CE Providers: Expenses Going Up, Income Going Down

In January of this year, I blogged Continuing Education Providers: Sink or Swim, and followed up that one with the report from the meeting convened by the NCBTMB, where profession leaders were invited to give input into the revamping of their Approved Provider program.

Last week at the wonderful annual meeting of the AFMTE, one of the presentations was by Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, who talked about the intention of the FSMTB to start approving continuing education. One of the burning questions from the audience was “how much is this going to cost us?”, a question without an answer as of yet, since their program is still in the planning stages. Knowing the folks at the FSMTB, I don’t expect it to be anything I would classify as exorbitant, but unless it’s free, it will still be one more expense for us to pay.

I’ve previously mentioned the states who have their own approval process–and accompanying fees to pay–for continuing education providers. With the exception of Florida, who doesn’t charge you additional money if you are already an Approved Provider under the NCBTMB, these range from a couple of hundred dollars to “you don’t want to know.”  There’s a reason why I’m not teaching in those states…it isn’t worth it to me, at this stage of my career, to lay out hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and in some cases to complete a mountain of paperwork, to teach in a location that I may visit only once.

Another unfortunate trend is all the expense associated with presenting at trade shows, spa exhibitions, and conferences.  At many of these events, not only do you not get paid to teach; in some cases you actually have to pay for the privilege. Big companies who budget thousands of dollars into their advertising plan can afford to pay a big price for a booth. With a few of the heavy hitters being the exception, the average individual provider cannot. It’s a Catch-22 of spending the big bucks to get your name out there, and then rolling the dice to see if you’re going to be able to recoup that in sales–assuming you have anything to sell. Some teachers are just that–teachers–and they’re not necessarily textbook authors or purveyors of DVDs, home study courses, etc.

I’ve been an Approved Provider since 2000, and I have organizational approval. I have a classroom at my facility in Rutherfordton, NC, where I teach myself and host other instructors. During the recession of the past three years, I’ve had to cancel classes that some of the most well-known teachers in massage were scheduled to offer. Some of them didn’t receive as much as one inquiry about the class. In addition to mailing to licensees, advertising in a number of venues, my publicizing it to my email lists and social networks and them publicizing it to their own substantial lists, it just didn’t happen.  The classes that did happen have tended to be the ones taught by more local teachers, not as well-known, and not as expensive, as some of the big names.

Some perfectly competent, long-standing, and popular teachers have suffered to the point of drastically reducing the price of classes in order to fill seats and maintain their income. One of the most well-known teachers told me a few weeks ago that his teaching income was down $70,000 last year due to the recession. I know many who have never made that kind of money in any year, and their loss has been proportionate.

All the expense associated with teaching continuing education, in my opinion, is going to have some serious fallout. Some talented, but not necessarily famous, instructors will give it up because they just can’t afford to keep on doing it. By the time you provide handouts, pay your own travel expenses, advertise your class, ship whatever books or products you might have to offer, your profit has flown out the window along with the ridiculous price of your airline ticket.

True, some well-known providers have corporate sponsorship. Those are the exception; not the rule. Corporate sponsorship usually goes to those who are already at the top. They want someone with name recognition whose picture looks good in their advertising and helps sell their products. There are only so many big corporate sponsors. Small, but quality, companies often don’t have that money to spare.

It will be interesting to see how the CE environment changes when the FSMTB gets their program up and running. Their mission is public protection, and during her talk, Persinger addressed that fact. I don’t think the Federation intends to start approving Reiki classes, although I could be wrong. I believe their intent is to approve classes that have a direct bearing on public protection, such as ethics, contraindications and the like.

The lack of income is not just an issue for CE providers. Massage schools are notorious for low pay, and therein lies one of the problems in attracting quality teachers. They may deservedly feel they’re better off doing massage for $60 an hour than teaching for $20 an hour. Most of them don’t do it for the money. They do it because they love to teach.

That’s why I do it. I don’t have a corporate sponsor. I can’t afford to go everywhere I’d like to go. I fit in as many events as I can, and sometimes I have to pass one up. I know a lot of providers in the same position. I had many people say to me last week that they would have liked to attend the AFMTE conference but just couldn’t because of finances. Even when a conference is reasonably priced (as that one was), travel, hotel, meals, missing income when you’re gone from your office, or paying someone to be there covering your office when you’re not, adds up.

I’m hopeful that the education atmosphere is going up, along with income for those who provide it. It really doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

28 Replies to “CE Providers: Expenses Going Up, Income Going Down”

  1. Wow you and I are on the same vibe today. I nearly did a blog on similar feelings a few minutes ago. 😉

    I have actually been thinking about re-directing energies to survive myself.
    No longer can I continue to pay for all these conventions and their outrageous prices.

    I find it also interesting that it is mainly males that most of these conventions support in the main roles of teaching, while many of my female counterparts have to find their way there, pay their expenses and receive no or very little pay.

    I have had several classes cancel this year. While people think I am busy and wealthy, I am busy surviving and rich in my heart.

    I also see that online education is effecting many of us in the teaching world. This has definitely put a crunch on the $’s for many of us who prefer to teach live.

    I have always kept my prices affordable and you well know Laura I have taught for small classes, even at your place. Hence I am opening a home based office in Marion, NC for Massage Pro C.E. in the hopes to survive this economy because I can’t afford travel expenses any longer. I am also going to offer programs for non therapists, because I cannot count on MT’s alone.

    I have 25 years experience and a wealth of knowledge. I have helped inspire many students in these years and I feel blessed for that privilege. I pray now that I can survive to continue my path in the healing arts. I don’t have a corporate sponsor either.

    I also don’t see these sponsors or convention organizers honoring the modalities that are not evidence based or structural. I must say this too.

    The ‘healing’ arts is something I have always been proud of during my profession. I feel the profession is changing and unfortunately losing some site of those of us who are dedicated from our heart.

    I took the advice of a colleague to attend conventions as a vendor etc., over the last two years. It has definitely put a dent in my margin and I can longer do this . Vendors booths at some places are thousands of dollars and I never even break even.

    I would love to travel more, but even schools have not provided large enough classes. Recently I taught in St. Louis for 5 students. My airfare, hotel, car rental, food and the percentage to the school put me in the red. Why did I go? Because I am dedicated to my students. Unfortunately, I can’t support myself this way.

    I hope that some things change for the better as a whole in our industry.
    I hope students realize that many of us are struggling too to survive
    I hope they realize waiting last minute to sign up for a course, effects many of us
    I hope they realize that cancelling last minute is hard on us all……

    I attended the AFMTE instructors not because I could afford to go, because I felt I needed to go. I needed the inspiration of my colleagues. I needed to hear “hang in there Gloria”. I needed to have faith and hope for our future as educators.

    Thanks again, Laura

  2. Just count yourself as a co-author, Gloria, because you brought up a few points I didn’t.

    I have in fact begged students not to wait to sign up, particularly for the teachers coming from a distance, to no avail. It has happened repeatedly in the past few years that people called after the deadline for registration, trying to get in at the last minute, when the class was already canceled due to lack of interest.

    Believe me when I say I understand that when money is tight, you hang onto it til the last minute. But the result has been canceled classes that really didn’t have to be canceled.

    Just last year, I got tougher on my deposit and cancellation policies for classes. I know some providers require the full amount up front and no refund with less than two weeks’ cancellation notice. I’ve always tried to be more reasonable, but it is at loss of income. No one has balked at my stricter policy.

    I go to a lot of events that cost me money to go there, because like you, I feel I need to be there. That just comes out of some other place in the budget–namely my pocket. Yes, it is tax deductible, but the $1000+ that it takes to attend one adds up to a mortgage payment and utilities for a month. If you’re a vendor, multiply that by 2 or 3. Unless you drive, you’re paying to ship it all.

    I feel that online classes will just continue to rise in popularity, so it’s either jump on the bandwagon and do them, or feel the ebb as more take advantage of it in place of attending live classes. It’s time-saving and allows so many more to learn, at a cheaper price than an in-person class. Is is the same experience? No. But it’s the state of things and I don’t think it’s going away.

    I was very heartened at the AFMTE meeting myself. To be around excellence cultivates excellence, and we were surrounded by it.

  3. Yes , I hear you about the online bandwagon. Hence, I will bring some more to my venue, thanks to Ryan Hoyme aka The Massage Nerd who will be creating a few for those technologically challenged under my organization. Glad to have the new blood. I will also get some long awaited classes up and going on line this fall/winter.

    I hope that it affords to keep me on board, because I truly do love to teach and have a passion for massage. If not, it’s been a lovely ride I will never regret or forget.

    It was wonderful, I agree, to have the support of our colleagues at the AFMTE. I hope I can afford to go next year.

  4. I think part of the problem with CE is that there are so many options to take low cost classes online and that massage therapists are struggling to get by too. They can’t afford classes. I have also heard that most business and marketing classes are getting canceled first because of lack of interest when they should be filled to the brim -so they can build their business and get more clients and yes – go to more classes! Everyone seems to think that it is all about the technique and have often thought that technique classes should have a very big follow up program for learning like ongoing practice groups and business and marketing classes so that they can learn how to promote the new technique.

    MT seem to think that CE is just something that has to be done to fulfill requirements. They don’t make it a part of their yearly plan or part of their career path. They take 3- 4 hour classes at conventions to get little pieces of info about a technique and call it good. In depth training is way to expensive. While that is fine to get your ce requirements – what is it doing to the profession and the skills of mt? Is it really helping improve the profession?

    I have played with starting a ce calendar but haven’t had much interest and haven’t had much time to put into it either really but just having a list of classes….blah, blah blah at this time and date … so what? The best way to advertise classes is to tell people what solution it will provide and how it will help them to be more successful at being a massage therapist.

    The biggest thing missing in CE is training in things that we actually need to know – things like it is OK to massage people with cancer and all those other myths that keep getting perpetuated. And what about supervision for massage therapists that can help them build a more successful business and help work through building an ethical practice? How do we make those part of the requirements mandatory? Thats what I would like to see anyways.

    How about researching this – what does it really take to make a successful massage therapist? and what ce should be required- if any?

    here in WA they just made it mandatory that we have to take like 8 hours of hands on training every 2year as part of our CE requirements. How they came up with that I don’t know. but people can take anything they want, I think even Reiki (not sure on that totally) but what difference will it really do? how much can 8 hours of hands on training teach you? It is putting it into practice and into the business that matters.

    In Japan, they require 4 years of training for licensing and no CE, but people are really wanting CE there as there isn’t much of anything. I know someone trying to start things over there.

    how do we get people to take business and marketing classes and get supervision to get them the money that they need to take more classes? Just wondering…

  5. Julie, my marketing classes are usually well attended. That being said, they’re usually only three hours in length, when they’re here in my state, because that is all the business North Carolina will allow you to get CE credit for. I’d love to be doing at least 8 hours or even 16 or 24, but people really look for what they can count for credit. If they took 24 hours of business from me, which no doubt would drastically improve their knowledge and circumstances, they’d still have the expense of finding 21 more hours they can afford. Sometimes feeding the family and paying the rent just wins out. People can talk all they want to about therapists having a poverty mentality, but that isn’t always so. When your spouse is out of work and unemployment benefits aren’t taking up the slack, or when you’re a single mother with no help trying to make ends meet, even people who are successful at their practice have a hard time. My clinic has continued to rock during the recession, but my husband’s construction business didn’t. It has knocked a $40,000 dent in our take-home pay for each of the past two years and about $20,000 the year before that.

    I love continuing education and I go in the hole taking it. My license was just renewed in December and doesn’t come up for renewal again until Dec of 2012, I have to have 24 hours, and I’ve already gotten over 50 this year…and I’m scheduled for more at AMTA in Portland. I’ll be getting even more somewhere along the way. It’s a commitment of time and money. I do without other things so I can do it.

  6. I have seen a difference in the commitment, as Laura says. Years ago many of us entered this profession because of a ‘calling’. Now, it seems the structure has changed.

    I have taught in schools across the US and there are many seats being filled up, because they are in it because someone said they would make a lot of money or because there is grant/loan money. Many of these individuals don’t even want to be there, but got pushed into the class from an admissions rep.

    These are some of the individuals that will never take a CE class, unless it is required.

    Many states have no requirements or limited requirements. That is about all the MT’s will do because they are forced to in order to maintain a license. I came from a non-licensed state many years ago. I jumped into CE classes immediately and was a CE junkie. I couldn’t wait to learn more. Doesn’t seem to be the class for many from non-licensed states.

    Last year I had a woman in one of my classes who came from a non-licensed state to a licensed state. She was a massage therapist for 15 years. The class was for techniques on carpal tunnel treatment. She had NEVER taken a CE class and was quite surprised with all the info/techniques. I was quite surprised, as I feel much of this is basic and can’t understand why someone doesn’t at least want to learn more (required or not).

    I hope that AFTME can help assist and support some guidelines in this department as well, although it will take years.

    Business classes have always been the most unpopular in MT schools too. I can’t tell you how many think they don’t need to know this part. If MT schools would perhaps integrate business skills in most classes , students may actually learn it is important. By the time they get to a 20-40 hr class in the program (usually near the end), they just want to get out of school.

    I recently taught a 7 hour business class. It went extremely well. The students were amazed how much they learned. I was surprised the ‘simple’ things they didn’t know.

    By the way, interestingly I get so many emails about business questions when MT’s find out it isn’t so easy out there?

    As for me, I take more CE’s than I need because I love to learn. I have to admit, it has dwindled recently for two reasons. Obviously finances, but more importantly after 25 years there isn’t much out there that sparks me. I must admit, I am taking Whitney Lowe’s online class because it is affordable. However, it is review for me in many ways. I also do without many other things in order to gain my education, as does Laura.

    I also wish there was a way to impress upon MT’s that it is not always about the technique.
    There is so much more to learn about this healing profession.
    I don’t understand why MT’s don’t take care of themselves. So many are hurting. Don’t they realize this is unhealthy? I would not want to get a massage from someone in pain.

    I also have gone to MT’s that have no ‘awareness’. They ignore things you tell them. They need communication/awareness classes.

    I think it is a joke when I hear MT’s say they are in a health care profession, personally.
    6 months in training and you are a health care professional? Really? Is it no wonder we are not professionally accepted this way by many Health professionals. C’mon people get more training and maybe this will be the case one day.

    As for people not having the money??? Well in some cases that might be true. However, watch the wall posts on FaceBook after a student says they have no money and you give them a big discount. Really guys, you can party ($$$) but not invest into your education? You can take trips for fun? I know I can’t have those luxuries due to the decline in class sizes etc.

    Where is the integrity??

  7. Great blog Laura (and Gloria)! There is a lot of info here.

    My husband and I were just talking this morning about how volatile the the massage CE world is and will continue to to be until the massage field gets “settled”. I see this happening when we have less organizations and states fighting for unrealistic fees (I am talking to you New York State) and requiring unnecessary CE requirements. We will not depend on our online CE business to be our main source of income, but that does not mean we will give up on it just because the market is volatile either.

    I am happy to report we have had our best month to date for our CE business! A lot of business has been from the quickly approaching Florida renewal deadline, but not all of it. It is definitely a mix of people learning for the sake of learning and people going through the motions to fulfill a required credit. All I know is that we are growing and I am excited about it. We know things are constantly changing, so being flexible and balanced while trying to stay on top of technology and changing CE requirements is time consuming for us.

    Like you mentioned, I too did not do this for the money. My profit/loss from the first few years would prove it. Many people would have thrown in the towel. I got into offering CE’s because I wanted to share my love for massage and to help others avoid the pitfalls I have seen so many other massage professionals make. . The online business allows me to do this, to be home more with my daughters, and give back in other ways. This year we decided to donate 50% of profits from our online business to charity (The Massage Therapy Foundation and Smile Train)

    I recently just adopted a little girl with cleft lip and palate and she just had her surgery this week. Seeing what a transformation that will make in her life and knowing what a difference surgeries offered by Smile Train will the lives of other children keeps me pushing our business to grow. I know the MTF is doing great things for the world of massage therapy too. I am proud to help support them, and I think our customers are too. We did not grow our business because we slashed prices or offered watered down material. We have been successful because we work hard to offer good courses and customer service (a marketing technique not too different from my massage business).

    I see a lot more people using online CE’s in the future despite state “hands-on” requirements. Not only are online courses convenient and cost effective, but some people do not need seminars to effectively learn hands-on techniques. Everyone learns differently Some people cannot master a modality in 16 or 24 hours. It takes time, and online courses allow you to do that. To quote Erik Dalton – “I tend to do best in a relaxed atmosphere that allows me to absorb the theory, view each technique over and over, if necessary, and practice on friends and family. ”

    I am excited and nervous to see how these next few years go. I think it will be interesting.

  8. Thank you all for voicing the concerns of so many massage therapists. It is wonderful to have Laura, Gloria, and Julie out there working for us!

    CE’s are so expensive and truly a burden when most therapists are not making much these days. What to do? Give up what we love? I have two offices and do outcalls and work for a fancy inn just so I can make a living. I am working my tail off!

  9. As noted in Laura’s blog and the comments above, times are certainly challenging for continuing education providers — especially those who offer face-to-face workshops. This is resulting from a combination of factors: 1) increased competition from the sheer number of providers; 2) increased competition from online and home study courses; 3) generally low earnings of many massage therapists — which makes affordability an issue; and 4) lack of consistency in the many CE approval processes across the country.

    As the only membership organization in our field with a specific category for CE providers, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is working on solutions that will help CE providers not only survive, but thrive in their professional careers.

    The Alliance will be soon launching its *Continuing Education Resource Directory*, which will be housed on the Alliance website. This will be the go-to place for massage therapists to find the learning opportunities that meet their specific needs. CE Providers and Massage Schools that are Gold Level members of the Alliance will be able to post an unlimited number of face-to-face workshops, webinars and online courses for FREE.

    The Alliance is also working to address the problems with inconsistent and redundant approval processes that are costly and create needless administrative headaches for CE providers. As announced earlier this year, the Alliance will be collaborating with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards in the creation of a new, single-source national CE approval program for both courses and providers. This is a long-term solution that will take some time to get established, but will provide a vastly improved operational environment for both providers and state massage boards once it is in place.

    Continuing education is an essential element in our field. We need to ensure that providers are well-trained to teach their courses, and that there are viable opportunities for them to earn a living doing what they love.

    Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
    Executive Director, Alliance for Massage Therapy Education

  10. Thank you for writing on this topic! You have covered the challenges so well. It is a struggle to teach in today’s mind-set and economy. As a ‘small’ CE provider, my hopes are that all states will be consistent in their financial requirements. To add a note, the extra expense CE providers are required to pay… simply go to the state government offices… not to any Massage associations.

    The AFMTE Conference was excellent. Changes MUST begin with education… and consistency. All classes I attended were brilliant and inspiring. To elevate this profession means creating varying levels of expertise and practice (incometoo).. and this must be done to assure the public of safely. I see hope at the end of the tunnel in this endeavor by AFMTE and those who attended.

    As a CE provider, I also will be putting on my thinking cap to better evaluate how to offer education. I look forward to a better future in massage.. .and hope those who are just beginning this journey, realize that once you have your certificate, you are just beginning… you really do not know much about the real world of massage therapy. Getting CE’s online for hands-on techniques… simply will not help you gain the value most therapists want to offer their clients or bring to this service and profession (if we meet the requirements to be called professionals). Minimal education = minimal income & minimal knowledge.

    Thank you again Laura & Gloria… and others… for adding valuable input about this serious problem.

    Karen Kowal, RN, LMT, NCTMB

  11. The term “single-source” sounds like you think the NCBTMB is no longer going to be approving CE, which is certainly not what they have in mind, nor did it sound at all like what the FSMTB has in mind. Debra Persinger made it very clear that the FSMTB is only interested in having approval for classes that are about public protection, such as ethics and contraindications. That would seem to me to indicate that there will still be plenty of room for the NCBTMB–or the individual states that want to—to keep on approving providers.

  12. This was first year traveling across the country presenting our Structural Relief Therapy classes. We thought we would be insulated from lower numbers because we were presenting at Cortiva schools per their request. Our numbers were so low that we began to question ourselves and material first. This blog has ease some of this self doubt. We also learned how difficult it is in other areas of the US. But just as most of you expressed I am determined to share what 35+ years has taught me.
    First, I want to comment about what Gloria said about the male ce providers. We were a vendor and presenter at the FSMTA conference in June. As we were loading our car Lynn, the director, was also loading. She asked me how my classes went. I said they seemed very enthusiastic and wanted at least a full one day class next year. She gave a laugh and said, “A one day class? that’s only for the big boys!” When I received an invitation to apply for next year I emailed her to ask if they would consider a one day class. She said no. I also found this conference encouraged partying.
    Second, during these economic times I think it is important to network and partner with other educators and providers. I have three products that I love and promote and they promote me. I highly recommend other educators classes. In fact I had over 25 students of SRT ask me who I knew and recommended for classes at the AMTA Convention. Since my connecting with Felicia Brown this past spring, I recommended her classes.
    Third, I will also be in Portland and would love the opportunity on say Thursday to meet up with all of you to share ideas and to meet in person. I am getting a room very close to the convention center that has a living room and kitchen or we can meet at restaurant. (cell: 425.422.3449)
    Recently Massage Magazine put one of my educational videos from Oakworks on their internet newsletter. Suddenly I was getting email requests for our only DVD, Introduction to SRT. We sold about 10 of them and I have been getting emails about how they have been using SRT effectively. This has changed my thoughts about learning hands on techniques via DVD. We are in the process of creating more with an encouragement to come to a class.
    I too have felt frustrated finding classes to be challenged by. I finally found a PT in Nevada to study with. How do we get MT’s excited? to be continued…..

  13. Hi

    A volatile world for CE providers– you bet! I would add to Rick’s list of factors that while workshop participants are looking for a bargain, and conference organizers want to provide one, the people caught in the middle are those pesky teachers.

    As a CE provider with important content but no product line to sell, I am frequently asked to teach for little or nothing– often in circumstances that leave me in the red. I can’t make up that difference with book or DVD sales. So what does that mean– that my classes have no value? It sure plays out that way. Further, I was at a meeting recently where an attendee said to me, “All the presenters here are selling stuff– it seems like one big commercial!”

    My blood pressure is going up now, so I’ll leave it at that 🙂

  14. Ruth, I can join you on this topic (and everyone else!). I have been teaching CE classes since 1995. The push toward free CE hours at meetings and through various organizations has de-valued the importance of life long learning. I don’t sell books, dvds, or other stuff because of the inventory costs and shipping issues. Travel to and from workshops is expensive. Hotels are expensive. Being away from home takes its toll. I hope the Associations, and Conference promoters will reimburse us for our travel, expenses AND a good wage per hour of teaching. If I teach a class with 50 people in it and the chapter makes more than I do, how many times will I want to travel to teach for that group?
    I have traveled to the west coast of Florida for a 2 hour class and spend more time on the road than in the class and then got paid a very low fee. Why do it? Because just maybe someone in class will take my weekend class in the future. Is it worth it? Not always. Especially in the current environment where teachers don’t inspire students to continue learning for the rest of their lives.

    If therapists take just the minimum. We get minimally accomplished therapists who move on to other fields because they don’t have the skills, motivation, or vision of the potential for massage therapy to transform lives. P>

  15. It will be interesting to see what the FSMTB will propose, but I certainly hope they will not discriminate against reiki, eastern modalities, reflexology, or similar classes.

    I feel bad that seasoned teachers have to go through this, but it seems like a long overdue and healthy adjustment. It seems that FSMTB is the way to go, since the process would be somewhat owned by the states. My advice is the same you would probably give the MTs you teach: don’t discount your services to the point of losing money. Especially some of you that are well known and have years of experience, why would you do that? Let AMTA go get their own teachers for a flat rate, or let the big sponsors run their conferences without the big names. See how long that will last. I bet you can find creative ways of reaching your market.

  16. Emmanuel, I don’t think it’s a discrimination. The FSMTB mission and purpose is public protection, and energy work doesn’t have anything to do with that. And the Federation itself is not a regulatory board, it is the collective of regulatory boards, and they all still have their own autonomy to do as they please about continuing education. Right off the bat I can think of numerous state boards that have massage therapists who also practice energy work on them. I don’t think they’ll vote to make it go away.

    I am gratified to know–but upset about it too–that Ruth Werner and Pete Whitridge also both have experienced this same thing.

    I don’t even tote my own books around to sell the majority of the time. If it’s a big event, the publisher (LWW) is going to be there selling them. And if it’s a small event, that I’m working for little or no pay, it’s an inconvenience and big expense to ship them there. I’m all about saving money, my author’s discount on the books is only 20% and that won’t offset the price of the shipping enough to make it worth it. I just tell my attendees the cheapest place they can get it is Amazon. They can buy it there cheaper than I can sell it to them.

  17. I relate to the various comments made in response to Laura’s post. I also do not have any brilliant ideas about what to do about it. I have never had a series of classes or products to sell but have responded to request by various AMTA chapters or schools to come and teach and I keep my rates really low. I also provide continuing education at my school. I am frustrated myself with so many meetings. They are just too expensive for most to attend including me. Just like so many others I really do sacrifice to be there. I tell people to make sure to attend the Foundation research conferences. That is about all I can be specific about. I offer continuing ed to my graduates at very low fee. The topics are based on moving toward excellence as a massage therapist. No gimmicks just skills that will help them develop career stability. It is tuff – really tuff right now. School enrollments are down and that is expecially hard on small schools like mine that do not take financial aid. Continuing education used to be a way school owners could augment income. Not now at least for me. Even at the high end of an average massage income of $35000 per year-how many can afford the cost of travel, room, food, conference fees and other expenses leading to at least $1000 and likely more. As a textbook author I absolutely agree with Laura’s observations about books and I send individuals to Amazon as well. Like I said, I don’t have any brilliant ideas but am hoping for the lightbulb to go on.

  18. Great discussion, everyone!

    Ruth, you make a very important point about the pure teacher who is not interested in selling lines of ancillary educational products at their CE workshops. Not everyone is (or should have to be) an entrepreneur in order to provide quality professional development for massage therapists. However, it has become a necessary component for many CE providers to be able to make a decent living. For teachers to be better paid, and for workshop sponsors to be able to make a reasonable amount for their role in promoting and providing space for a class, workshop fees have to be realistic.

    Back to the point that Laura raised about what she took away from Debra Persinger’s FSMTB presentation at the recent Alliance Conference: I want to emphasize that the process of developing a new national CE approval program has NOT yet commenced. There have been no meetings or conversations about what this program would look like, nor any criteria set for what kind of subject matter might or might not be considered within the scope of such an approval program.

    It is a blank canvas at the present time, and the Alliance is looking forward to the initial discussions with FSMTB which will begin to give shape and direction to this important endeavor. As we are always looking at what we can do to move the field of massage therapy closer to status as a full-fledged profession, it is relevant to see how CE approvals are handled elsewhere.

    In the research I’ve done on other professions, almost all have a *single agency* that houses the function of approval of continuing education on behalf of that profession. It is eminently possible to establish one approval process for the massage therapy field that can serve the needs of both licensing and certification bodies. Since we’ve never approached that challenge before, it’ll take some time and some thoughtful work. The status quo for CE approvals is not acceptable, and the Alliance intends to be an active part of the solution.

    Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
    Executive Director, Alliance for Massage Therapy Education

  19. This is such a great topic of discussion. I have taught for years, and have kept my continuining ed. teaching local mostly because I had small children, the downturn in the economy hit us hard, and the pay was too low to make it worthwhile. I LOVE to teach. In most classes I’ve taught in the New England area, feedback forms have had consistently high marks and positive comments. Recently, I was offered a teaching gig in the same company I worked at but in a different location for a weekend. I had to fly myself, handle my own expenses, and they would pay me the teaching fee I got in the local area (which is ridiculously low–more of a labor of love, honestly). I thought, “Are you kidding me?” Not only would it take time away from my family, and my practice, but I’d be paying to teach there ultimately when all the finances shook out. I heard all kinds of reasons why they couldn’t cover the expenses. Who does this serve in the end? I have so much I can share at this point about the work, in many avenues of massage practice, but a) I can’t afford to teach and not get paid, b) I can’t afford to attend these conferences because the fees and lodging prices are high, c) I too have had the experience of planning a course, putting the work into the curriculum (no small feat) only to have it cancelled because of lack of interest. And then what happens? “When are you going to teach (enter subject here)? I’ve been dying to take your course.” My prices are not high. The cost of the course was kept low to encourage attendance. I can’t win either way and believe me, I live and love to teach. I wish I had more of an answer, and would consider on-line teaching just for the savings in cost.

  20. Wow, so sad to hear that you all are struggling as much as those of us who are “just therapists”, not that I ever thought that CE providers were rolling in the dough.

    I agree with Gloria, that it seems like the guys making all the money are just that, guys. While their work is valuable, it’s disheartening to me that some of the more nurturing techniques (those that might be perceived as more nurturing vs. medical/outcome-based massage anyway) do not seem to get the same respect. While the majority of my clients request deep tissue massage, I provide it in a nurturing fashion. I think people really need a quiet space sometimes, just as much as they might need their shoulder “unstuck”.

    Anyway, it’s easy for students and seasoned therapists alike to get excited about new techniques, only later do they realize that they don’t do them any good when their table sits empty. Even I tend to take hands on technique classes, and buy books to learn the business side of things. I like checking out online offerings to get new ideas or to brush up on a technique, but I personally have never had the self confidence to watch a dvd or take a weekend workshop, then say “I practice (whatever it is I think I just learned).” But I feel I’m in the minority. Sometimes I wish it was easier to get more instruction past the workshop introduction phase but instructors are already stretched thin, and I definitely have to use household money, as opposed to business money to attend my one big conference (which recharges my soul, like Gloria said, and gives me hope that the work I do MEANS something, after all) and the extra CEs I take because I love to learn, not because I have to.

    I just wanted to reassure you that there are many students like me, who care, but struggle ourselves. I appreciate all that you do, even if I’ve never met you or taken a class from you.


  21. Oh, I feel better now 😉
    To know that several of you are going through the same challenges.

    Ruth, I do not offer products either. I actually have had several colleagues tell me I should learn to sell ‘stuff’ so I have passive income. This is not why I started to teach. The same reason I never worked in a facility that wanted me to “sell” products to make my wages as a massage therapist.

    Lisa, I have done everything to make classes affordable and still people say the same thing you hear “Oh I wish I could take your class…..but”

    One of the things I have noticed (and this is NOT everyone), many people don’t value their education. When I hear them complain they don’t have money, but can post on FaceBook the party they went to, the trip they took or the new vehicle they bought as well as the parties they went to (yes I repeated that for a reason), it makes me wonder the truth behind the “money issue”??????

    I have helped with partial scholarships, as I know many of my colleagues have done to help students. I know several of us have said come take the class and pay us later, and never did :(.

    I am not sure what the answer is at this point. However, I am glad we are sharing our feelings, supporting each other and hopefully things will change for many of us.

    Taya, I was told a few years in a row to apply to teach at the FSMTA. Both times I was denied any space to teach, even though one year I paid for a vendors booth, my hotel expense, air etc. This is not something I can continue to afford to do at these events.
    So, I feel for ya and sorry to hear you can’t get a full day to teach your valuable class.

    Mae, it is disheartening in so many ways. My skills teach so much to students. I can do deep tissue in a nurturing way and my clients and students absolutely love it and benefit. I am well versed in structural work and teach it sometimes at schools. It is not my preference any longer because I have seen us get away from our roots of healing and I prefer to bring that back into my work.

    I have had several colleagues, tell me hang in there. However, I am a single woman doing my best to ‘hang in’ and it’s getting more challenging each year.

    I don’t cancel classes because they are small. I know students count on them and look forward to them. However, I am often not even breaking even and one cannot survive like this.

    It is my hope that students reading this blog begin to realize the challenges many of us face. I hope they realize that if they want to see many of us continuing to share our knowledge and wisdom they will have to help us stay in business.

    It is my hope that the NCBTMB or whoever will govern CE providers becomes more discriminatory on who they allow to teach classes and set some standards for this process.

    I also get upset to hear students complain about teachers who can’t teach etc.
    I have taken some of those classes and wasted my money too.

    Anyone teaching out there should be required to have a minimum number of years in the profession, show proof not only of courses they take, but provide some sort of video to demonstrate their teaching skills. Perhaps they need some referrals as well.

    So thank you ALL for the great input and support here.

  22. Wow!! All have pretty much expressed my sentiments about seminars, costs, breaking even, if that, cancellations, late registrants after classes are cancelled. I guarantee if you do a seminar in a location, hard fought to get registrants, the NEXT DAY or two you get a call, “when are you going to hold a seminar” ….in the location you were at yesterday!!

    I have had to get instructors to help because I could no longer travel so far to do a seminar for 2-3 people. But then what? My poor instructors have had to do the seminars one on one in their homes, or travel to Key West to do it for 3 people, etc.,

    Yet daily I answer emails and phone calls by the hundreds for those who have just a “Quick Question” and who would be able to get a years free consultation on any and all questions with the purchase of a manual or course that is crucial for their ongoing success or to prevent the time and money loss for one mistake due to not making the course or purchase.

    After teaching since 1990, I too am ready to throw in the towel. When I do, I will no longer answer FREE questions as I have since I began working with medical and insurance cases in 1984.
    There, I said it and thank each and every one of you for expressing your feelings on the issues of the continuing education in our field.

    One more thing, I would like to once again put in a good word for the FSMTA of which I have served as Insurance Consultant for for over 20 years. It is an Association that has stood behind not only it’s members but the profession as a whole. I would suggest if anyone has any problems with the Association or any of it’s directors or board members to please contact them directly because in an instant misunderstandings can happen, hurt our feelings and make us believe what is not true.

    I would like to make a suggestion. All of those who have expressed their sentiments here in this blog let’s get together, have a huge brain storming session. Let’s find a way to make lemonade from these lemons!! I KNOW WE CAN!!!

  23. I would like to clear up the incorrect statements made in regards to the FSMTA and how classes and presenters are chosen. FSMTA’s normal convention format has been to offer 3-hour classes to give attendees a taste of the many different modalities available to them as LMTs. The intent is that if an attendee likes what they experience in a 3-hour setting, they will perhaps go on to take longer courses from a particular instructor. Based on attendee evaluations that FSMTA receives, this format is well-received and attendees enjoy learning from a variety of presenters. We do not tell presenters that they cannot submit full-day classes, however we do say our normal format is 3-hour classes. We have on occasion offered full-day classes.

    As far as how presenters are chosen, we usually have 15-18 presenter slots available for any given year. Each year for the past 5 years, we have received anywhere from 30 – 50 presenter applications! This is good because it gives us many qualified presenters to choose from. The disadvantage is that not everyone can be chosen to present. We make our decisions based on what we think our attendees want, not on whether a presenter will also exhibit. We feel we offer above-average compensation for presenters which includes an honorarium as well as travel, lodging and meal expenses. We do have a fiscal responsibility to our members and must balance choosing presenters from in- and out-of-state to keep our expenses in line.

    Anyone who has a specific question about FSMTA’s process for choosing classes or presenters, or any other topic may contact us directly for information at info@fsmta.org.

  24. Laura, Great blog post. And all the comments really solidify the problems and issues in the field of Massage Continuing Education. I don’t think there is an easy answer and I also don’t think it’s students fault they don’t find value in spending money on CE’s. Students and new MTs believe that they learned what they needed to know in massage school. They think CE’s should be something that enhances their practice or skill level (whether it be business skills or hands on) but most of them in IL look at CEs as something the state makes us take. MTs in Chicago often are barely scraping by–and that’s the good ones. Between Massage Envy-level wages, Groupon wages and the high cost of starting up your own practice in the city, even the best MTs I know are living in studio apartments, can’t afford a car and are looking for alternative means to make a living. It’s not just the CE teachers that are struggling and I don’t think it’s all about the bad economy.

    So, what to do. A good marketer looks at her target market and says, “What do they want and can I give it to them in a way that is profitable for me? Also, IS there a market for my services? Is it large enough to support my teaching practice?”

    From what I am reading here, it looks like there is not a big market for Massage CE’s in general and the way classes are being delivered does not meet the needs of the target market (MTs). If the target market is partying, unorganized, self-centered, broke MTs (based on Gloria’s description and some of other commenters), is this a market to pursue? And if so, how can CE teachers make it work? First off, if students act like children (not being respectful of your time, wanting you to put together a class that is convenient for them not you), set limits and boundaries on them and charge them for your time ($30 for that just one question, $50 for that half hour of advice, $250 for that one-on-one class).

    It really galls me and cracks me up when I read of the “noble” art of free mentorship. I’ve read comments from people saying that if someone wants you to pay for coaching or mentorship then they are just out to make a buck. Well, gee, yes, so are massage therapists. And do MTs give their work away for free? No. Then why should coaches, teachers and mentors? I am baffled how giving massage is somehow an art and passion, yet MTs still want to get paid to do it, and that’s OK, but teaching, coaching and mentoring should be done for free. Why? Can’t people be passionate and find teaching and coaching to be a calling and still pay the rent? Profit is not a dirty word. And trust me, few if any will ever going to get rich from coaching or mentoring MTs!

    A few ideas I have to help improve the lot of CE teachers:
    1. Offer coaching/appreneticeships for a FEE. It does not have to be an exorbitant cost. But if people come to you after a class is held and say, “when are you offering another,” give them a fee and offer your class as an apprenticeship or coaching model. And charge what it costs you to do so. If its too high for one student, make them find the other students to hold a 3-4 person class to make it worth your while. Or simply have them set up a time to call you and then charge them for your time answering their questions.

    2. Set up travel fees and work backward. If they want you, make them pay for the class months in advance and, THEN and only then, book your plane ticket. Unfortunately with travel costs, CE approval costs and time commitments what they are, I don’t see traveling teachers being able to make it for long. I understand that it’s easier to travel and teach all in one weekend, but few MTs can afford to take an entire weekend off. And how much do we really absorb in a weekend?

    3. For those that can, make some DVDs and online classes. Thanks to Ryan Holmes this is easier to do these days. Actually any teacher with a decent video camera and an iMovie can slap together a decent dvd to sell for on-line classes. If the teacher doesn’t have the time or expertise to do so, find a film student or barter with a dvd editor to get the dvd produced. Adapt to new technology or your teaching practice will not survive. More students will take an online or DVD class than an in person class due to the high costs of travel and limits on their time.

    4. Lastly, the massage profession itself is in transition. We, as CE teachers, need to acknowledge this and adapt accordingly. Are we a 500-hour profession churning out students that burn out after 6 years and go on to a less stressful, less labor intensive, more financially rewarding field, or are we legitimate health care providers? And if so, what does the profession need to do, education wise, to raise our status in the eyes of the public, the health care field, and legislators to earn MTs the respect, income and scope of practice that would allow us to earn a living sufficient to travel to classes.

    And what can we in the profession do to attract students that are more interested in learning about the latest research on proprioceptors rather than going somewhere to party? We have too many schools turning out students enticed with the promise of a lucrative massage career when in reality, the field itself is undergoing a loss of income due to the commoditization of massage. We need to take a realistic look at the target market and the field itself and then adapt not only the course material but the course delivery system to meet the needs of the market.

    Many of you in this thread have been in the field for over 20 years. And you came to it when massage was not as accepted in the mainstream. When there were less MTs competing. When there was not a push for evidence based anything. It’s not the same field. Americans have done to Massage what we’ve done to the rest of our economy: tried to make it a fast food, low quality, low price service that everyone feels entitled to receive. Due to licensing efforts and other factors, the scope of practice of MTs has narrowed. At the same time, many massage schools are not turning out health care providers or savvy entrepreneurs. Of course there are exceptions. Those with a passion and a calling and talent will do OK if they work hard enough, hone their business, communication and technique skills and give their body and soul to their massage practice. But how many people really want to or can do that? I have, but I came to massage with a lot of other skills. And as much as I can teach some of those skills and see a need for it, I am too busy running my own business to deal with the low enrollment, cancellations and other hassles to run more than few local CE classes in my area. I, too, do it for love of teaching and to help the profession. But I don’t think I can make a living at teaching CEs in my area. I also charge for my coaching services. and this attracts a more motivated and serious client than if I simply give all my time and experience away on Facebook, phone or via email. If MTs can afford a $45-80 massage, they can afford a $45-80 coaching session. And when they pay you $45-80/hour for your time, you better believe they are on time, take it seriously and give you what the profession once had, more of a respectful apprentice-type relationship.

    OK, I will get down from my rambling pulpit and get back to earning my living. Again, thanks to Laura and others for the food for thought.

    Sue Shekut

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