Dec. 12, 2007
The scientific and healing art of soft tissue manipulation, also known as massage therapy, is a growing trend in American culture, and HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College is meeting the demand for practitioners with its comprehensive certificate program.

"Massage therapy is becoming more accepted in the medical community, and more and more people are looking to massage therapy as their career choice," said Martha K. Malina, M.S., NCTMB, director of HACC's Massage Therapy Training Program.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, massage therapy is among the fastest growing occupations in the state requiring post-secondary training or an associate's degree. Demand for trained therapists is expected to continue through at least 2012.

"It really is a terrific career, you can work as much or as little as you want; most massage therapists don't work a 40-hour week. Plus, the career can be lucrative: The going rate in the area is approximately $50-$60 per hour," Malina said.

HACC's program is a member of the American Therapy Association's (AMTA) Council of Schools, and its curriculum has been approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. This enables graduates to take the National Certification Exam and become a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist, a credential respected throughout the massage industry.

"Now that we have been approved for financial aid, the program is more accessible to pretty much anyone who is interested in receiving the training," said Malina. Financial aid is available with the January class for those who qualify.

The career choice suits individuals who are self promoting and want flexibility in their work schedule: "You can create who you want to be as a professional," Malina said.

Brandon Halstead, a June 2007 graduate, is doing just that as a part-time independent massage therapist at a small fitness center in his hometown of Newport. He rents the space and runs his own appointment book, offering both chair massages and full body massages.

"I love it because I come in whenever I have appointments and I can work whenever I want," said Halstead, 19. "I used to give massages to my friends and family as a kid. I always liked that I was helping to alleviate their pain and stress."

Friends and family were supportive of Halstead's decision to invest in his education. He researched some local programs and found that HACC's Massage Therapy Training Program was the perfect fit. "There was classroom learning but I loved that we were able to give massages every day."

Halstead is focused on building a client base so he can afford to do this full-time, and plans to take the National Certification Exam in the future.

Although Halstead had specific career goal when he went through the program, it can be beneficial for those who are interested in working in the natural health industry but don't have it all figured out.

Jennifer Failor, 24 of Mechanicsburg, has always had an interest in the mind to body connection but had no specific career goal when she entered the program in January 2007. "I was working as a chiropractic assistant at the time and thought this was a wonderful way to start my lifelong dream to become a natural health-care practitioner."

Failor knows she can use her certificate in a variety of ways within the industry and is studying for her national certification. "My goal is that I really want to be holistic, I never just want to do one thing, so I might get into chiropractic or the holistic medicine field. Massage is a building block and any one of those fields complements massage very well. I am not sure what I want to do yet, but I know I defiantly want massage to be a part of my life forever," she said.

Halstead and Failor agree that the instructors were the best part of the curriculum.

"The teachers were wonderful at HACC. They really focused on the therapeutic work through massage.

They know the body so well and really taught me how to listen to my own body. It was very transformative with my view on how the body works," said Failor.

"The teachers were so passionate about massage and that is very important. If the teacher doesn't care about what they are doing, it is hard to make their students care," said Halstead.

About HACC's Massage Therapy program

HACC's Massage Therapy Training Program offers students a choice between full-time classes beginning in January or July and a part-time class beginning each September.

The 650-hour, 23-week curriculum prepares individuals with the scientific, communicative, ethical, business and hands-on- skills that are required to enter the health care profession as a massage therapist in diverse settings that can range from nursing homes, sports medicine facilities, chiropractic and medical offices to wellness and fitness centers, resorts and cruise ships.

Completion of this program prepares students for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage Examination and may allow articulation of up to 27 credits toward an Associate Degree in Health Science.

The course of study includes:

-- 160 hours of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology;

-- more than 300 hours of massage modalities including Swedish massage, sports massage, reflexology, connective tissue therapy, polarity therapy and neuromuscular therapy;

-- training in ethics, professional communication and personal awareness; and

-- classes business practices, chair massage, spa treatments, aromatherapy and integration and assessment.

All classes are taught by real-world certified massage therapists who are experts in the modalities that they teach, said Martha Malina, MS, NCBTM and program director.

"It was important to us when were setting up the program that we don't have two or three people teaching everything. We want the student to come out of the program being able to integrate their information and perform their own unique massage."

For more information, contact Malina at 221-1836 or via e-mail at the adress below.

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