A Career As A Massage Therapist

Jan 20, 2011

The natural health industry has seen remarkable growth over the last decade, with 40% more Australians using these services over this timeframe. This has required natural health education to keep pace, in an attempt to provide an educated workforce to service the rapid growth of the sector. A career in the field has obvious attractions, including the potential for a flexible lifestyle, travel and a rewarding career – but where to start? ntpages sought out the wise counsel of David Stelfox of Endeavour College, head of the Remedial Therapies Department – for his insights on a career in this field and for some background on the various modalities involved.

What is your background in remedial therapies?

““I have over 25 years of experience as natural health practitioner with a primary focus in remedial massage, naturopathy and herbal medicine.   I have also been involved in tertiary education as a lecturer, curriculum developer and author of numerous journals and books on natural health. Remedial massage training is where I started out as a natural health practitioner and it has provided a sound foundation upon which I have built my career in natural health.”

What ranges of modalities are covered under the term remedial therapies?

“The main modalities represented under the umbrella term “remedial therapies” are relaxation massage, remedial or therapeutic massage, reflexology and aromatherapy. Traditional Chinese massage (Tui na), Shiatsu and Traditional Thai massage are also sometimes referred to as “remedial therapies”. Some people also include things like trigger point therapy, lymphatic drainage massage, myofascial release and deep tissue massage as remedial therapies. However, these are more accurately described as techniques that a remedial therapist may incorporate in the management of a client, rather than stand alone therapies or modalities.”

What are the various remedial therapy courses on offer currently?

“There’s the foundation massage course: the Certificate IV in Massage Therapy Practice. This is the entry level to the profession and it provides students with the knowledge and practical skills to deliver a relaxation massage. Then there’s the Diploma of Remedial Massage, which builds on the Certificate IV. It provides a broader and deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology and starts to provide students with some physical assessment skills so that they can identify the source of a musculoskeletal condition. The Diploma course also introduces a range of different remedial massage techniques (e.g. trigger point therapy, sports injury management, myofascial release, lymphatic grainage massage), and how they can be used in the treatment of musculoskeletal problems.”

What options are there for further study?

“Students and practitioners who choose to further their knowledge and skills in remedial massage can undertake the Bachelor of Health Science (Musculoskeletal Therapy) course. This course broadens and deepens the therapist’s skills and understanding of musculoskeletal conditions even more than the Diploma. Being a Bachelor of Health Science program, it gives students a thorough knowledge of the biological sciences (biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology and pathophysiology), so students gain a really good understanding of how the body works, particularly from a musculoskeletal perspective.

So, there is a lot more detail involved?

“Yes, the Bachelor of Health Science (Musculoskeletal Therapy) is the highest remedial massage qualification available currently in Australia. The Degree program goes into significantly more detail and expands the student’s knowledge and skills of physical assessment. It looks at musculoskeletal conditions more closely, helping students to better determine appropriate and effective approaches to individualised treatments. The course takes an evidence-based approach. It requires that students have an understanding of the field of research and its relevance to massage and musculoskeletal therapy. Research-based evidence must be considered and, where relevant, incorporated into the treatment plans of clients to achieve the best therapeutic outcomes. The Musculoskeletal Degree also extends the practitioner’s range of remedial techniques. Myofascial dry needling, for example, is taught as an extension of trigger point therapy. Although acupuncture-type needles are used, this is not acupuncture. The needles are used to release trigger points in the muscles where digital trigger point therapy may not be effective.”

What accreditation do your courses have?

“Our Degree courses meet the requirements of the Australian Qualifications Framework, as well as the Offices of Higher Education in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia (we’re currently in the process of gaining approval to deliver the Degree in South Australia) so you are assured of the quality of our teaching standards and curriculum. Our Certificate IV and Diploma of Remedial Massage courses are National Health Training Package-registered qualifications, so they more than adequately satisfy the national standards for massage and remedial massage in the Vocational Education and Training sector. We also ensure that our courses meet the requirements of the major professional associations relevant to massage therapy. That way our graduates are able to join these associations and to access Health Fund and WorkCover provider numbers, and professional indemnity insurance cover.”

What is the typical career path for one of your graduates?

“There is no typical career path, as graduates can pursue a career in private practice, research, education, corporate business, the health sector, aged care homes as well as day spas and resorts. What I’ve noticed over the past five to ten years is that career opportunities for massage therapists have increased significantly. It’s wonderful to hear about some of the areas of practice and enterprise that massage therapists are getting into. National sporting teams and the Australian Institute of Sport, Five Star Health resorts such as Chiva Som and Kangaroo Island Eco resort, multi-modality health clinics – these are just some examples of where our graduates are working.”

In terms of job prospects, what is the essential difference between the short courses and the degree courses?

“It really depends on what a graduate wishes to do with their qualification. Each of the courses has a professional outcome and upon completion of the qualifications graduates are able to work as sole practitioners or gain employment in a health practice, a health resort or spa, or a gym. At Endeavour we have had Cert IV graduates who have travelled the world, providing relaxation massage on cruise ships. Others have worked in five-star spas and resorts. I think that where a person wishes to establish a long-term practice in massage therapy though, remedial massage skills are important. The more knowledge and skills a practitioner has, and the more thoroughly trained they are to use those skills, the more successful they’re likely to be. Even though the Musculoskeletal Therapy Degree is a relatively new course in Australia, already it has established a benchmark for remedial massage therapy and within the industry Musculoskeletal Therapy graduates are sought-after as valuable assets to established health practices. We (Endeavour) are frequently contacted by managers and owners of health clinics and practices with offers of employment to our Musculoskeletal Degree graduates. As the recognition of the benefits of remedial massage therapy increases, the demand for skilled, well-trained therapists is increasing significantly.” 

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