What is the Cost of a Good Massage Therapy School?

Massage therapy school costs vary greatly depending on the type of institution and the type of program you plan on taking.

One of the first things to look at are the different types of schools that you can attend including: traditional community colleges or universities, dedicated massage therapy institutes, accredited and non-accredited schools, local versus nationally recognized, and online and traditional classrooms.

Besides the type of school you will need to look at the type of program, what it includes as far as equipment, modalities, and the number of hours involved in completing your education.

Deciding What’s Important

Before you even begin to look at schools you need to decide what is important in your educational career, where you will focus, and what you deem is important in an educational institution.

By preparing a priority list you know exactly what is important for your education and career. This will let you narrow the field of choices for massage therapy schools. Some things you should consider in your priority listing include:

By deciding what’s important to you before you start looking for school you can weed out different schools based on the options they have according to your priorities as massage therapy school costs can vary greatly.

Types of Schools

Next, one of the most important types of decisions you need to make is what type of institution you want to attend. Part of this decision focuses on whether you want to be board-certified, accredited, or if this is not a career choice but a hobby.

Assuming that you want to be a board-certified, accredited and licensed massage therapist your choices include two major forms of schooling. This could include traditional vocational schools or community colleges and universities.

The traditional vocational school focuses on one vocation, which in this instance is massage therapy, whereas colleges and universities offer many other diverse programs.  The difference between these two types of schools is mainly cost.

Typically traditional vocational massage therapy schools cost more. Whereas community colleges or state universities are on average less expensive. The difference between the two is usually perceived in the quality of education that you receive.

If both choices are accredited nationally there should be no actual difference in the level of education that you receive. However, in your career you will come across employers that are biased towards vocational schools because of their perceived higher level of service and education provided to their trainees.

Online Versus Traditional/Vocational Schools

Aside from the different types of schools, new online certificates versus traditional/ vocational schools needs to be discussed as well. The advent of online learning has led to many different players entering the educational career space espousing quick and easy certification at lower costs.

While the cost may be lower in the field of massage therapy certification; currently most states are regulated and all of the regulated states require minimum amounts of hands on experience in order to become state licensed.

If a school truly is an online only school you will not want to attend it as you will not be properly prepared for state licensing or National Board Certification no matter if it is significantly cheaper.

Traditional or vocational institutions that offer an online portion at a savings should be considered only if you are an independent learner and well motivated. These programs usually still have hands-on experience on-site.

Types of Certification

There is confusion around the term certification for massage therapists. For example: you can be “nationally certified”, “board-certified”, “state certified”, “certified massage therapist”, or “state licensed”.

In addition, vocational institutes provide a certificate of completion and traditional school such as colleges or universities award associate or bachelor degrees. To clarify, generally, when you complete your coursework and hands-on training you will receive a certificate of completion from your educational institution or an associate degree from a college or university.

These, however, do not denote that you are licensed in your state or a board certified massage therapist nationwide. The national certification process allows you to use the designation “board certified” for your massage therapist designation; however, this certification process is in addition to your educational training.

You must pay separate fees and take a separate exam to pass this certification. An accredited school for massage therapy will prepare you properly for these national certification exams.

Cost Considerations

The considerations to take into account for the cost of massage therapy are wide and varied.

Consider the following differences for example:

  • Differences between state to state education costs and/or subsidies
  • Vocational versus traditional versus online
  • Out-of-state programs versus locally-based programs
  • Number of many modalities included
  • Massage table, books and accessories included or à la cart
  • The length of the hands-on program which can vary from 250 hours up to 1200 hours.
  • Local versus out-of-state housing costs.

These variables can all change depending on the Institution, location and type of program you are interested in taking, and whether it’s the shortened version or the longer version which is a common offering at many institutions.

Tuition Rates

As can be seen from the discussion above tuition rates and fee schedules can vary greatly from state to state, from vocational to traditional to online massage therapy schools, and can include many different aspects within their program and still meet accreditation guidelines. Additionally, massage therapy school costs depend on the location of the institution, its type and length of the program.

Tuition rates can vary from a few thousand dollars to almost $30,000 for top program at the top vocational institutes in the United States. The decision of which school you should attend should not always be based on only cost of tuition.

If money is no object then the ideal career path would be to choose a top vocational Institute with the longest hands-on program available with the choice of training for one or two modalities in addition to the standard training at the time of your program.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective educational route your best bet is to attend a community college accredited in massage therapy for their shortened online program that would qualify for federal funding aid. In this scenario you could complete the program within 3 to 6 months and have your education cost be fully funded by the federal government.

As can be seen by the tuition discussion the cost depends on your own priorities, available investment for your education and career, your learning aptitude, and the type of educational institution that you want to attend either locally or out-of-state.


Want to Multitask? Watch this article in video format or simply play it in the background and listen to it while you work away

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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