the real world when you graduate. So choose your school carefully, and good luck!

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