The last few years has seen a boom in the massage industry, and plenty of massage therapy schools have popped up to meet the demand for new therapists. It may be overwhelming, but picking between them is just like choosing a college. A few criteria will help you narrow down your options and find a massage school that matches your ideal career path.
At first glance, all massage schools have similar curriculum, but always examine the details. There are a few things you want to look for in every school. Make sure the credit hours and curriculum will meet your state’s licensing requirements. For a more well-rounded education, you may also want to prioritize schools that teach more modalities than just Swedish massage.
Consider the type of school as well. Many schools focus solely on massage therapy while others offer massage programs as just one of many courses of study. Take a hard look at the latter to make sure the massage program is comprehensive. Schools that use online programs, known as distance learning, should also be thoroughly scrutinized.
Your ideal school will match your outlook and ideal career:
- Does the school emphasize relaxation/spa massage, clinical massage, or a bit of both?
- Does the school offer a public clinic program or classroom-only practical experience?
- Does the school’s mission statement resonate with you?
Experience and Staff
Because mediocre massage schools do not tend to stay in business long, experience is a good indicator of a solid program. Check to see how long the school has been in business and how long their massage therapy program has been around. Check up on the school’s staff and their experience both in and out of the industry as well.
Most schools also keep track of their state and national exam pass rates. A good pass rate means that, at minimum, they have excellent teachers. A school that does not track its pass rates should be treated with suspicion.
As a general rule, only programs that have been accredited by a state or national board should be on your radar. Accreditation is a form of quality assurance that lets you know the material is well-rounded, comprehensive and based on sound information.
The US Department of Education certifies several regulatory bodies that can accredit massage schools. The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, or COMTA, is one of the most prolific. Some states also have their own accreditation bodies.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Tuition from school to school is often comparable. If you find a school that is considerably more or less expensive than the average, find out why. You will also want to know if there is a supply list and how much you will have to invest in materials.
Most massage schools offer financial aid, and schools with federal accreditation often provide access to federal student aid. If federal aid is not available, find out what if any private loans might be available to you.
Student Services & Class Experience
Will you graduate with the same students you came in with? Will you have the same teacher the whole time? Are less experienced and more experienced students grouped together? Are there separate rooms for book learning and practical learning? These little questions add up to create a very different experience from school to school. Find out as much as you can about what going to any given massage school is like.
Both during school and afterward, having student services available to you will be a huge boon. Look for services like:
- Career coaching
- Pre- and post-graduation job placement
- Volunteering opportunities
- Continuing education
A good program is only right for you if you can make it to class. Every massage school will have its own schedule, including what days of the week, times and how many days a week classes meet. Remember to consider your commute and potential traffic around the school.
- How long the program is
- If the program is full time, part time or both
- Whether night classes are available
- Whether an accelerated program is available
Get Some Opinions
If a massage school looks good on paper, it is time to find out if it lives up to it’s reputation. Schedule an in-person visit and even a student massage, if you can. Write up a list of questions beforehand to ask both the students and the staff.
Always look for some outside opinions. Do your homework and look into:
- Online reviews
- Better Business Bureau information
- Whether local spas, chiropractors, and other employers prefer graduates from specific schools
- Most importantly, talk to former students about their experience during school and how well it prepared them
Take your time choosing your massage school, and do not be afraid to go back for a second visit. Eventually, the massage school that feels right to you will emerge, and you can start your career knowing you made the right choice.