Considerations When Selecting a Massage Therapy School
Making the decision to attend a massage school is not something to take lightly. While massage education is largely different than traditional types of education, it is nonetheless a huge investment. Depending upon the school you choose, your location, education delivery, credential earned, etc., your financial investment could range from $6,000-$20,000.
Here are a few suggestions to help you choose a school:
• Visit at least 2 schools, 3 is better. Do not limit your options to the first program, or the one who immediately “accepts” you as a student. Change your mindset—you’re not being accepted, they are being considered!
• Ask if the school is affiliated with any professional massage therapy organization or association. The most
common are the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org), and Associated Bodywork &
Massage Professionals (www.abmp.com.) If not, ask why. A responsible school will maintain some sort of
affiliation with a professional organization to ensure that they are “in the know” when it comes to changes and
trends within the profession.
• Visit at least 3 local massage therapists and ask how their school prepared them for their career. This is very
important information that can only come from those who are actually “making it.”
• Check out the school website and social media presence. Do they have a Facebook page? Are students talking
about their experiences?
Who is teaching and what are they teaching?
• When contacting the school for a visit, ask that an instructor be made available as well. Depending on the size of
the school, it is entirely possible that an admissions representative will be your point of contact. If you don’t ask,
you may not see an instructor until your first day of class. Ask them questions like “What do you think massage
students can do/can avoid to have the best experience possible.”; “Do you practice massage in addition to
teaching?”; “What do you think the future of massage therapy looks like?”
• Also, ask to see the curriculum. With the exception of generic requirements by licensed states, massage therapy
curriculum content varies greatly. For example, business courses are typically allotted a very small amount of
time despite the fact that most massage therapists are sole practitioners, or self-employed. Some schools focus
more on the clinical aspects of massage, while others focus on wellness. It’s important to be clear what type of
therapy interests you, and what your intentions are following graduation before making a commitment.
Accredited vs. Non-Accredited
• One of the biggest sales tactics used to get a prospective student to enroll in a massage school is to use the
“accreditation” label. The one distinct benefit of attending an accredited school is that students are eligible to
apply for federal financial aid, or Title IV funding. That said, there is more to accreditation than meets the eye.
• The US Department of Education says: Accreditation is a good basic indicator of quality, although not every
school chooses to be accredited. If a school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency, it means it has met
certain quality standards established by the accrediting agency.” Accreditation basically means that the school
has voluntarily agreed to have an external agency review their administrative processes and policies. With VERY
few exceptions, the actual massage classes are only reviewed for having a syllabus, and for having a teacher who
has met requirements that the state or the accrediting body has determined are “adequate.”
• Consider this:
Massage School A has institutional accreditation. It has multiple campuses and advertises on television. In
addition to massage, they offer many other courses of study. Because they have accreditation, they are able to
offer their students financial aid. They enroll about 25-35 students per class and they graduate about 15-20. One
year later, 10-12 of those graduates are still practicing in massage, but only 3 of them are practicing full time. Of
those practicing full time, 1 is able to earn a living in massage therapy without any other source of income.
Tuition cost: 15,000 - 20,000
Massage School B is not accredited. The only program they teach is massage. Because they are not accredited,
they cannot offer financial aid, but they do have a payment plan. The average class size in Massage School B is
10, and they graduate 8 on average. One year later, 7 of those graduates are still practicing massage, but only 5
of them are practicing full time. Of those practicing full time, 4 are able to earn a living in massage therapy
without any other source of income. Tuition cost: 6,000 - 11,000.
Which would you choose? How are these two schools able to produce such different results, especially when it
appears one has such a big advantage? One has to balance the needs of the students with the needs of the
organization at a very high level. One has to focus on the success of the students to ensure survival. If you refer
one of your friends to Massage School A, it doesn't have a great impact. If you refer one of your friends to
Massage School B, it can have a significant impact. Who is more focused on making sure you are successful
when you graduate?
Accreditation isn't the end all be all of choosing a school, but it’s certainly one factor you can consider.
If you believe that accreditation is a must, learn more about the organizations below that accredit massage
schools, and be sure to check out their experience with massage therapy programs.
After you've done your research, you’ll feel much more confident about your choice, and your income potential as
a massage therapist. Good luck!
- ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools)
- ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training)
- ACICS (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools)
- COMTA (Commission on Massage Therapy Education)
- COE (Council on Occupational Educator)
- NACCAS (National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences)