Where Do You Work? AMTA Schools Summit Speaker Kevin Pierce

"Ultimately, I was drawn to massage by the desire to know more about the functions of the body and by how  remarkable and intricate it is," says Kevin Pierce, an experienced massage educator who will present the session "Reviewing Your School's Curriculum: Why and How" at the 2011 AMTA Schools Summit. Read Kevin's story below.

What first attracted you to the massage therapy profession?
Ultimately, I was drawn to massage by the desire to know more about the function of the body and how remarkable and intricate it is. I believe that I was influenced by the original Karate Kid movie…Honestly. I was involved with the martial arts as a child and began taking Kung Fu at the age of eleven. I learned about taking care of one’s body, being aware of one’s abilities, and working to improve detailed and skilled movements. In my teens, I had a strong interest in the function and capabilities of the human body as I advanced in the martial arts and participated in athletics. As I entered college, those interests stuck with me. Not sure about exactly which path I wanted to pursue, I looked into massage therapy as a stepping stone for more education and to gain a skill. Little did I know that massage would trump all of the other interests that I had!

What career path has led you to your current position?
After working in the massage industry for about nine years, I had the opportunity to teach a night class at a local career training school. Immediately, I was hooked. As an instructor, I saw the potential of the students and benefit of a well-run and interactive classroom. I saw individuals’ lives changed by the skills and knowledge they were acquiring. More than that, however, I saw the need for improvement in massage therapy education. After a few months, I began writing the curriculum and assessments for my class. I learned that by involving certain learning strategies, the students became more empowered and self sufficient. Soon, I was working with the corporate office to develop class assessments.

After a few years of running the massage therapy program at the Orlando Campus, I was offered a position with the corporate office of what is now Anthem Education group where I was responsible for program development and management of the massage therapy program at all of our campuses.  My role has evolved into one that is very involved in the daily activities of the programs, including faculty and student issues, licensing and curriculum development.  As I saw my potential in massage therapy education, I chose to return to school so as to increase my knowledge and skills to teach and be a guide to people. My education and my career go hand-in-hand.

What types of education and experience have helped you succeed in your current role?
This one is pretty simple. Everything I have done has helped me succeed in my current role. From my martial arts training to my formal education in communications to my MBA, all have contributed to my ability to manage multiple campuses, write curriculum and lead a group of managers who in turn create a positive learning environment for our students. Life experience is the greatest teacher—I took my time to go to school for massage, then for my formal college degrees and continued to work in the massage therapy field along the way. I still see massage clients three days per week. 

For my college education, I chose interpersonal communications because it deals with learning styles, interpersonal interaction, group dynamics and sociological influences in learning and communication, and I chose the MBA because every industry, at its core, is a business. The experiences I gained when obtaining my MBA truly opened my eyes to business and the global nature of economics and business relationships. Understand those things and I feel that you see the bigger picture in this profession.

What advice would you offer to prospective massage therapist?
As an educator, I love giving practical advice. Here are eight pieces of advice I would have loved to have known when considering massage therapy as a career:

1. Be realistic in your expectations and get a real view of the work you will be doing before you go into it. Think about the day-to-day activities of a massage therapist and ask yourself, do I see myself there?

2. Make the most of your education. There are more and more options for massage education. But, education is like life: you get out of it what you put into it. Massage therapy is a self-driven profession and that mentality should be developed during school.

3. Get your certification / license. This is a huge hurdle for some students and there is no option any longer. Get licensed and certified as required by the state you live in and if license isn’t required by the state, get nationally certified. Period.

4. Explore. Take time in the first year or two of your massage therapy career to work in different environments. You need to be able to work in different places, utilizing different skills in order to find your niche. Not to mention it is very difficult to have a full list of returning clientele right out of school. You need a transition phase to get your feet under you and find that inspiration that comes from working in the “real world.”

5. Be persistent. It takes time to create a career in massage therapy. You could call this “be patient,” but I like “persistent” more.

6.  Be flexible. Plan ahead and be able to make a change in your career if necessary. If you lose clients or are struggling with making ends meet, don’t fear adjusting the work or your prices to meet the needs of the market. Evaluate costs and benefits.

7. Plan for the long term. It is wise to realize that massage therapy has a number of different avenues where you can work. You can go into education, business ownership, management, sales, non-profit and even community service. Whichever direction you choose, keep your ethics strong, be a professional in all you do and respect the work.

8. Follow your heart.  In other words, do something in your life that has meaning, makes an impact on the lives of those you encounter and provides fulfillment.

What will be some of the key takeaways from your upcoming session at the 2011 Schools Summit?
The primary discussion will be about having an on-going review of curriculum: Why schools should do it; how can they do it; who should be involved in the review; are their any accreditation standards that might address this; and what resources are available for them to keep the curriculum current. 

Read more about Kevin's session "Reviewing Your School's Curriculum: Why and How" and the 2011 AMTA Schools Summit, February 17 -18 in San Francisco, here.

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