Therapeutic Massage has come into its own as an industry. With alternative medicine accepted in more and more mainstream health establishments, bodywork has emerged as a rewarding, financially sound career. It’s especially well suited for people who want to prosper while remaining close to core beliefs about the true source of health and well-being. 

Locally, the Coachella Valley offers many employment opportunities for massage therapists at resorts, spas, chiropractic and physical therapy clinics, country clubs and retirement communities. It is not unusual for our local spas and resorts to have 15 to 20 – and as many as 30 – massage therapists on staff during the high season. 

Proof Positive of a Growing Need for Therapists 

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), 16% of adult Americans had at least one massage in the last twelve months with 43% doing so for medical reasons and 32% for relaxation and stress relief. The AMTA research report also states that more consumers received referrals from physicians for massage therapy than any other health care source in 2012. Overall, 89 percent of Americans believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain, and 87 percent believe that massage can be beneficial to health and wellness.

Furthermore, major health systems throughout the US are supporting the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, which includes massage therapy, into treatment plans for patients. Duke Integrative Medicine, Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and our very own Eisenhower Medical Center’s Wellness Institute each use massage therapists and are proof-positive of this proactive whole person approach in treating patients.

Of course, spa and resort work is the mainstay of massage therapy and an important part of our local economy. AMTA research indicates that, nationally, the average number of employees per spa increased 5.6 percent in 2012. As the economy improves, visits to independent spas and resorts are on the rise. Furthermore, massage chains are being used more commonly by consumers, and offer a consistent experience and increased access to massage with affordable rates.

Massage Therapy – Finding An Authentic Path

Current massage student Tammy Tash confirms the idea that a career as a massage therapist offers an authentic path: “For me it’s all about the independence and finding a stress-free life. Doing this type of work is relaxing; I stay completely stress free and can’t imagine going another direction. I’m going to live a long, happy and healthy life and finish every student clinic feeling good, and helping people is rewarding.”

While helping people is typically the primary motivator for those choosing the profession, pay can be important to therapists as well. Massage therapists typically earn between $25-$85 per hour or more depending upon their practice environment (sole practitioners may be above that range). 

Variety Spells Opportunity

The range of modalities practiced in massage is expanding. As the general public becomes better educated about the therapeutic benefits to complex muscular, skeletal and mental health issues, the massage therapist works with new modalities to alleviate these symptoms. Everything from sports, deep-tissue and neuromuscular therapy to traditional styles like shiatsu, reflexology, polarity, reiki, manual lymphatic drainage and cranial-sacral are applied based on a client’s particular requirements. Specialty massage treatments are also available for the special needs of niche populations such as cancer, geriatric, post-surgical patients, and pre-natal populations.

Training, Certification and Licensing Requirements 

Currently California offers two levels of certification for massage therapy. The California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) and state legislature are reviewing current state licensing rules and will be updating these rules in 2015. Currently CAMTC is the administrator for state certification. The Certified Massage Practitioner Program (CMP) is a 250-hour program with specific requirements in certain subjects. The CMP certification is a good stepping stone for the Certified Massage Therapist License, which entails 500 hours of training and is the preferred certification among employers. Individual cities often have their own requirements, but most follow the state licensing rules. Current practitioners and massage school graduates should always check with their prospective business city regulations and/or employer to understand their specific licensing requirements.

There are a few massage schools here in the Coachella Valley. New students will want to evaluate their choices based on training quality, schedule flexibility, and getting a “good-feel” for the school. 

For those interested in a career as a massage therapist, now is the time to start training (most programs take less than one year to finish). Becoming a certified massage therapist is a great complement to many other holistic health and wellness careers and a skillset that lasts a lifetime. 

For those who hear the call, it’s a great time to become a massage therapist. 

Margaret Hines is the owner of Somatherapy Massage Institute in Rancho Mirage which offers therapist certifications, classes for individuals and couples, and discounted massage services at their student clinic. For more information, contact at (760) 904.0912.

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