By Charles McGrosky, CMT, RMT
Selecting a massage school is not an easy decision. In New Zealand there are many to choose from, but if a person does their homework and takes their time they can be reasonably assured that they have made the right choice.
First, do a quick scan of the schools that are available. Go to the TMA website, www.tmanz.org.nz, and go to the section marked ‘training’. From here you can look at the school’s website or write to the schools themselves and ask for brochures. This is important as it allows you to compare and contrast each program. A nice brochure or website is only the beginning. These allow you to map a strategy for making your choice. Second, choose two or three schools that are interesting to you based on these criteria: your massage interests, tutor qualifications, price of the program, the presence of a student clinic and geographic location.
Your therapeutic massage interests are important as massage therapy itself is a broad general heading for what are, in reality, many different disciplines. Remedial work, aromatherapy, relaxation, sports massage, etc., etc. So be sure of the direction that you want to go before you choose. If you’re not sure have a couple of massages with a few local professionals and ask them about their specialties and what they like about doing them. This will give you some more information to make an informed choice.
Tutor qualification is probably one of the more important criteria. Check to see that the tutors teaching the courses at the colleges you’re interested in have experience in the field that they are teaching. Without a doubt teachers who actually perform their specialty in a clinical environment are better teachers. This is because they have more to draw on than inexperienced teachers and they can give insights into the nuances of treatment that add sophistication to a massage therapy session. In other words it’s the little things that matter. If a teacher’s qualifications are not listed, ask.
Price is obviously important. My advice here is to spend the money that is necessary to study in the program you want. If possible don’t scrimp in this area. A sound investment now will yield good dividends later.
The presence of a student clinic is important. A student clinic is at least 50% of the value of a program. Why? Quite simply the student clinic is the place where classroom theory meets clinical reality. Students put into practice what they learn in class, with supervision, on the public. Students also learn how to run a practice, how to keep to a schedule, how to chart so that client records can be maintained, how to work with clients, etc, etc. In addition the person in charge of the clinic, at any given time, should be at least a diploma level graduate with at least two years experience as a practitioner.
You’re probably not going to want to travel too far from home so geographic location is also a consideration. But, if you’re serious about your education then you may need to travel to a school that’s going to give you what you need to become a good professional. Like cost it requires some thought. If a better school is further away then consider commuting or relocating to that area.
Third, now that you’ve chosen two or three schools its time to go for a visit. Some may say that this is extraneous but I think that it’s the most important part of the selection process. Of course you’re going to want to be prepared before you do a school visit. Study the websites or brochures for the prospective school then phone them and ask to be shown around. While there ask to speak to a few students who are currently enrolled. Do they like the program? Are they learning what they need to learn to become massage therapy professionals? Again, you’re trying to assemble enough information to make an intelligent decision. If there is a student clinic get a massage while you’re there. This is a further chance to check out the facilities and chat with some students. Don’t forget to speak with the person in charge of the clinic and ask them about their experience and their philosophy of working in a student clinic. Finally, after your tour, ask for a few names of currently practicing professionals who have graduated from the program. Contact them to see how they felt that the school prepared them to practice.
So that’s it in a nutshell. The basic idea is to gather information. You may have little idea of where you want to go in massage therapy but if you take your time and work to a plan you will gather enough information to make an informed and intelligent choice at some stage in the process. It is your money after all and when you actually attend a school you’ll also be investing a great deal of time and effort into the process. Any massage training is only going to put you onto the launching pad of a career. It’s up to you to blast-off. But with the right education you’ll set yourself up for the best possible chance to make it in this challenging profession.