Schools Offering Medical Massage Degrees
- Average Salary: $35,830
- Job Outlook: 20% growth (faster than average)
All stats from BLS.gov
Massage therapy is a science that uses touch and physical pressure to manipulate the muscles and skin of the body in order to relieve pain, pressure, stress and other ailments. Massage therapy can often be employed as a relieving, comfortable treatment, but in some forms of physical therapy and stress relief, medical massage therapy is used instead to target treatment procedures using advanced medical massage techniques. Medical massage therapists must determine whether or not a massage treatment is the most effective procedure for an ailing client, and if a treatment is enacted, medical massage therapists are responsible for recording the patients response to treatment as well as any discomfort or relief.
Medical massage therapists do use similar techniques to standard massage therapists, but medical massage therapists need to consider all of the health impacts of massage on their clients. Instead of using massage primarily to relieve stress or initiate relaxation for a client, they instead target a client's pain or ailment and use massage techniques to alleviate and treat that pain.
Medical massage therapy students should select an accredited academic training program in order to qualify for licensure upon completion of the program. Therapists use multiple types of treatments like acupressure, sports massage, and neuromuscular and deep tissue massages in order to help patients recuperate, and these different types of massage techniques can sometimes require different certification or licensing procedures.
- Standard Massage Therapy: This specialization is similar to medical massage therapy, but instead, clients are treated for stress and relaxation rather than for treatment of a medical injury.
- Associate Degree: 2 years to complete
- Bachelor's Degree: 4 years to complete
Education requirements for medical massage therapists generally include completion of an associate degree, a specialized training program, and certification from an accredited medical program as deemed necessary by individual state requirements. As of 2009, 42 states and the District of Columbia had laws regulating massage therapy and its implementation in both workplaces and educational programs. Students should check the accreditation, licensing, and certification procedures for their individual state before entering a program.
An associate degree for medical massage therapists is available in some states, but many do not provide the physical hands-on experience or extended hours of work training necessary to enter a minimum of an entry-level career. However, these programs can allow students to take introductory health courses and medical intelligence courses that provide prospective medical massage therapists with some education before they choose to enter a more specified training program. Students who do choose to pursue an associate degree in addition to completing a training program normally complete the degree first in order to gain this introductory background before entering the more intensive program.
Training programs for medical massage therapists and standard massage therapists are very similar; the main difference is that medical massage therapists work to treat conditions that have been diagnosed by physicians or other healthcare practitioners, and they must take additional education in order to understand diagnosis, treatment and patient records and other information. Programs are generally found in postsecondary institutions or some technical institutes, and normally require 500 hours or more of study before graduation. High school diplomas are required for admission, but some programs can require previous experience before admission. These programs introduce students to anatomy, physiology, the studies of organs and tissues, kinesiology, and hands-on practice of massage techniques, normally accompanied with specific medical courses like terminology, diagnosis, patient relations and healthcare improvement. These programs are often specialized, and some even provide postgraduate job placement services in addition to facilitating both full- and part-time students in their training programs.
Since some states do require licensing upon graduation and before practicing massage in a workplace, students should prepare for examination for certification as they prepare to graduate. Examinations can range from state exams to a nationally recognized test like the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination. These examinations are determined by massage therapy licensure boards, and vary from state to state. Depending upon the state license, persistent renewal after a certain period of time may also be required, and many employers and states do require that in addition to this renewal, students also stay up to date on current massage therapy techniques by attending further educational courses. (BLS)
The wages of medical massage therapists are reflected in their self-employed work, gratuities, and few benefits. Many therapists work part time, and these part-time hours can affect their earnings. Those working in hospitals and clinics do not receive tips as often as self-employed therapists.
The median hourly wages of massages therapists were $16.78 in May 2008, and these median wages were earned by those who had completed a training program and had multiple years of experience. Earnings for those with the most experience were $33.47 an hour, while entry-level employees and trainees earned the lowest 10 percent of wages at less than $8.01 an hour. Benefits are not provided to self-employed, part-time therapists. (BLS)
The employment change for massage therapists is expected to grow faster than average at a rate of 19 percent between 2008 and 2018, and this is faster than the average for all occupations. As massage continues to advertise and provide relief for individuals with specific forms of pain, it becomes more in demand and respected, increasing the need for qualified medical massage therapists.
Opportunities are best for those who work to establish a strong, friendly reputation with clients within a community. Those who complete training programs and pass examinations are expected to receive work within states that regulate massage therapy, but new medical massage therapists will normally work part time in hospitals, healthcare centers, spas, and physical therapy centers until they can build up their own clientele. (BLS)
Massage therapy careers allow students to practice massage techniques similar to those in medical massage therapy, such as physical pressure used to relieve pain and other ailments. There are still certification requirements and extended training programs for massage therapy, but with a general massage therapy career, students do not normally have to take additional medical training specific to the treatment of medical conditions.
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