Within the past two weeks, I had two separate conversations, both of which happened to involve my college major as well as my career choice. In both cases, once the other person realized that I had gotten a biology major and then proceeded into massage therapy after graduation, they remarked, "Oh, so you're not using your biology major, then?" Having heard similar comments in the past, it did not strike me as too odd to hear something like that, but by the second instance in as many weeks I realized that there was a general perception about massage therapy in which very little biology was involved. So did I waste my major by choosing to go into massage therapy? As a matter of fact, the biology major was an important step in preparation for this career which deals so closely with the human body.
To preface, I did not go into college knowing that I wanted to become a massage therapist, although I had always known that I wanted to major in biology. I initially wanted to work with animals, either in a veterinary setting or in some other capacity. However, my biology major did not focus exclusively on animal science, so I knew a great deal about the human body from my time in college. After I graduated, I pursued some training as a veterinary technician before realizing that was not really where I wanted to go with my life. In exploring my other options, I thought about aromatherapy and massage therapy, both being areas in which I had a passion and a natural talent. I realized these could be ideal career choices, especially given the combination of passion, talent, and background education that I possessed.
While it is true that massage requirements tend to vary by state, all massage programs are required to fulfill certain conditions in order to be acknowledged by the state. Among the most important of these conditions is a certain number of hours of in-depth anatomy and physiology, which meant that I already had a leg up on my classmates, many of whom had not attended college and had only their high school education in biology under their belts. My biology major had already covered most of the things which we went over in my massage training, and it quickly became apparent to my friends in training that they could ask me for help on the biology topics because I had studied most of it before and could break it down in a way they could understand.
Aromatherapy also requires a working knowledge of human anatomy and, more importantly, physiology, since it is essential (no pun intended) that an aromatherapist knows how an oil will be absorbed into the body and what effects it will have. A background in chemistry is also ideal for this field, since good aromatherapy programs teach you about the different chemical compounds that essential oils contain, so my chemistry minor was an additional boon.
With this knowledge, then, it should be apparent why each of these careers has the term "therapist" attached to it. As opposed to being uneducated individuals who just rub the body or make you breathe in various plant compounds with fingers crossed behind our backs hoping our treatments will work, we are highly educated professionals dedicated to providing quality services while keeping our clients safe and healthy. In fact, many therapists go on to receive even more education in specializations so that they can even better fulfill their clients' needs and become more effective at what they do. If you're curious about some of the additional training available, look up programs for orthopedic massage, myofascial release, neurokinetic therapy (NKT), medical massage, craniosacral therapy, and a host of others. You might be surprised at just how much knowledge your therapist has about your body and the many hours they put in to attain that knowledge!