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As the oldest and largest massage therapy school in Atlanta, GA, we’re obviously biased when we say this, but becoming a massage therapist is a great career choice.
It’s a bold statement, but it’s one we make based on more than 40 years of experience in the massage industry. Our proudest accomplishment isn’t just having produced over 3,000 professional massage therapists to date but also seeing how a career in massage therapy has allowed these individuals to thrive on a personal and professional level.
For example, Janet Constantino graduated from Atlanta School in Massage in 2001 and now runs Corporate Massage Kneads, the largest corporate chair massage business in Maryland.
ASM provided an exceptional education and gave me confidence to succeed as a massage therapist and operate my own business chair and table massage to corporate clients! – Janet Constantino, Founder and CEO, Corporate Massage Kneads
Massage therapy has allowed our alumni, like Janet, to do great things, because massage therapy offers many rewards and career paths not found in other jobs. Some of the benefits of being a professional massage therapist include flexible schedules, low stress levels at work, a solid earning potential, and even the ability to go into business for yourself!
Unsurprisingly, massage therapists report an extremely high job-satisfaction rate.
However, beyond any tangible benefits, massage therapists get to go to work each day knowing that they will make a difference in the lives of other people. In short, massage therapy enables them to live their special calling as healers.
But unlike most medical and healthcare professions, starting a massage therapy career doesn’t require a 4-year degree or previous work experience of any kind. In fact, most schools of massage therapy take less than a year of full-time study to complete! For example, at the Atlanta School of Massage, our full-time massage program can be completed in just 8 months!
Now What? And while we would love to just start pitching our massage training program to you right now, we have to be honest and upfront about everything – becoming a licensed massage therapist (LMT) is a relatively straight forward process, but like most things in life, the reality is much more complex and messier than that.
For starters, even if you’re pretty set on making massage your new career, and want to enroll in massage school right now, you should know that not all training programs are the same, and choosing the right massage therapy school is a critical step to launching a successful massage career.
Additionally, we have only briefly mentioned some benefits of being a professional massage therapist, but we haven’t discussed some common downsides of the job, including physical burnout (or how LMTs deal with them).
But don’t let any of this scare you away! Massage therapy really is a great career path, and we have seen 1,000s of people change their lives because of it. But any career change, especially one that requires returning to school, isn’t something to take lightly.
That’s why we made this awesome massage therapy career guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of the industry, from learning how to become a massage therapist, picking the right massage therapy school, to various career information.
This way, you can make an informed decision about deciding whether a rewarding career in massage therapy is right for you.
What is Massage Therapy? The very first thing that you should be aware of if you’re thinking about becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist, is to know what massage therapy actually is. The answer may seem obvious, but it’s probably a little more complicated than you may think.
The word massage literally means “to touch,” and most people would generally define massage as a kind of healing treatment that primarily utilizes human touch. This is true, but ultimately it doesn’t reveal any knowledge or understanding about an actual healing mechanism.
For example, deep tissue massage, which utilizes firm pressure to soften tense tissues requires knowledge of Western anatomy and physiology to apply correctly. Conversely, Japanese Shiatsu mainly utilizes light touch and does not require much knowledge of Western anatomy, but rather a knowledge of Oriental Medicine.
It is obvious that deep tissue therapy and Japanese Shiatsu are very different, yet both utilize touch as the means of healing, meaning they’re both technically “massage.” However, formal distinctions had to be made for legal, educational, and public health regulation.
And in a nutshell, we ended up with a distinction between massage therapy and bodywork. Massage therapy (proper) typically refers to modalities that work via soft tissue manipulation of the body tissues and utilize knowledge of western medicine and anatomy. Meanwhile, other touch therapies that utilize a different body of knowledge, like Shiatsu, were grouped under the umbrella term of bodywork.
State Regulation: Keep in mind that the above are just general definitions. Massage therapy, like all other medical and healthcare practices in the US, has a scope of practice that’s legally defined and regulated at the state level, usually by a governing body known as a State Board of Massage Therapy. The ultimate purpose behind state regulation is to help protect the general public from getting hurt by unqualified practitioners, which is why most states require a license to legally practice massage therapy, and why massage therapists are professionally referred to as Licensed Massage Therapists or LMTs for short.
In Georgia, massage therapy is regulated by the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy, which legally defines massage therapy as “the application of a system of structured touch, pressure, movement, and holding to the soft tissue of the body in which the primary intent is to enhance or restore health and well‐being,” and states that:
Massage therapists must have a knowledge of anatomy and physiology and an understanding of the relationship between the structure and function of the tissue being treated and the total function of the body.
These legal definitions of massage therapy are important because they serve as the basis for setting the educational requirements necessary for licensure, which will become super relevant when we discuss how to evaluate massage therapy schools later.
But for now, just know that all Licensed Massage Therapists in Georgia are required to know western anatomy and training in common modalities, such as Swedish Massage. However, you’ll be free to pursue other bodywork modalities and offer those professionally once you’re an LMT. In the meantime, start thinking about your career goals and start thinking about how to you want to structure your career, which will help you determine if a certain massage school is right for you.
Now that we’ve discussed what massage therapy actually is, let’s discuss how to become a massage therapist.
Remember that massage therapy is regulated at the state level. This means that each state will set its specific requirements in terms of licensure. Because ASM is located in Georgia and it’s where most of our alumni practice after graduation, we will focus on how to become a massage therapist in Georgia. However, if you’re from another state, worry not. The specifics vary between states, but the general requirements are fairly consistent across states.
To become a massage therapist in Georgia, you will need to meet the licensing requirements set by the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy. It is a relatively straight forward 3-step process:
Step One: Complete Massage Therapy School – The first step in your career path to becoming a massage therapist is to apply and graduate from a massage school or training program approved by the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy. Currently, there are 14 massage therapy programs that are approved by the board, including the massage program at the Atlanta School of Massage.
These programs are designed to introduce students to the study of massage therapy and bodywork and to prepare them for entry-level work as professional massage therapists. This means you don’t need any specific job training or classwork before enrolling in massage school. However, you will need a high school diploma or GED. Some schools may require that you pass a background check before being admitted.
The Georgia Board of Massage Therapy requires massage training programs to be a minimum of 500 hours long, although the best-ranked programs far surpass these minimum requirements. You expect to devote anywhere from 7-months to 1.5 years of study, depending on the specific program and your class schedule frequency (full-time vs part-time).
As a massage therapy student, your time in school will begin with classroom learning. You will learn the necessary knowledge and skills needed to understand the human body and the application of massage therapy, such as anatomy, physiology, and pathology.
Over time, your classes will become more hands-on. You will devote hundreds of hours to mastering specific modalities, such as Swedish and deep tissue massage. Eventually, you’ll begin treating real patients in your massage school’s clinic, which is where you will develop the healing skills needed to succeed as a professional massage therapist.
Towards the end of the program, you will also prepare to take the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
Step Two: Pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) – The second step needed to become a Licensed Massage Therapist in Georgia after completing an approved training program is to pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, commonly often abbreviated as MBLEx. The MBLEx is a national-board examination administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), which is the recognized o organization in the US that oversees the professional regulation of massage therapy. A total of 49 states, including Georgia, require passing the MBLEx for licensure.
The test content itself consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and is timed to be completed in 2 hours. It is administered on a computer at an authorized testing center.
If there’s a particular massage therapy school you’re considering attending, ask what the most recent MBLEx pass-rate is. A high pass rate may suggest a high quality of education.
Step Three: Apply and receive state license to practice massage – Once you pass the MBLEx, you will need to submit an online licensure application and pay a $125 fee to the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy. You will also be required to submit additional paperwork, including a criminal background check, fingerprints, and proof of liability insurance.
However, once you’ve submitted a complete application, you should have your state massage therapy license within 25 business days! Congratulations, you’re now a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Georgia!
Now that we’ve discussed how to become a massage therapist in Georgia, we’ll look at some career aspects of the massage therapy profession.
Healing the World: While massage therapy is a specialized profession, the instinct to heal using the power of human touch and therapeutic massage has always been present. And so, aspiring massage therapists have a desire to heal that is more a mere interest – it’s a vocation or calling to fulfill, and massage therapy is just how this calling is answered.
Even today, with all the medical advancements available to us, many patients turn to massage therapists to help treat a variety of issues, such as chronic muscular pain and general anxiety disorder. Being able to treat patients with their hands and seeing the positive impact that massage has on their lives is a part of what makes a career in massage therapy meaningful.
High Job-Satisfaction: Professional massage therapists report having an extremely high job satisfaction rate. This is because a career in massage therapy offers rewards not commonly found in other healthcare careers.
For example, massage therapists generally have flexible work schedules, which gives them more free time to spend with their families or to pursue other activities. Additionally, massage therapists genuinely enjoy their jobs and report low-stress levels at work, which is great for mental and emotional health. As such, it is unsurprising that massage therapists report having a great work-life balance.
Variety of Work Settings: Unlike many medical and healthcare careers that are commonly regulated to a single work environment, Licensed Massage Therapists can work in a variety of settings, depending on the interests and career goals of the individual therapist.
Some places where LMTs work includes:
The setting also dictates the modalities you will be utilizing the most. For example, a massage therapist at a spa may use Swedish and chair massage regularly, while a therapist in a chiropractic clinic may use Neuromuscular Therapy more often.
Knowing the environment you will want to eventually work in can help guide your massage career progress early on, such as choosing a massage school that offers certifications in areas that match your interests, and that can give you an advantage when applying for jobs after getting your massage therapy license.
Income Potential: In addition to flexible schedules and being able to work in a variety of environments, a career in massage therapy can also improve your income potential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most recent median annual wage for Massage Therapists was $42, 820. This is more than the median annual wage in the US of $39, 810, and greater than the median annual wage of other healthcare support occupations, which was $35, 860. Additionally, the BLS reports that the job outlook for massage therapy is bright and predicts that the number of massage jobs is predicted to grow by 21% through 2029.
Not bad for a career that only requires a few months of schooling!
Like all other careers, being a massage therapist has some drawbacks, and we would be amiss not to discuss them.
Perhaps the most common downside to being a massage therapist is the physical toll of the job. Being a massage therapist (obviously) requires that you use your hands and fingers constantly. As such, it is common for the job to take a physical strain on therapists.
The best way to avoid physical burnout from the job is to practice injury prevention. During your time at our Atlanta massage school, you will learn to use proper body mechanics to avoid hurting and overstraining yourself, such as proper posture on the massage table. Additionally, you will learn to better read your own body and know when to take breaks, and apply extraneous treatments when necessary, such as ice and pain relief creams.
Another challenge of being a massage therapist is income inconsistency. A downside of having a flexible schedule is that your income is often client-dependent, which means that income can fluctuate at times. This is especially true if you work in an industry that heavily relies on seasonal tourism, such as cruise ships or spas in certain areas.
To maintain a steadier income, you will need to learn to plan for upcoming periods of “downtime,” and adjust accordingly. For example, if you’re a massage therapist at a spa that gets busy during the summer, but dies down during the winter, you can maintain a steadier income by working events or marketing yourself for in-house call appointments during this time.
It’s also important to note that according to one survey of over 1,000 Licensed Massage Therapists, 51% did agree that inconsistent pay was the most dissatisfying part of the job, but they also stated that it was a moderate issue, rather than a severe one, which suggests what we already knew – that the benefits of being a massage therapist far outweigh the challenges of the profession.
If you have a desire to help people, an interest in medicine, and are looking for a flexible and fulfilling career that fits your lifestyle, then a career in massage therapy may be right for you.
Becoming a great massage therapist begins with choosing a great massage therapy school. Regardless of your goals, the Atlanta School of Massage in Atlanta, GA has the reputation and offers the education and career support to help you succeed professionally!
Reputation: At the Atlanta School of Massage, we have built a reputation over the past 31 years that’s second to none. We are the oldest and largest massage school in Georgia, and to date, have proudly produced over 3,000 massage therapists!
We are a nationally accredited college, and our education meets the highest standards of the industry, which is reflected in our high MBLEx pass rate average. The Atlanta School of Massage is also proud to have a research partnership with Emory University, whom we assist with for clinical research concerning the measurable effects of massage therapy on various populations.
This makes us one of the only massage schools in the nation that has a partnership with a major research university, which says a lot about the high quality of our institution, instructors, and curriculum as a Georgia massage school!
Education: Employers hire candidates with proven skills. That’s why our massage therapy training program grants four different professional massage therapy certifications to showcase your skills and help you stand out when applying to jobs!
All our massage students get trained and certified in:
Career Assistance: Some schools never communicate with you after graduation. However, at the Atlanta School of Massage, we offer a lifetime of career services to our grads! We work hard to help you land your first job and provide plenty of networking opportunities during the school year, such as career fairs and employer visits.
After you graduate, we continue to help you succeed by giving you access to our private job board. Additionally, you will always be free to reach out to our Career Services Coordinator for personalized job search assistance.
If you’re ready to begin a rewarding career in massage therapy or simply want more details about the massage program at the Atlanta School of Massage in Atlanta, GA, give us a call at 770-203-0210 or just the button below to schedule a campus tour!