massage career options

Whether you are a seasoned massage therapist or just starting your career, there are a myriad of career options that exist for practicing massage therapy in today’s marketplace. 

When I received my massage license in the mail 12 years ago, I immediately loaded up my car with my table and a couple of résumés and drove to a few local spas without a clue about what to say, who to speak with, or what other opportunities were out there. With a learning curve beginning at the grassroots level, I entered the world of massage administering manual therapy in a vast number of environments, from overlooking the Texas Hill Country in a private villa to working in a medical tent for Olympic athletes after they sprinted to the finish line.

Each environment provided a great deal of benefit and required many different skill sets.

The key to happiness within this industry is to explore what career options may be the best for you, as not every therapist will thrive in the same environment.


Medical Placement

There are not any dimly lit candles or soft music in the medical setting. You will instead be working in a fast-paced, clinical environment. Since you will be working with medical patients, you will need to be able to read notes and be up to speed on any situation you may encounter.

Most often there will not be any equipment, other than supplies such as lotion, that you will take with you, as the medical bed is usually used as the massage table. This may cause your body a different form of muscular stress, so body mechanics will need to be adjusted to prevent injury.

Being able to help people in this setting can also be very rewarding to the soul, as the power of touch can do wonders for those who are in an unfortunate medical situation.


Spa Placement

Candles, tranquil music and a varied menu of services are all part of the spa environment. In this setting, most supplies, including lotion, linens, oils, scrubs and towels, are provided. You will work among a staff that can create a real sense of community.

Thanks to the menu of services, you will be able to diversify your expertise to include treatments such as wraps, scrubs and the spa’s signature services. Be prepared to really strive in this setting, as you will encounter back-to-back sessions and a hefty workload.

It is important to take time to recover and implement self-care throughout the day as you provide a five-star experience to very appreciative clients.


Fitness Center/Gym Placement

If you’re a sets-and-reps type of therapist, then the gym may be the place for you. You will usually work in shorter increments with different outcomes of massage as opposed to other settings. Homework will be one of the many responsibilities that you will have in order to stay ahead of these educated clients and provide proper treatments based on research and practice.

Understanding the sports or activities the client is involved in is extremely important as well. Most athletes will push themselves to the physical limit in order to achieve their goals, so keep in mind there may be a tendency to push your physical limits as well.


Self-Employed Placement

There’s nothing like being the boss—except being the boss. You decide what to charge, when to work, what to wear, whom to work on—and every decision of your business. As the boss, you are also responsible for marketing, rent, supplies, products, staff, scheduling, taxes and all of the challenges that come with owning a business.

If you plan to be a business owner, ensure that you recruit employees who help to build a solid team that has the same vision for your business as you do. You will need to recruit these top-talent employees and find a way to keep them with you. There will be constant motivation, listening, training, complaining and praises of your team, and you will be the one to bear it all.

You will deal directly with customers of all types. Some will give you a hug after their treatment, because you helped them; others will let the world know of their great, or not so great, experience via online review sites and social media. With multiple employees, you will have multiple customers—so make sure you are ready to confidently and compassionately handle all types of customer-related situations.


Franchise Placement

When you work at a franchise, there is no need to worry about marketing, finding referrals, scheduling or getting clients in the door. You can focus solely on massage and your clients—there is no paperwork, scheduling or other tasks that fall on the shoulders of a sole practitioner.

The franchise will generally provide all of the supplies you need. Working with a team of other massage therapists can provide a sense of community and a shared vision, and your coworkers will quickly become your second family. The franchise environment can also offer you the unique opportunity to diversify your expertise and learn from massage therapists who come from a vast array of backgrounds.

Business concepts with membership options promote an important message: Regular massage is essential to overall wellness. You can easily grow with a franchise system, be a lead therapist for recruiting, training and motivating your team, a franchise manager overseeing the operations of the business, a regional consultant making sure your market has what they need, or a corporate team member developing the tools and support for your system to be successful.

Depending on the franchise and your drive, there might also be an opportunity to become the owner of your own location.


Your Path

Everyone is fulfilled by a different type of work environment, but hopefully this will give you a little more insight into today’s career options and on where you plan to practice massage. Whatever path you decide to take, all that I ask is that you enjoy the journey and share the passion.


About the Author

Daniel Jaramillo, L.M.T., is director of massage therapy for Massage Heights.