Accredited massage therapy schools are those massage therapy schools that offer programs with components that will qualify towards a national certification as awarded by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) and accredited by The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) among others.
COMTA is a volunteer run commission recognized by the US Department of Education in 2002 as an accrediting organization for the massage therapy and bodywork profession. This organization ensures a quality level of education within the programs and schools accredited by a review process that sets certain standards to meet.
Although this agency is specific to massage therapy there are several other governmental agencies that can accredit massage therapy schools. Below is a list of few.
COMTA Accreditation is a volunteer peer review system that analyzes and identifies educational programs or institutions that meet or exceed a maintaining level of quality, integrity and performance as outlined by specific professional and educational standards. These standards are set by the industry as stated below:
- Standards are set by educators and practitioners in the massage therapy industry.
- These standards are set in a manner to recognize differences in curriculum competencies and organization in conjunction with the methods of instruction as they are represented in professional practice.
- These standards are to be upheld and continually reviewed to maintain an ongoing professional development standard.
- They are regulated by the U.S. Department of Education for accrediting bodies.
- Included are complaint and appeal procedures, providing proper due process in regards to interpretation of said standards within teaching institutions, programs and schools.
This government approved and regulated accreditation process was set up to prevent corruption and waste and promote a high educational standard within a growing industry.
It is meant to provide practitioners, consumers and educators with a standard base of knowledge, integrity and practice standards to guide them through their respective careers and choices.
Benefits of Accreditation
The benefits of accredited massage therapy schools are evidenced by the growth of the industry to unprecedented levels as both consumers and healthcare networks have realized the benefits of holistic health practices. These benefits include:
- Increased Standards – by formalizing the standards for education it has increased the base level of knowledge of practitioners within each discipline and modality.
- Credibility – by establishing a governing body of the education providers it has lent a wealth of credibility to schools, practitioners and consumers.
- Quality – raising the bar of educational qualifications and standards has naturally led to an overall increase in the quality of education providers but also the quality of care provided to consumers.
- Pride – through such quality comes a general recognition of the industry and its practitioners as professionals and elicits a sense of pride.
- Recognition – these standards have provided for recognition by other sources outside the industry approving major changes to professionalize.
- Reputation – through established standards for integrity and professionalism in education standards, the once scandalous reputation of certain aspects of the bodywork profession have been eliminated, enhancing businesses and schools.
- Feedback – by involving more stakeholders in the process more feedback is gained allowing continuing improvements.
Accreditation also has benefits for students embarking on this career beside the benefits to the industry as a whole. To qualify for federal funding you will need to apply to an accredited school as non-accredited schools do not qualify for Federal Financial Aid.
You will also need to check with state licensing requirements as most require an accredited program certification before awarding state licenses. Driven by changes in State requirements, it has become increasingly important for aspiring massage therapists to attend accredited schools. In many States you can attend a non accredited institution so as long as the school is State certified.
Note: The argument in this article is presented from the perspective that it is favorable to attend accredited massage therapy schools. For a counter argument demonstrating why this may not be the case, and why you may be better off attending a non accredited institution, please go to this link.
Finding Accredited Schools
Accredited massage therapy schools should be your only choice when searching for a program for your career. So how do you find the right ones? The first step is to search for an accredited school in your state where you already practice or want to practice.
Don’t assume all schools are accredited. They are not. There are many schools that are still non-accredited and potential students should be aware of them. Although they could be great institutions, unfortunately with “diploma factories” churning out low quality certificates to those that cannot afford the accredited schools, this trend has damaged the reputation of many unaccredited schools in the perceptions of employers and consumers.
Attending a non-accredited school, while the tuition may be cheaper, will affect your chances of being state licensed and finding employment in highly esteemed and sought after professional massage therapy organizations. Again, may it be purely from a perception perspective, this is a fact.
In some States, as long as a non accredited school is State licensed, you can attend it and be eligible to sit for the necessary certification exams. The key is to check whether the school is State certified. But if the State requires the school to be accredited, then you have to attend an accredited institution. Remember that non accredited schools do not qualify for federal financial aid.
If you are agnostic to the considerations mentioned above, there are some circumstances where considering this option does not need to involve much thought, such as acquiring knowledge for your own sake as well as acquiring skills outside your current profession to aid in that profession but where you would not rely on massage therapy as your main source of income.
Finding an accredited school can sometimes be difficult. Let the following online resources help you refine your search. Each site has a “school finder” and they all usually include accredited programs found by the state. This lists either direct accrediting agencies or industry specific organizational resources:
- American Massage Therapy Association
- National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)
- The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
Best Accredited Massage Therapy Schools
Included in this section is a short-list of some of the most recognized schools in the United States for accredited Massage Therapy and Bodywork.
- Cortiva Institute Schools of Massage Therapy – with campuses in 6 states, offering comprehensive programs with eligibility to take the National Certification Exam.
- National Holistic Institute – has been training massage therapists since 1979 focusing specifically on massage therapy with hands-on, business and science classes as part of their training.
- Bryan College – with two locations on the west coast offering day, evening and online classes, this accredited school is top notch in massage therapy. This is one of the reputable accredited massage therapy schools online.
- Everest College – as an international college with multiple locations throughout North America; it is one of the larger providers, with 40 schools in 11 states and even in Canada. You can specialize in spa or sports therapy as well.
- The Soma Institute – a very selective school in its applicants. It is well known for preparing candidates for a successful career as well as its counseling and therapy programs.
Note: The best schools don’t necessarily have to be nationally accredited massage therapy schools. As long as the school is accredited, it does not matter whether it has a large geographical presence – with all other varialbles equal.
If you plan to be a professional massage therapist you have to be careful in the school you decide to attend. The key is to check with the State requirements and select a school that meets those requirements.
You want to attend a school that will best prepare you for a successful career by giving you a better quality education, a credible professional certification and ensuring that you have a better chance of finding employment immediately after finishing the requirements.
With a multitude of accrediting agencies (some self-proclaimed) the challenge is making sure the school you select is adequately accredited before applying.
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