3 Main Subsets of Massage Therapy Jobs: Clinical, Sports & Spa

Massage therapy jobs are may not be limited to what many people think. This industry can be as varied as the different types of engineers and what they do.

There are different specializations with massage therapy that allow for different experiences, both for the practitioner and the patient/client. There are options of clinical settings, high end spas and wellness centers, fitness and sports massage therapists, a standard 9-5 type job or a private practice travelling massage therapist with scheduling flexibility.

The different specializations within massage therapy allow for a wide variety of employment opportunities. Massage therapy jobs also pay very well, which is one of the main reasons more and more people are looking at becoming professional massage therapists.

Clinical/Medical Massage Therapy

As massage therapy has professionalized over the last decade it has also become more accepted as a mainstream medical and health care option.

Studies have proven that massage for relaxation helps many physical and mental ailments, just as other studies have shown the usefulness of massages for treatment of a wide variety of physical injuries and conditions like joint pains etc.

Massage has proven to reduce pain, stiffness, increase mobility and help in recover from certain range of motion injuries.

Clinical or medical massage therapy can be performed in a wide range of medical and healthcare facilities including:

  • Hospitals
  • Hospice centres
  • Physiotherapy offices
  • Medical clinics
  • Chiropractor clinics
  • Naturopathic Doctors

So what can you expect when working in a clinical massage therapy position? There are a number of differences, the biggest being the natural clinical feel of working in some of these offices, clinics, or hospitals.

Some of the other differences deal with the physical space and atmosphere within a clinical setting over a traditional wellness center, spa, or home visit. The look and feel will be much different especially when working in a hospital environment.

Your practice space will not be dimly lit with a relaxing atmosphere, but rather brightly lit with a number of medical machines, charts, graphs, all interconnected and loud.

You may not need a specialized massage bed like you see in massage clinics, and rather have to practice on the patient within the confines of the hospital bed they are on. The fact that they are a patient and not a private client also presents interesting differences.

Scheduling around other healthcare professionals can be somewhat chaotic in a hospital setting as opposed to a more structured schedule in private massage practice.

Fitness/Sports Massage Therapy

One of the early advances in massage therapy was its inclusion into the regimen of physical sports teams as a way to relax, heal, and prevent repetitive strain injuries. It was recognized that massage therapy techniques, if applied appropriately to certain muscle groups would actually aid in reducing recovery time between sport events allowing athletes to compete at a higher level.

Fitness and sports massage therapists work in a number of physical and sport related teams, clinics and offices. These could include a professional sports organization, sports injury related clinics and in specialized sports medicine offices.

Sports massage therapists need to be in a good physical shape because the demands of this subset are extreme. Professional athletes require much more aggressive hands-on therapy because of the level of their physical demands.

Also professional athletes are better equipped to understand the mechanics of their bodies and expect their massage therapist to respond to these demands. An increased knowledge of physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology is required when working in this subset.

Therapists are generally not trying just to relax muscle groups but also attempting to prevent muscle and ligament strain injuries by providing extra stretching and deep compression massage.

Spa & Wellness Massage Therapy

The largest segment and most chosen subset of massage therapy is that of spas and wellness centers. The largest consideration in this subset includes garnering a loyal client base that can support your career aspirations and financial goals.

This also largely depends on the spa or wellness center where you are employed. Some of these businesses are very good at attracting high-end clientele and maintaining those relationships, while others struggle to maintain their clientele either because of service issues or pricing considerations.

Before you consider a massage therapy career in the spa and wellness subset there are some downfalls to be aware of. The first is that spas are usually busiest in the evenings and on weekends, so if you are looking for a 9-5 type job, a spa would not be the right choice.

The service level demands can be higher and time between massages is lesser with a 50 minute massage followed by a 10 minute break before the next 50 minute massage being the norm. Hourly wages also tend to be lower as spas have a high cost of space and overhead to absorb. Steeper sales goals are also very common in this space, which massage therapists are expected to meet.

But of course, with any disadvantages there are also advantages to be considered. The type and diversity of both the clientele and massage techniques utilized within the spa and wellness therapy category are the best in the industry.

If you are passionate about what you do, this is definitely a great career choice. Most spas also come with a great benefits package including paid vacation time, health benefits, and pensions. Although hourly wages are lower, the support staff you have within the spa take care of most of the administrative tasks such as booking, accounting and other daily business operations leaving the massage therapist to focus only what they love doing best.

Lastly, you have a choice of being an employee or subcontractor within this particular industry subset. The difference in the two are generally around how you get paid, your scheduling flexibility, ability to work in multiple establishments, etc. There are also some financial/tax related considerations that you should speak to your accountant about when considering being employed (you receive a W2 form at the end of the year) or working as a contractor (you receive a 1099 form at the end of the year).

Summary

Before you set off in a career in massage therapy you need to choose a subset within the industry to specialize in. The three mentioned above are the main three areas of specialization within massage therapy.

With that said, you are not limited to just these three choices. Within those three, there are more specialized areas and modalities you can consider. These get at a more granular level within each of the three blanket subsets mentioned above.

Further, if you make a choice and want to change directions later or throughout your career, you can do so successfully with further continuing education.

The most important thing to do initially is to become certified, and then diversify your skill set to progress professionally. This is the best way to ensure your continued success within the massage therapy industry.


Want to Multitask? Watch this article in video format or simply play it in the background and listen to it while you work away

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Courses - Specialties, Jobs

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