A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy School in San Diego

San Diego has much to offer massage therapists: healthcare organizations that value massage, a population of sports enthusiasts, spas that attract vacationers from all over. There are many jobs -- some more competitive than others, some better paid. Fortunately, there is also plenty of opportunity to educate oneself to the highest level. The city has some well-respected massage therapy schools where a person can get the basics -- or go far beyond!

San Diego massage therapists follow many career paths. Some of course work for the big franchises, the ones where people go for a basic relaxation massage. Some provide services for people with serious health needs. Some are in the business of catering to people looking for a luxury getaway.

Some massage specialists are firmly planted in the sports world. Sports teams tend to have them as part of their lineup. UC San Diego noted in a 2019 article that they had been selected as the healthcare provider for the San Diego Seals (https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2019-01-019-uc-san-diego-health-named-official-health-care-provider-of-san-diego-seals.aspx). There would be physicians serving the team of course, but also a massage therapist and a nutrition specialist.

Some Popular San Diego Massage Therapy Schools

San Diego massage programs tend to be longer than in some other places. A student can complete a program in massage therapy or go a little more in-depth and also qualify as a holistic health practitioner -- San Diego credentials them!

The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine has both certificate and associate's options. A student who invests in the longer program can opt for either an associate of applied science in massage or an associate of science in massage/ Asian bodywork; the latter includes general studies coursework that can be applied to a higher degree – even a master’s in Oriental medicine.

The International College of Holistic Studies offers a choice between a 750-hour massage therapy program or a 1,000 hour holistic health practitioner program. A holistic practitioner can choose from different concentrations that incorporate massage and related modalities, for example, one that encompasses orthopedic massage, sports massage, and structural integration or one that incorporates pregnancy massage with sensory re-patterning and aromatherapy.

For those willing to travel just a little further, there’s the Healing Hands School of Holistic Health, offering a 600-hour massage therapy program or 1,000-hour holistic health program. For students who can’t fit in all the electives they want, there are options to take courses later as continuing education.

Massage Therapists in the Healthcare Arena

There is a growing body of research supporting the use of therapeutic massage, and medical organizations are taking note. San Diego boasts multiple integrative health centers, some with ties to well-respected medical establishments. The San Diego School of Medicine Center for Integrative Medicine states that massage therapy can be useful for a variety of conditions, among them, temporomandibular joint issues, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and insomnia. Modalities available at the Center for Integrative Medicine include Jin Shin Jyutsu acupressure, Tui Na acupressure, and Swedish massage, among others.

Many massage therapists align themselves with chiropractors. A variety of working relationships are possible. Sometimes massage therapists are independent contractors. A 2019 scan of job ads, though, finds multiple chiropractic establishments looking for massage therapists to come on board as salaried employees.

The Alternative Healing Network is a local nonprofit that seeks to make alternative healthcare more accessible for underserved populations. The organization has six certified massage therapists (http://althealnet.org/clinic/aaih-massage/clinicians). Massage is provided to the general population on a sliding scale, with a 50-minute massage running $60-$85; some populations are eligible for an additional discount. The organization boasts its share of outreach, utilizing volunteers for some programs. Free massages are provided to needy individuals, including those living in shelters.

The La Jolla Light cast a business spotlight on a San Diego County sports injury massage therapist whose clientele included professional tennis players; the article noted that clients can expect expert treatment but not trilling fountains and aromatic oils (https://www.lajollalight.com/business-spotlight/cm-ljl-biz-spot-massage-center-20171115-story.html).

Many massage therapy clients of course do want those things. For an example, one can look to the “uniquely San Diego” spas described in the Thrillist (https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/san-diego/best-spas-treatments-san-diego-california). The Hard Rock Hotel San Diego incorporates musical themes and light vibrations into treatments such as the synchronicity massage. The Hotel Del Coronado Spa mixes hot and cold stones in its gemstone massage sessions. The Marilyn Monroe Spa at the Grand Hyatt Hotel offers a “fassage”, or face massage, designed to bring some relief to those with jet lag. The Marilyn Monroe Spa was among the organizations advertising for a massage therapist in early 2019.

Atmosphere is not entirely a concern of the luxury crowd; individuals with very serious illness may want something therapeutic but also a deeply relaxing experience. Even the Sharp Memorial Cushman Wellness Center cites aromatherapy massage among its offerings (https://www.sharp.com/hospitals/memorial/departments/holistic-therapies.cfm). There is growing evidence that aromatherapy, too, is therapy. However, what supports overall wellness in the health challenged and what gets the athlete back on track can be two very different things!

Massage Therapy Income and Career Outlook

In San Diego, as in other large, massage-friendly metropolitan areas, there are plenty of jobs and plenty of opportunities to set up one’s own practice. Success can be a matter of finding one’s niche. Employers often note particular modalities and styles of massage that they would like their massage therapists to be proficient in.

Those who want to work for wages on a long-term basis in the massage therapy industry may want to aim for the upper quartile. San Diego has more relatively low paid positions than the average city. The median was just $14.32 in the San Diego area in 2017, though the mean was $17.37. The figure jumps to $20.14 at the 75th percentile and $31.43 at the 90th percentile. Median wages are quite a bit higher a bit further to the north in the Anaheim-Santa Ana area, but again there’s a wide variety. Many massage therapists of course opt for self-employment.

Massage therapists help people create a healthy wellness-focused lifestyle, so it’s not surprising that some practices advertise lifestyle benefits for their own therapists. 2019 finds one self-proclaimed “modernized country club” offering, in addition to the traditional health and dental insurance, use of their facilities and discounts on services. A local spa, meanwhile, notes that in addition to having insurance, a massage therapist on their team gets to use the infrared sauna. A business advertising for a combined massage therapist/ stretch coaches notes that this practice can be a little easier on one's own body.

Additional Resources

Massage Schools in California