Should I be a yoga instructor or massage therapist or..?
July 27, 2015 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I've been giving some thought to becoming certified to teach yoga, or to be a massage therapist, or to be a physical therapy assistant. I'm not sure which one makes the most sense, given my inclinations and limitations.

My limitations are that I am getting older (almost 40) and am pretty shy and quiet. I can work one-on-one with people reasonably well as long as the interaction is fairly scripted, and I have given many presentations over the years--I always hate them and get very nervous beforehand.

My inclinations are that I am very concerned with physical health and well-being. I like being very active in my life, and dislike having a sedentary job. I have only lately begun to become interested in the connection between the physical body and mental health (specifically the role of things like yoga in healing past trauma). I would like to work part time in one of these roles, but can't figure out which one would make the most sense.

And obviously, I would like to earn a reasonable part-time income from it.

I have absolutely no training in any of these areas, but have a couple of years to work towards it. I also am struggling to get a sense of what the job market is like in my area for these types of jobs. Searching job sites does not yield very promising results.
posted by silly me to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you do yoga? If not, don't teach yoga. I took my 200-hour YTT this last summer after practicing yoga for the last five years and I still don't think I have the ability to teach. One of my biggest frustrations in going to studios is the influx of yoga "teachers" that hadn't done yoga up to getting their certification to teach. It is also INCREDIBLY difficult to make money doing so because there are so many people taking the courses and flooding the market.
posted by Marinara at 1:51 PM on July 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

I agree with Marinara. One of my yoga instructors told our class that of all the people who got certified to teach yoga last year (2014) only 30 percent would be able to find a job. I don't know where he got that information but he said the market was just flooded with people trying to teach. Also, I belive massage therapy is pretty physically demanding and puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints. Some people handle it just fine though. I don't know much about physical therapy but that is the one I would look into if I were you. It seems to check all your boxes and there is a big demand for physical therapists (at least here in Texas there is).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:18 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Should I be a yoga instructor or massage therapist or..?

Physical therapy assistant? The ones I've worked with (in long term care settings) seem like they have an absolute ball. They even run some scheduled activities like wheelchair/walker kickball with a balloon.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have to agree with the previous posts, it takes many years of practice and education to teach yoga. Physical therapy would be a good bet, it can generate good income (and you said you are a little shy). The yoga teachers I've met tend to be assertive and not shy. I hope you'll be successful, whatever you do.
posted by dragonbaby07 at 2:44 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Canadian Registered Massage Therapy certification is well respected worldwide. Canadian RMTs are invited to Olympic (and other worldwide sporting) events to provide massage services to athletes.

It does, however, take a couple of years and there are pretty strict tests before licensure. RMTs have better knowledge of the muscoskeletal system than most medical doctors.

RMTs, by definition, work one-on-one with clients, and a typical session (especially with new clients) begins with a hollistic talk with the client about their health, lifestyle, and health needs. Being 40 is almost certainly not going to be a problem. Many older patients prefer more mature practitioners.

I have a couple of friends who are RMTs and they love their job. RMTs have a lot of flexibility, either working in a group clinic (mixed professions or a dedicated RMT clinic) or offer sessions from their own storefront, their homes, or at the client's homes/business. At my first real job we brought in a RMT, who'd bring her own table, once a week and everyone got a 30 minute massage once every two weeks, or get an additional session as a "reward," The pay is excellent. Currenty $100 (or more) per hour is pretty standard around here.

Many health insurance plans (and, I believe, the MSP in Canada) cover (or partially cover) RMT sessions. When I try to book an appointment, I typically have a hard time finding an opening that isn't a few weeks in the future. Further out if I'm looking for prime time slots (weekends, evenings).
posted by porpoise at 4:28 PM on July 27, 2015

Don't try to teach yoga if for no other reason than that the market is utterly saturated. And will decline. When considering your other options, you might add Alexander Technique to the mix, simply because it's adaptable to any market -- you can adjust it for musicians, for example, or for office workers.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like massage therapist or PTA would be a good fit, but you can't be shy. You have to be comfortable with peoples' bodies. If you do massage, you have to be comfortable touching naked skin. You don't have to be super talkative or loud, but you need to be comfortable talking to people and working with them.

That said, I've done a lot of PT, and there is a trend towards "clinics" with several PTs and PTAs (as opposed to sole practitioners) so that seems to be a field with demand.
posted by radioamy at 4:52 PM on July 27, 2015

What about occupational therapy (OTA) instead, if you're interested in both mental and physical health? Bonus with that is that your body will take less of a beating over time than it would with the other options (potentially greater longevity in this career).
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:04 PM on July 27, 2015

In order to be a PTA, you have to be comfortable with the fact you don't have any autonomy - you don't write PT plans, you implement the plans of PTs. What that can kind of add up to is, you're never going to be in charge as a PTA, and if that is your ambition, to actually create plans and be the person who is really responsible, you'll end up pretty unhappy and possibly resentful as a PTA.

Most people in the rehab professions are more outgoing than not, but it's not a requirement. What you need to be able to do is quickly make the person feel comfortable. Some people might be chatty and others not so much - you need to be able to kind with what they need, even if it's not as natural for you. You can't just keep to a script in these situations, rapport is very important in the rehab professions.

PTA can be a career that requires a lot of physicality - much more so than people think. Even using proper techniques, it can be hard on the body. Don't underestimate this - I've worked in a closely related position and those who get sloppy with how they are moving their bodies in their work usually end up paying for it down the road.

Jobs demand is good, and it's quite easy to work part-time and is the norm in my locale but the pay isn't great (most I know work several jobs because they have to financially). The other thing to keep in mind - you may likely be working with some people who are obese, do not exercise, or eat healthy, or whatever. You may change that for some, and not at all for others.
posted by Aranquis at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is a very good income:education ratio for being a PTA, but as mentioned you don't have much autonomy in treatment plans and it can be hard on your body. Getting a morbidly obese patient out of bed for therapy is hard, even with a lift. I second occupational therapy assistant as an option for you. The focus is often more on fine motor skills and psychological well-being.
posted by schroedinger at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2015

Keep in mind that Physical Therapy can mean a lot of schooling. In Pennyslvania it requires new students to acquire a clinical doctorate, so 7 years of schooling, including undergraduate education. That's required for a license. Each state has their own requirements, so check where you are located.

A PT assistant doesn't have autonomy, but depending on the practice assistants seem to take on very different levels of involvement with clients. I know of some clinics that employ only BS kineseologist graduates, and others where less education is required. In Pennsylvania, at least, it seems to be up to each clinic to supervise and deploy their assistants.

I think you might enjoy the one-on-one relationship with patients the assistants develop, but this is very clinic to clinic. In some places the thereapists don't allow the assistants to do much, 'and they seem a little distant from the patients and more like go-fers for the therapists.

I second looking into OT. They are so, so needed! The patient interaction is really rewarding, there is a lot of autonomy and the relationships can be as intimate as you are comfortable with. this as often an adjunctive therapy with PT, after hip replacement, for instance, or after a stroke. It's about "how do I put my pants on? How do I cook when I can't use one arm?" I'm clueless about the educational requirements, though.
posted by citygirl at 6:29 PM on July 27, 2015

The pay is excellent. Currenty $100 (or more) per hour is pretty standard around here.

Remember that what a client will pay for one session does not translate into an hourly rate the same way as it would for a regular hourly-wage job, because if you don't have a client on your table, you're not getting paid for that hour. You want to be looking into whether massage therapists are getting clients in your area, not just what they're charging the clients they are getting. If you're going into business for yourself, remember that you're also going to be financially responsible for things like a website, a phone line, insurance, taxes, marketing, equipment, etc.
posted by jaguar at 7:16 PM on July 27, 2015

Keep in mind that Physical Therapy can mean a lot of schooling. In Pennyslvania it requires new students to acquire a clinical doctorate, so 7 years of schooling, including undergraduate education. That's required for a license. Each state has their own requirements, so check where you are located.

That's if you want a full PT degree. Becoming a physical therapy assistant (PTA) is a two-year process that can be done at a community college. I think the same is for becoming an OTA.
posted by schroedinger at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2015

My cousin is both a certified yoga instructor and a trained massage therapist with about 5 years of experience. She currently works at 3 different yoga studios and the YMCA and has a stable of regular massage clients. She doesn't make enough money doing this, and the hours she works make it impossible to get another part time job, so she also has a home business and barely breaks even.

There is a lot of uncertainty with her yoga position - classes get canceled, she may get a phone call in the middle of the night to cover for someone at 6am, some of the studios she has worked for stopped paying her and then shut down. The classes themselves require a lot of flexibility. They can't be scripted. She has to adjust for skill level, injuries, age, etc.

She has tried several times to get a position in a spa for massages, but they don't provide regular hours, take a pretty large cut, and expect her to be on call.

These are very social positions. She is often stopped to chat with students and clients when she's shopping or out on the town.

She loves what she does and is lucky enough to be in a position where she can make it work, but it's not sustainable in the long term.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 6:46 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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