Wading through the numerous online offerings of massage home-study courses can be a daunting task without asking yourself a couple of questions first. To narrow the field and better suit your needs as a massage therapist, ask yourself, “What do you want to gain from the course, and why?”

To address the former, are you wanting to expand the scope of your practice or just keep up with your continuing education requirements?

When choosing a course, check the websites of your national and state licensing bodies to make sure the courses you select are acceptable for your continuing education credits. By visiting their site or by calling the governing body in your area, you can find out if a selected course is really worth your time.

The websites of the three major massage associations–the American Massage Therapy Association, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals and International Massage Association–are good sources to also start your search.

Now for the next mental step in your selection process: Why do you want to take a home-study course? Is it solely to meet your required continuing education needs or to expand your practice?

Also, take the time to evaluate the needs of your current clientele. By knowing this vital information, you can tailor your education to meet those demands.

Or, if you are looking to expand into a niche market and gain new clients, you can opt for one of many online courses. If you want to expand your practice and gain knowledge in a new field of massage therapy, what are your interests?

If your interest lie in helping pregnant mothers, check out a course on pregnancy and prenatal massage. In those courses you can learn acupressure and reflexology techniques, proper body positioning, anatomical, physiological and emotional progression, appropriate practices and types of massage oils to use during treatments. Or if you like working with athletes, you can take a course in sports massage or sports taping.

Through sports massage, you can learn a blend of Swedish and Shiatsu massage, or techniques like lymphatic massage, trigger point massage, compression massage and cross-fiber massage techniques, which all apply to athletic injuries.

Keep in mind that massage techniques aren’t the only home-study courses available. There are a wide array of business management, ethics and marketing courses to grow your practice and hone your business skills.

–Jeremy Maready