As you conduct your massage school research, you're probably wondering how in the world you'll choose between the thousands of schools and programs out there. Start by keeping these nine considerations in mind.
1. Massage schools differ in their approach to massage therapy.
Some massage schools operate out of a science-based medical model (therapeutic approach), while others teach relaxation massage and spa treatments. The former schools would probably offer training in Swedish massage and other Western models; the latter would demonstrate a more Eastern approach that incorporates modalities such as acupressure and Reiki.
2. Massage schools offer instruction in a variety of techniques.
No matter which tradition a massage school aligns itself with, massage courses are typically available in chair massage, deep-tissue massage, prenatal massage, and sports massage. Massage training may also encompass techniques such as hot stone massage, manual lymphatic drainage, and trigger-point therapy.
3. Massage schools may be nationally accredited.
Several hundred massage schools and programs have earned national accreditation by an approved accrediting agency such as the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, or Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training.
4. Massage schools are going virtual.
Some massage schools offer state-approved or accredited online massage programs, allowing students to complete the majority of their coursework at home provided they attend weekly hands-on massage training sessions. Online massage therapy courses may also be offered in conjunction with an intensive internship component that enables students to complete all their practical training in one block of time.
5. Massage schools vary in program length.
In order to become a nationally certified and state licensed massage therapist, you'll need to complete at least 500 hours in a massage program. Many states require more than 500 hours of massage courses - anywhere from 570 to 1,000 hours.
6. Massage schools vary in cost.
Massage therapy tuition runs about $6 to $17 per hour, averaging $9 to $10 per hour. So you can expect to pay about $3,000 to $10,000 for a full massage program, with an average of $5,000. Many massage schools also require you to purchase textbooks, a massage table and chair, uniforms, linens, massage oils, and oil holsters and bolsters.
7. Massage schools are a sound investment.
Accredited massage therapy degree programs are eligible to offer federal financial assistance, which includes federal loans, grants, and scholarships. And according to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage school grads can expect to earn about $45 an hour, including tips.
8. Massage schools prepare you for professional licensure.
Most of the 43 states that regulate massage therapy require students to pass one of the two national certification exams offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. More and more states are also accepting the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), which is governed by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
9. Massage schools set you up for an in-demand career.
In 2009, massage therapy was a $16 to $20 billion industry, according to AMTA estimates. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects massage therapy employment to increase 19 percent by 2018, faster than the average for all occupations.
Keep these things in mind, and you'll soon find the massage school that's right for you.