With the expected job growth of 22% from 2018 to 2028, you might be one of many seriously considering becoming a licensed massage therapist. You might also wonder if you will need a bachelor’s degree. While it is not a requirement, some prospective therapists will find exceptional value from obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
Two school options to become an LMT are common—private massage schools and community colleges. Bachelor’s degree programs in massage therapy exist but are rare. Earning a bachelor’s degree may not be right for every massage therapist. Deciding what is right for you will depend on a few key factors.
You Should Attend College If:
You want to integrate massage therapy into a related field
Athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, and physical therapists are occupations listed by the BLS with similar job duties as massage therapists. If your goal as a massage therapist is to help bring physical wellness into the lives of others, integrating the practice of massage into any of these compatible fields will support your ultimate goal and require you to have a bachelor’s degree.
Holistic health services aim to support the mind-body connection. Massage therapists who want to support the physical and mental well-being of their clients through non-traditional means will find their niche pairing massage practice with alternative or natural medicine degrees. Chinese medicine, acupuncture, holistic health, alternative medicine, and natural medicine fall under this umbrella, and all require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
You want a wider variety of career options
You might be unsure about how long you’ll want to practice massage. The work is taxing on the body and over time you could decide to change to another job field. Holding a bachelor’s degree can make such a change much easier.
Many great job opportunities require a bachelor’s degree but do not require it to be in a specific field. For these positions, hiring managers rely on an individual’s experience and abilities to decide if they are fit for the job rather than what degree they hold. If you see yourself as someone who has a hard time committing to things long-term or if you want back up options outside of massage, a bachelor’s degree is a great safety net.
You don’t want to work as a massage therapist full time
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, therapists who give massages between 15 and 30 hours per week consider themselves to be full-time. They also cite that about three-quarters of all therapists work either part-time or have schedules with a variable number of hours.
This work’s physical toll on the body significantly contributes to many therapists choosing to complement massage with other less labor-intensive work. Another degree will give you the chance to work in another field in addition to massage so that you don’t burn out.
You Should Not Attend College If:
You want to be a full-time massage therapist
Simply put, it isn’t required. If you are confident that you want to be a full-time massage therapist, then you do not need a bachelor’s degree. Even if the draw of self-employment is what motivates you to go into massage, you will not require additional classes to learn how to do so. Standard program requirements include business classes that prepare you to run your own massage business.
You want to begin working full-time ASAP
A more immediate work-life balance is possible by skipping the 4-year degree. Programs in massage therapy can be completed in a few months to a year. Going on to a bachelor’s degree program after earning your LMT can be financially stressful if your work hours are limited by classes. With an average hourly pay of $20 per hour, even new therapists fresh out of massage school will be able to quickly secure a good living wage without a higher degree.
You do not want to accumulate large debts
Serious considerations need to be made about obtaining a bachelor’s degree if you cannot attend a low-cost massage program. While some massage programs cost just over $4,000, others cost as much $20,000.Will the monthly loan payments for both programs be manageable given your expected pay range after graduation? Will the addition of the bachelor’s degree add to your income significantly enough to justify it?
If the amount of your post-graduation debt is a chief concern, create several scenarios and crunch the numbers to find out if the added expense of a 4-year degree is worth it.
Making Your Decision
Well, thought out choices will prepare you to practice massage within your preferred career trajectory. Contact massage schools near you to find out about program length, cost, and whether credits are transferable. Take some time to talk to the admissions staff at 4-year colleges to be sure they will accept credits from your massage program and to find out how much it will cost.
Solid research and thoughtful reflection will help you decide if a 4-year college can enhance both your massage therapy career and your life.
For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.