Tools & Resources to Find the Best Massage Therapy School for You

We have published several articles that discuss how to find the best massage school for you based on your individual goals, objectives, preferences and most importantly learning style.  These articles have all been written from a theoretical perspective, mainly focused on the intangibles you must evaluate when researching massage schools.

In this article however, we get into the tangibles; the actual materials and resources that you can consult and leverage as you research the different types of massage schools around the country. These resources include, but are not limited to: websites, brochures, detailed guides, search databases, high schools, education counselors, vocational tech directories, etc.  We have also spent some time discussing how to best use these tools to compare massage schools. In other words, what to look for and how.

Accreditation, Financial Aid and Certification Considerations

When researching the massage therapy school you would like attend, it is always advisable to choose one that has accreditation from a federally sanctioned organization. This will make you eligible for any federal loans or grants you need to apply for should you need assistance with the tuition. Further, you can also take the required exams and earn the certification you need to practice as a professional massage therapist.

Choosing the right school can help you build a sturdy base of knowledge in every aspect of massage therapy. You should opt for schools that offer you detailed and comprehensive massage programs that can prepare you for a successful practice ahead.

Accordingly, look for schools that are accredited by these boards:

  • National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT)
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
  • American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)

When visiting their sites you will be able to access their database of accredited massage schools and choose the one that matches your location and other conveniences. However, do keep in mind that there are many exceptional massage therapy schools out there that have opted not to get accreditation. You can choose to study at them depending on the specialty you wish to study, and the courses and programs you’re looking for.

Online Resources

There are various online resources you can check out when looking for a good massage therapy school.

Massage Practice Exams: While this site is dedicated to providing aspiring therapists with the information they need to prepare for their exams along with mock questions and answers. It also has a list of massage therapy academies at the bottom of each page, state wise. It includes the other details you might need such as the address, website links, phone numbers and other information that you can use to collect data that are more relevant. For instance, you could call the school or visit to find out more about it.

Mymajors.com: This site assists you with a complete list of all the massage therapy educational institutions in the USA. You only need to register with the site and they will give you complete information about the location of the school, duration of the programs you can take, kind of school, number of students that they take at a time and whether or not they offer online programs. This list will help you compare schools for a preliminary list of choices before you visit each school and work out your preference.

American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA): This site may not give you the complete list of schools out there, but it does give complete information of the schools it lists. In addition, this information can include details such as program duration, number of hours, whether or not you can be eligible for student aid, part-time or full-time courses, and the continuing education programs available.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards:  You can use the data on this site to locate the state massage therapy boards and in this way, locate the school in your school closest to you. However, you will need to check with other sites for a more exhaustive listing.

Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation: Check this site for the list of accredited schools in your state. It also gives the contact details of each of the massage institutions along with the programs offered so you can choose that best works for you. For more in-depth details, you can always contact the school.

Better Business Bureau: This is yet another site you can check for a detailed list of schools in your area.

School Brochures & Detailed Guides

With online resources easily available, most of us have gotten used to browsing the internet for everything, and for a good reason. However, massage schools predominantly still heavily utilize program brochures which are detailed guides that familiarize prospective students about the school’s offerings.

These brochures are very detailed, and include information such as the history of the school, the instructors, the program itself (syllabus), requires, financial aid opportunities, locations, tuition and fees, and all sorts of other relevant information you may need to evaluate a good fit for you.

While some schools make these brochures available online, many do not. These are however available in physical form and can be obtained by either visiting the school or requesting them in the mail for free.  These brochures often summarize all the critical points important to a prospective student and make it available in one compact guide.

While online research is effective, we highly recommend reaching out to the various schools you are interested in and request a brochure to be mailed to your home address. You can utilize our database of massage schools across the country and request this information for free here.

Search Databases

Search databases are exactly that; a repository of massage schools across the country. Some are more comprehensive than others, and some even allow you filtering options through which you can view schools specific to your geography or those that are close to you or in any other zip code you choose.

More sophisticated databases allow you to narrow in on schools that focus on the specialty you are interested in, who offer maximum financial aid assistance and various other criteria that you can specify and filter through.

You can see an example of a search database here. Through this database, you can filter schools close to you and request free information brochures be sent to your home for free.

High School / College Education Counselors and Vocational Tech Directories

High school and college counselors are some of the best people to discuss your potential massage career with. A career in massage does not require you to go to college and thus it is a popular choice among many high school students looking to get straight into a vocation and start earning money soon after graduating high school.

Many colleges, especially smaller colleges and community colleges also offer good guidance specific to vocational programs such as massage.  We highly recommend you speak to a counselor if you have access to them. If you don’t, you can always visit a school’s counseling or career planning website and obtain information directly.

While pursuing this avenue, look for vocational tech directories. These are a compilation of the various vocation options students can get into without necessarily attending college and obtaining a bachelors degree. These directories often discuss the various options and provide references of schools nearby that you can attend. Massage schools are usually part of this list along with other vocations such as hair, beauty, tooling/machining, etc.

Other Ways to Research and Evaluate Massage Schools

Having compiled a list of the possible accredited massage therapy institutions you can attend, the next step would be to visit the websites of the schools and compare the programs and modalities each school offers.

Also, look for online brochures (you can request them for free here) and vocational tech directories for assistance. Many schools offer you complete information on their websites so that should help you zero in on a few schools that could meet the objectives that you have in mind.

Call the School: You can call the school and request for information. Every school has an admissions department that takes calls and answers queries. They might even send you a detailed information package. Ask questions about the curriculum and programs offered, costs of the programs, financial aid, and any other data.

Visit the School: Visiting the school can give you a good feel of the environment and whether it is conducive to imparting and receiving training. If the school has an open house, campus tour, free workshop, or orientation session, consider attending it. Your interaction with the school representative should give you a fair idea of the expected methods of training. You could also study the makeup of the students attending to further gauge the atmosphere. Look for the average age of the students and the typical educational qualifications they possess.

Ask About Student Screening Procedures: Besides the basic qualifications that all schools look for, ask about the other requirements.

Study the Mission, Philosophy and Approach: Not only should you look for a well-established school, but you should also study their teaching methods. Do they combine theoretical and practical knowledge and provide it side-by-side? What are the different programs they offer? How do they prepare you for certification? What are the approaches they follow? Besides massage therapy, do they offer training in any other forms of healing? What is their take on wellness and health in regard to alternate forms of healing?

Check the Credentials and Qualifications of the Faculty: To begin with, check for the credentials of the directors of the massage therapy programs. Also, check for the experience levels and the duration for which they have been with the school. Next, ask about the standards according to which the school hires faculty members. What is the training they need to go through and the teaching programs they need to take? Does the school offer the faculty any opportunities to advance their skills so they can teach better? What is the practical experience the faculty has in training massage therapy aspirants? How many students are assigned per instructor in the practical, hands-on classes?

Find Out How the Curriculum is Imparted: Different school have their own approach to offering programs. Some schools allow you to choose the modalities and courses, and take them in any order. This can, at times, make it difficult for students to integrate the subject matter they have learned. Other schools offer a carefully organized approach in which each course follows the other in a logical order. Ask about the approach the particular school offers and see if it matches with your plans.

Ask About the Possibility of Distance Education: Find out if the schools offers courses online and if they do, what are the practical training options they offer.

Talk to the School Graduates: Contact the students that have graduated from the school and ask them about their experiences. You could also ask if the school prepared them well for certification and if they were able to find entry-level jobs easily. Try gathering statistics about the percentage of students that successfully passed out of the school and those that dropped out without completing the programs.

Inquire About Student Support: Find out if, the school offers career counseling and if they have a Student Advisor on board that can assist and guide students. The advisor must also be able to offer feedback on the student’s performance and track skills development.

Ask About Placement Programs: Many schools offer assistance in finding jobs for their graduates. This they do by having a database of possible massage job openings that the students can access. Also, ask about the financial assistance you might need for equipment and other supplies in case you decide to start your own practice.

Continuing Education: Ask if the academy offers continuing education programs or if you will have to get them elsewhere.

Check with Massage Therapy Businesses: Spas and businesses offering massage therapy can often recommend good schools from where they would prefer to hire graduates. This should give you a good idea of the standards of skills aspirants acquire from the different schools and you can make your choice accordingly.

Non- accredited Schools: Another factor you need to keep in mind is that there are many non-accredited massage therapy schools that offer excellent programs with a highly trained faculty. You could choose to study in these institutions and save on the tuition fees since accredited schools are typically more expensive. Many states allow you to sit for the certification exams if the school is registered even if it is not accredited. Thus, if you choose a non-accredited school, you’ll have to check with the regulations of your state.

Further, if you’re studying massage therapy for personal knowledge only as against taking it up as a professional career, choosing a non-accredited school could prove to be a reasonable choice as sometimes this is also more economical and more convenient in terms of flexibility offered to students.

While all these factors should help you make up your mind about the school you would like to study at, the final criteria would also be the hours you’ll need to put in and if you can work them around your other commitments. Also, consider the finances you’ll have to raise and any other goals you have in mind for your massage therapy career.

Speaking of you career, here is some solid career advice and invaluable tips.

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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