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Is becoming an RMT the only way to ensure success in massage?

I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer is no. Having said that, I am in full support of anyone who wants to become a registered massage therapist (RMT), but I think you need all the facts before making that commitment.

The demand for RMTs has accelerated as we move out of the pandemic, and the majority of RMTs I know have completely full schedules, with long wait lists. They’ve also seen an increase in how much they can charge for their service, so the career outlook is getting stronger every day.

Here’s the reality:

Becoming an RMT in Canada is hard work, requires a big-time commitment, and it costs a substantial amount of money. Over two years you are looking at $35,000+ in tuition and equipment/supplies, plus you are limited in making an income while you are in school. I consider this the opportunity cost of becoming an RMT, because you need financial resources to pay your bills while you are in school. Many students complete the program with student loan debt in excess of $60,000.

The training for most RMT programs in Canada is first rate, so you can have confidence that once you graduate, you be well-trained and ready to begin your new career with confidence. There will also be good opportunities to join an existing RMT practice or start your own. You will be starting your career with credentials that are recognized across the country, which will reduce the time it takes to build a successful practice.

If you are willing to commit to the time it takes to complete the RMT program, and you are willing to invest the money it takes to have the kind of career you want, then becoming an RMT might be a very smart career choice for you.

Now, if that kind of time commitment or financial outlay is just not realistic for you, don’t worry, you can still have a rewarding career in massage. You’ll just need to take a different approach.

I call this the “laddering approach” to having a successful massage career.

Instead of going back to school for two years, you’ll start by taking a short course in massage that will enable you to begin working and making money in less than 30 days. This is where chair massage comes in. For an investment of $1,500, you can complete your certification training plus pay for your equipment and supplies. With money from your chair massage work, you will continue to train in other short programs, like Reflexology, Reiki, and hot stone massage. One thing you’ll find is that many of your chair massage clients will also become your clients for your new modalities. They’ll also bring new clients to you through referrals.

The laddering is you adding new qualifications in new types of massage and bodywork. You’ll pay for these new certifications from the money you make doing chair massage, as well as the new services you’re able to offer. The good news is you don’t have to go back to school for two years and go deep into debt. You can start as soon as 30 days and have your clients fund your additional trainings.

The one thing I’ll mention about the laddering approach that you should know. Taking this approach has enabled many practitioners to build very successful wellness practices, but the clear understanding is that you will be limited to providing “non-medical” services. If helping clients deal with their medical issues is your passion, then I would suggest going the route of becoming an RMT, or other medical-related profession like a physiotherapist or osteopath. If helping clients with their wellness needs is more your style, then the laddering approach is something you should definitely consider.

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