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Thinking outside the box to keep up with industry demand

Door County Massage to launch apprenticeship with the Academy of Health

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March 5, 2024

DOOR COUNTY — Jan Mills — owner of Door County Massage, located at 217 N. 4th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay ñsaid there is a growing need for licensed massage therapists.

“There’s so much demand for massage,” she said. “Everybody’s having the same problem in our industry (with) not enough qualified therapists. People aren’t even going to massage school as much as they used to, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mills said, thankfully, the Wisconsin Massage Festival put her in touch with Jeffrey Montoya — founder and president of the Academy of Health, a massage school in Milwaukee.

“I found out he had this program (where) he works with a lot of other spas,” he said. “He has a Ph.D., so he developed a curriculum making it easier for people to get certified (as a licensed massage therapist) in Wisconsin.”

To become a licensed massage therapist in the Badger State, Mills said you must complete a minimum of 600 hours in an approved massage school, as well as pass the MBLEx 9 (Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination) and the state online Statutes and Rules Examination.

Jan Mills

The apprenticeship curriculum the Academy of Health offers, Mills said, provides more opportunities for hands-on experience for students.

“Hands-on lends itself better to an apprenticeship than (in a classroom),” she said. “It’s based on the instructor’s experience, and it’s going back to the old school way of learning from somebody who’s been doing it for a long time.”

In September, Door County Massage will begin the apprenticeship program with the Academy of Health, which Mills said will hopefully lead to more licensed massage therapists in the Door County area and beyond.

Apprenticeship details
To increase the convenience and accessibility of the apprenticeship, Mills said students will learn in a hybrid model.

“The online portion is based on weekly modules, so it’s an independent study, but then they have a Zoom meeting every week (to go over) anatomy, physiology, all that kind of stuff,” she said.

Then, Mills said, those in the apprenticeship will have four hours of hands-on training per week.

She said the program will run for about nine months — similar to other massage programs.

Applications for the apprenticeship at Door County Massage are due by Aug. 1.

The Academy of Health offers payment plans to students, which Mills said makes the apprenticeship more affordable.

“It’s an accessible career for people who want a good, enjoyable, high-paying part-time job,” she said. “You can make a lot per hour, and it’s not like a 40-hour job, but it’s an awesome side gig for people.”

Jan Mills, owner of Door County Massage, said there is a large demand for licensed massage therapists within the entire industry. Photo Courtesy of Door County Massage

There are some opportunities for full-time massage therapist careers as well.

Once the first cohort at Door County Massage completes the apprenticeship, Mills said she hopes “we can start having more candidates.”

“I can’t make anyone work for me- but I definitely would like to have more,” she said. “(In a perfect world), I’d have an extra four people (on staff) in the summer — May to October.”

The benefits of massage
Massage, Mills said, is often “underrated in terms of health care.”

“People come to us all the time and say, ‘my foot was hurting, so I went to the doctor and got an X-ray and an MRI, and it turns out I just need a massage,'” she said. “(That’s) because a lot of pain in the body ends up being soft tissue tension that’s maybe pulling.”

Mills said it’s worth trying out a massage.

More on Door County Massage
Before opening Door County Massage, Mills said she started a yoga studio, known as Door County Yoga.

“A lot of yoga people become massage (therapists),” she said. “It lends itself because you’re already working on people and their bodies.”

Mills said she then went to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2016 and worked at a few spas to gain experience.

Once she graduated, she said she opened Door County Massage next to her yoga studio.

Mills said she has since opened a second location in Egg Harbor.

To learn more about Door County Massage, visit

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