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Getting a Job

Choosing an Employer

Finding employment as a massage therapist could be as simple an answering an ad in the classified section of your local newspaper. But if you want your job to be a significant step in your overall career development as a massage therapist, you’ll want to first spend time thinking about your long-term goals. When you land your first job, whether it’s your ideal job or one that you had to take because it was the only one available, you can use that experience to build toward your career fulfillment.

Identify Target Employers

Before you search for a job, understand your range of options. It is possible, depending on the size of your community, that fitness centers, hospitals, chiropractors, spas, resorts or independent massage therapy businesses have openings for a massage therapist.

Compare Potential Employers

Based on your long-term goals, consider how each potential employer could support your career development. Find out the basic description of each employer, such as:

  • Name of owner/manager and hiring manager

  • Number of years in business

  • Reputation of the business in the community

  • Clients in terms of age, gender, occupation, educational level, and income

  • Number of massage therapists employed

  • Employee turnover, especially of massage therapists

Assess the Match between You and Employer

It is important to clarify the expectations of your employer from the first interview to determine if the place of employment matches your career goals. A few of the questions you may want to ask are:

  • How is the massage therapist compensated? Per hour? By massage?

  • What additional responsibilities is the massage therapist asked to perform?

  • What types of massage are most commonly performed?

  • How long are the massages? What is the time in between massages?

  • Is there flexibility in scheduling?

  • What benefits are offered? What are the expectations regarding continuing education?

  • What type of management style does the company have?

Once you have prepared for your job search, go in confidence that you will find what you need and that you will be extending yourself in a way that makes a difference to others.

Responsibilities of Being an Employee

Choosing to Be an Employee

Many massage therapists choose to be employed by someone else for several years before they strike out on their own as sole proprietors or independent contractors. Some choose to remain employees for their entire careers because of employments obvious benefits: having a steady paycheck and colleagues, avoiding the risks of business ownership, and avoiding many of the administrative and management tasks that accompany business ownership. But even though employees avoid the risks inherent to owning a business, they nonetheless accept seriously responsibilities inherent to their employment contract (formal or informal).

Your Responsibilities as an Employee

Your responsibilities as an employee are similar to your responsibilities as a professional. If you read the AMTA Code of Ethics and the AMTA Standards of Practice, you will see that many of the following responsibilities are implied as part of a greater commitment to professional excellence.

  • Be punctual.

  • Treat clients as though you were the owner of the business.

  • Uphold the work standards established by your employer.

  • Respect employer and client privacy and confidentiality.

  • Be scrupulously honest in all your dealings, including supply and inventory control.

  • Maintain a congenial working relationship with your co-workers.

  • Dress appropriately and give strict attention to personal hygiene (also known as taking standard precautions).

  • Be meticulous and timely in your recordkeeping; this may include not just client intake forms but other records such as revenue and expense tracking, inventory control, and telephone messages.

  • Follow the employers policies regarding vacation time, planned absences, and sick days; whenever possible, provide enough advance warning of your absence that client care is not disrupted.

  • Protect the safety and security of your clients and colleagues.

  • Keep your work area safe, hygienic, and attractive.

  • If you disagree with your employer regarding any work-related policy, including customer service or working conditions, discuss your concern with your employer in an appropriate setting, focusing on your concern for the business as a whole.

Stepping Stones

Every job is a stepping stone to something else possibly increased responsibility, a higher-level position, another job within or outside the company, or just a better understanding of who you are and what your ideals are. Use each job assignment as an opportunity to learn what behaviors you would and wouldn't do under the same circumstances as a supervisor or co-worker, and use what you've learned in future job opportunities. The key to being a good employee is the same as being a good professional: total dedication to your best performance at every opportunity.

Sources of Job Leads

Quality sources of job leads are important whether you have many years of massage experience or if you are embarking on a new career as a massage therapist.

The Browsing Phase

Before you seriously tackle the job of finding a job, take time to browse through multiple sources of leads, just to get an idea of what employers are looking for and what types of jobs are available. Some ads will specify the qualifications required, job benefits, and earning potential. When you’re in the browsing phase, you don’t care about the geographic location of jobs. At this point, you’re just judging “the lay of the land.” Looking at a large volume of ads should give you an idea of where the most jobs are – spas, fitness centers, chiropractors, etc.

Talking to friends is another good browsing source. Ask your friends who are not massage therapists where they like to get massage, and why. Ask your massage therapist friends what they’ve heard about working environments at different employers.

The Action Phase

When you are ready to start interviewing for a job, you will need to narrow your search to sources that carry job openings only in your geographic area. Your questions to friends now become more focused, such as, “Do you know the person who does the hiring at such-and-such place, and may I use you as a reference?”


The following sources are good for researching job openings:

  • Schools with massage training programs

  • Classified ads in local and regional newspapers and newsletters

  • Search online using the terms “jobs” + “massage therapy”

  • AMTA Job Bank (available to AMTA members)

  • Classified ads in massage and health care publications

  • Chapter newsletters

  • Other massage therapists

  • Non-massage-therapist friends who get massage

Job ads carry varying levels of information. The most helpful are those that specify the qualifications they seek, and tell you enough about the work environment to give you a sense of whether it would be suited to you. If you choose to interview there, be prepared to judge for yourself whether the description in the job ad was accurate or not. The employer wants to put his best foot forward, just as you, the prospective employee, want to do the same thing.

Your Resume Making the Most of Past Job Experience

Many people who apply for a job in a new career area face the dilemma of, "If you don't have experience, why would I hire you?" and "If no one hires me, how can I get experience?"

Chronological vs. Functional
Your rsum can help you get your foot in the door, even if you have no previous massage therapy job experience. It is typical for rsums to list employment history chronologically, which is in order of the dates of employment. But if your past jobs aren't related to your new career in massage therapy, you might be better off to organize your experience by category, or function. In this way, you can highlight the types of work you did that would make you a desirable job candidate for a new position in massage therapy.

Translate Experience into Skills
For instance, if your past jobs were as a retail sales clerk and a receptionist at a medical clinic, you could describe experience such as the following:

  • Customer relationship skills: Handled customer complaints in a positive manner. Communicated effectively to help customers find information they needed. Learned to communicate in a way that helped put people at ease who were under stress.
  • Organizational skills: Set up system that improved productivity by 15% by streamlining filing, mail and telephone callback job functions.
  • Inventory management: Responsible for maintaining supplies at all cashiers' stations, which supported a high level of customer service and cashier efficiency.

Also, don't underestimate the value of your student massage clinic work to qualify as job experience. You might write something like:

  • As a student intern, I provided more than 175 massages to clients through a supervised student clinic. I developed a 20 percent rate of return clients, compared with the class average of 10 percent.

Use with Confidence
Whether you decide to organize your resume chronologically or by function, you must feel comfortable that it reflects the best you have to offer. All experience is worthwhile. It's up to you to translate it into information that supports your next career step.

Writing a Cover Letter

Letters are among the most important tools you can use in your job search. They should always accompany your resume when you apply for a job. You will direct letters to advertised job ads as well as to contacts that you hope have jobs or job-search suggestions that might help you. Your cover letter reflects your personality and allows you to attract the prospective employer's interest. You will tailor your cover letter to fit each opportunity.

Three Parts of a Cover Letter
Every cover letter includes an introduction, a body, and a close.

  • The introduction is where you introduce yourself and catch the reader's interest.
  • The body of the letter describes how you are suited to the job. Motivate the reader to want to meet you by describing how your skills can help the prospective employer's business.
  • The close is your final paragraph. The end of the letter expresses your appreciation for the reader's time and interest, and promises future contact.

Grab the Attention of Your Prospective Employer
If your letter sounds like a form letter, the prospective employer might not finish reading it. Personalize your introduction to the particular place of business or person to whom you're writing. If a friend or associate referred you, include this information in the first paragraph. Or write something like, "Your business attracted my interest because I admired the volunteer chair massage you sponsored at the Special Olympics last month."

Follow Up with Personal Contact
A cover letter does not take the place of personal contact. In your final paragraph, tell the prospective employer that you will call next week to request an appointment for an interview and then be sure to write this commitment on your calendar so you don't forget.

Writing Your Resume

Whether you plan to open an independent practice or work for someone else's business, writing your resume can be very helpful to you. It helps you focus on your strengths and view your qualifications from a job market perspective.

Information to Include in Your Resume
All resumes should include the following information:

  • Name, address, telephone number, and E-mail address
  • Summary or profile your strengths and skills and a description of the type of position you are seeking
  • Qualifications your credentials and a description of the modalities you are qualified to practice
  • Employment history name and location of previous employers, dates of employment, and the name of your job
  • Education and training schools (if you have graduated from college, there is no need to list your high school), and workshops or other training that is relevant to the type of position you are seeking
  • Awards and affiliations any awards or professional affiliations that a prospective employer might be interested in (your AMTA Professional Membership, for example)

Length of Resume
The key to how long your resume should be is, how much experience do you have that is relevant to the position you're looking for? If most of your experience is unrelated to the career you want to begin, summarize it briefly and accurately. Say in your summary/profile section that you are seeking to begin your career in massage therapy, and place emphasis on your education, training, and affiliations to highlight your qualifications. All this information can fit on one page. This makes it easy for the prospective employer to assess your strengths.

If you have had extensive experience that's related to the position you're seeking, in jobs, education and training, or awards and affiliations, it is acceptable to create a resume as long as two to three pages.

Write an Annual Resume
Plan to update your resume every year. It helps you see how far you've come, and it helps you set goals for the next year.


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