Main Differences in Local versus National Massage Therapy Schools

Local massage therapy schools are community colleges, local universities, or single branch vocational institutes and represent the majority of all educational providers for massage therapy education.

The schools are in contrast to large national or multinational for-profit schools that are available at multiple locations across the nation, for example Everest, the Cortiva Institute and any others that are in multiple locations and also offer online training.

Even within the local massage therapy schools community there is a wide range of available options especially if you live in a large urban city such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Is a Local Massage School Right For You?

Attending a local school near you will be your best choice most of the time. There are several  reasons for this: proximity to your home and support network, no additional housing costs, familiarity with localities, easier logistics/transportation and possibly more options for a part time job in the massage industry.

The biggest consideration when contemplating attending an out of state school is the cost of living and education.  While housing is an obvious consideration, one that is less obvious is cost of attendance. You will have to consider out of state school tuition, which in some educational institutions (especially public schools) can be significantly higher.

If cost is not an issue to you, you may consider an out-of-state school if you want to attend a top-notch institution that is located elsewhere.

Premier National Massage Institutes

Premier national institutes, generally referred to the top rated educational providers within the massage therapy industry deserve to be mentioned here. These institutes have a long standing history of providing education for massage therapy even before the professionalization of the industry.

These nationally rated schools are considered the best in their field at providing not only great classroom curriculum but some of the best facilities and faculty for hands-on training. However, these qualities come at a cost.

Even if one of the top notch schools is near you, the tuition rates can be prohibitive.

Small Locals versus Big Locals

The other types of schools can all be considered local schools. They generally fall into three categories:

  • Small community colleges
  • State or private universities
  • Local vocational institutes

Small Community Colleges

Depending on the size of your city there could be one or several community colleges. In this category we will not be discussing the large multinational educational providers such as Everest that have community colleges in hundreds of locations.

A private community college that is operated with a profit motive will be career focused and provide strong educational basis for massage therapy. A municipal or state run community college may be more economical but its massage program will likely depend on the quality of the college as a whole.

A well-run public community college with a great track record in the community would be a good consideration. That said, one disadvantage to small community colleges is the perception that their education level does not meet the exacting standards of for-profit private schools.

Securing employment with the top employers may be more challenging if you do not graduate from a well known massage therapy school. However, in this industry not everything depends on the school.

State or Private Universities

State run or private universities represent local massage therapy schools that provide superior education at an average cost and are generally well received. Their programs usually offer either certificate-based or associate degree based education.

These institutions are usually regionally and nationally accredited allowing for your credits to be transferred to most any other university in the country. University massage therapist programs also offer the benefit of ensuring that state licensing requirements is met.

The programs are generally longer because they are based on a semester system and provide a continued support system for even paced learning. As a local option, community colleges and universities can offer state financial aid or even federal financial aid that local vocational institutes can rarely offer.

Local Vocational Institutes

Private for-profit vocational institutes can either be a huge disappointment or one of the best investments you could make in your career. One of the first things that you will want to ensure with a local vocational Institute is that it is accredited for massage therapy as an educational provider.

If this is not prominently shown on the school’s website and you do not get a straight answer from someone at the school it is best not to attend that location. As a local Institute the price will generally be more expensive than community college and possibly even more than university tuition rates but should not be anywhere close to the cost of premier national institutions.

The advantage of a local vocational Institute will generally be its placement programs within the community that should enable you to be employed soon after finishing the program. Also vocational institutes do not have waiting lists usually and have condensed programs allowing for quicker completion.

Summary of Massage School Tiers and Their Costs

The biggest difference between one massage therapy school and another will be the cost of attendance. Usually the least expensive option for massage therapy education will be community colleges or large multi-branch colleges such as Everest College.

State universities will usually be second and may even be less than local vocational institutes in some cases. The top end of the cost scale will be private universities, private community colleges, and premier vocational institutes.

In summary, those to whom cost is not a concern sometimes consider out of state schools, especially if the school is highly reputable. That said, attending local massage therapy schools is usually the most common choice for most aspiring massage therapists. Many local schools provide cost effective, accredited, certified and sufficient training for a successful career in massage therapy.


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Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

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