adult students studying in massage school

Short answer: No! Massage therapy can be a fulfilling career choice no matter when you begin pursuing it.

An August 2019 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that during the course of a working life, people change jobs an average of 12 times. The reasons for shifting paths vary from better pay, benefits and perks to career advancement. But in some cases, individuals are searching for less stressful jobs or want to find a balance between work and life. Massage therapy as a second career could be the perfect answer.

Pursuing a New Path in Massage School

After she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration, Laurie Sands landed a job in the health care field with hopes of working her way to the top. However, after a few years in the position the organization declared bankruptcy, forcing her to seek employment elsewhere.

“I ended up in human resources and training. Although I was doing well, I didn’t feel fulfilled,” she said. “I was doing payroll and had little customer contact unless I was doing training.”

Sands returned to the health care field at the age of 50, this time working as a principle trainer and instructional designer converting hospital electronic medical records systems. But five years of extensive travel and escalating stress took its toll, prompting her to leave the position.

For 35 years, a desire to become a massage therapist had simmered inside Sands, but she never found the time to pursue her dream. After leaving the hospital position, she began focusing on self-care and underwent yoga teacher training, which catapulted her toward massage school.

When she made the decision to enroll in a massage therapy program, Sands followed the lead of a therapist she had known for almost 40 years and chose Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts. The massage school’s reputation, in-depth programs and range of available internships convinced Sands that she would receive a thorough education and training.

When Sands entered the program, she planned to eventually work in a clinical, chiropractic, physical therapy or orthopedic setting. Her recent internships have introduced her to sports massage, which offers another avenue.

“Right now, I’m leaving my options open,” she said.

Creating a Hybrid Career

The birth of his daughter convinced full-time traveling musician John Taglieri that he needed to find a stable profession that would allow him to spend more time at home.

A tri-athlete interested in fitness and health, Taglieri became a personal trainer and started working at a local wellness center. While he enjoyed helping his clients regain and maintain good health, he witnessed many injuries but legally was not allowed to address them.

“I was familiar with the benefits of massage and thought this would be a perfect avenue to move into to create a hybrid career,” he said. “Massage therapy adds a lot of value to the big picture.”

For Taglieri, massage serves as a second career but also adds to his existing arsenal of health care tools. In addition to offering personal training, he provides sports nutrition counseling, serves as a running coach and will soon be a licensed massage therapist.

After a tour and review of its curriculum, Bancroft also became Taglieri’s massage school of choice. “The instructors set you up for success,” he said. Moreover, the wellness center where Taglieri sees personal training clients is an approved site, so he is able to fulfill some of his internship requirements there.

“I have access to and learn from physical therapists,” he said. “I also spend one day [a week] at a chiropractic office doing prep massage.”

Massage as a Second Career

Ravenflower Dugandzic, owner and director of the Orlando School of Therapeutic Massage and Yoga, told MASSAGE Magazine that more than half of her students are pursuing massage as a second career. To help individuals ascertain that massage is the right second career choice for them, they are presented with thought-provoking questions before enrolling.

“Part of our application online asks questions to get the student thinking more,” she said. “We ask about their personal experience with massage and ask them to describe their emotional and physical readiness to participate in the program. We encourage them to go deeper and think about why massage is a good career for them.”

Dugandzic has found that many students have been on a career track or in a job where they are not valued and are not satisfied that they are serving a purpose.

“They want to give back and contribute to the world,” she said. “A lot of them have received massage and know how really powerful it is and how good it feels.”

The Orlando School does not provide financial aid, so students who enroll are investing in a future they believe will benefit them personally. But Dugandzic finds the older student looking for a second career to be more eager and motivated.

“They are excited to have a new career,” she said. “It can be vigorous as far as the time commitment, especially if they have a family or a job. But the students are willing to sacrifice. They are really working for this education.”

“Because they’ve tried other things, they appreciate this more than a first-timer does,” said Dugandzic. “Sometimes you have to go through experiences you don’t like to appreciate other things.”

Is It Time for a Career Change?

Sands encourages those considering a career change to massage therapy not to hesitate, but to act on their aspirations.

“Research what’s out there and be proactive. There are many [more] careers out there for massage therapists than there were 10 years ago,” she said.

Like Sands, Taglieri advises those looking at massage as a second career to do plenty of research. “Look at all the modalities. Wherever you live, look at several schools and ask questions. Take the time to make sure this is what you want. Go to the schools and meet with administrators,” he said.

Taglieri noted that massage as a second career has been a natural extension of what he has been doing.

“You’d be hard pressed to find anything better,” he said.

About the Author

Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “I’m in Massage School. Is It Too Early to Start Networking?” and “Has Your Massage Oil Gone Bad? Here’s How to Tell.”