Find Massage Schools Near You, Plus Get Vital Info on Training and Working as a Massage Therapist
Massage schools near you can offer the opportunity to learn how to perform meaningful work in a field that is in demand and continuing to grow.
Complementary healthcare modalities like massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care continue gaining mainstream acceptance for treating pain, stress, and other health issues. Americans are seeking alternatives to opioids and other prescription pain meds that can have potentially dangerous side effects and dependence issues. And many are seeking alternative treatments instead of or in combination with surgical, pharmacological, and other traditional medical practices.
So, why are more people than ever using massage as a health and wellness tool?
Massage therapy has well-documented benefits and very few drawbacks (if any). Insurance companies and health plans are covering services from licensed massage therapists (LMTs) more than ever, so cost is becoming less of a limiting factor. And RMTs/LMTs who attend accredited massage therapy schools are taught under rigorous technical, interpersonal, and ethical standards that ensure the safety and comfort of their clients. So, the potential benefits of trying therapeutic massage generally outweigh any negatives by a lot.
What does this mean for me as an aspiring massage professional?
- Opportunity and abundance: The number of massage therapists working in the U.S. is expected to grow by a whopping 20 percent between 2021-2031*, and people like you are needed to join the ranks to meet the considerable demand. And the more sought-after your services are, the choosier you can be about your workplace and employer.
- Flexibility: 43 percent of massage therapists are self-employed. And research from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) shows that 36 percent of massage therapists work from their own homes and 33 percent work from their clients' homes. This makes it much easier to adapt your work settings and schedules to the rest of your life.
- Hands-on care from behind the front lines: People who know they want to be in a profession that promotes wellness and makes a real impact can do so without the added stress that comes with many other healthcare careers. Massage settings are generally designed to be relaxing, comfortable, and within structured boundaries that keep everyone safe.
Spa massage therapist programs may also be a good option since not every masseuse wants a healthcare-related practice. Spa and leisure-related programs generally require less time in massage therapy school and can prepare you to work in some of the most beautiful and relaxing settings, from resorts and cruise ships to cozy home offices.
Massage Therapy Schools
- North Hollywood, California
- Massage Therapy - Certificate
- Physical Therapy Aide/Sports Rehab - Certificate
- West Hartford, Connecticut
- Cherry Hill, New Jersey
- Clifton, New Jersey
- Somerset, New Jersey
- Toms River, New Jersey
- Massage Therapy - Certificate
- Massage Therapy - Diploma
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Professional Clinical Massage Therapy - Certificate
- Lilburn, Georgia
- Sandy Springs, Georgia
- Massage and Spa Management - Associate Degree
- Massage Therapy - Associate Degree
- Dearborn, Michigan
- Madison Heights, Michigan
- Saginaw, Michigan
- Woodhaven, Michigan
- Massage Therapy - Diploma
- Tucson, Arizona
- Stockton, California
- Boise, Idaho
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Portland, Oregon
- Spokane, Washington
- Massage Therapy - Certificate
Massage Therapist Training Information
How can I become a massage therapist?
1. Find out if the field is for you.
It's essential to consider the factors that could make it difficult for you to work in a particular career, as well as the parts that could make you an especially good candidate for the job. Do some research online to see what other people have to say; forums like Reddit often have a goldmine of first-hand information from industry professionals.
It's worth researching your specific concerns and seeing how other people may have successfully or unsuccessfully handled similar circumstances. For example, if you know that you are prone to joint pain from a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, try searching things like "is being a massage therapist hard on your joints?" or "can people with rheumatoid arthritis work as massage therapists?" You might be surprised how many people may have asked the same question and received valuable feedback. Don't hesitate to be specific, and if you want to make sure the search results contain a particular part of your question, use quotation marks for the word or phrase that must be included. Here's an example of what that might look like: Can people with rheumatoid "arthritis" work as massage therapists? Your search results should all contain the word arthritis using this method.
Do some local, in-person research as well. If you have a regular massage therapist, you can pick their brain during an appointment, or they may even be willing to have a separate conversation with you over coffee or on the phone to discuss your concerns and questions. If they've been working with you for some time and know you and your body well, they may even have specific insights into your suitability for the job.
You can also reach out to some of the massage schools near you to see if you could chat with someone about the career. Local businesses and self-employed professionals may also be willing to spend a few minutes answering your questions. Generally, people who are passionate about their work are happy to encourage or advise those who are interested in joining their field.
Additionally, if you have a criminal record, you will need to investigate how that might affect your ability to get licensed and find employment.
2. Pick the area of massage that you'd like to work in.
This step may also depend heavily on how long you are able or willing to spend on your training. If want to become a spa massage therapist in a leisure setting rather than a clinical one, your training will generally be shorter. If you want to become a licensed massage therapist (LMT), your training and certification will be lengthier and more in-depth, but you will be able to explore working in areas like medical and sports massage. This route can also make it easier to pursue self-employment and entrepreneurial ventures.
3. See what programs are offered at massage schools near you.
This is the easiest step! Even if you have a particular school in mind, it's still worth taking the time to see your options. Trade and vocational schools often have a variety of programs that can span from plumbing to accounting to massage therapy. Dedicated massage therapy schools have a lot to offer but may not be your only viable option.
When you're ready to start looking at what's out there, our simple school finder tool uses your zip code to provide you with a list of the accredited massage schools near you. You can try it out right now; there's no obligation to contact any schools. But when you do want to learn even more about what a particular school or program has to offer, a short, secure, private form can go directly to the admissions team, who will get in touch with you to answer all your questions and help you get started.
4. Complete your massage therapy training at the school you decided on.
While the combination of classroom and hands-on, practical training can be challenging, most motivated students enjoy how deeply they can learn and practice the fascinating subjects and techniques. It's the good type of challenge that keeps things interesting.
An accredited massage program must meet strict standards and will be structured to maximize students' success so they can graduate feeling confident in their skills. You can generally expect a structured curriculum with support through each step of the learning, certification, licensing, and job-seeking process.
5. Get licensing, certification, and other credentials required to practice in your state or municipality.
Your school will likely have given you guidance on properly obtaining your additional credentials. This step might not be the most exciting part of your journey to becoming a massage therapist, but it is a vital one. Each of these credentials represents your professional ability and trustworthiness. And in a career that involves bodywork, clients need to feel safe and confident in your professionalism and skill.
This process will include taking the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). Many study guides are available to help you prepare when that time comes. But your training will also have prepared you well to pass the exam.
6. Get those hands to work helping people!
You may find it helpful to work for an existing business as part of a team at first, even if your eventual plans involve self-employment or starting a business of your own. Getting your feet wet in the "real world" can go more smoothly if you have guidance from pros who have worked in the industry for a while.
Regardless of your ultimate career goals, starting your paid work as a massage therapist is the last and likely most enjoyable step of your journey to become a massage therapist.
How do I decide what type of massage career is right for me?
The first step is to decide whether you want to become a spa massage therapist or a licensed massage therapist since the educational and licensing requirements differ.
Becoming a spa massage therapist (also called spa practitioner) usually requires completing a certificate or diploma course that is typically 500 to 1,000 hours in length. The focus of these programs tends to be on using massage as a tool for relaxation and self-pampering. The curriculum can include:
- Swedish techniques
- Hot stone therapy
- Mud and seaweed wraps
- Salt glows
- Body scrubs
Working in a spa environment may also require additional training specific to your job or the company you work for. Some spas may use signature techniques, products, and protocols that you need to learn to be part of the team and support their desired environment.
In addition to massage, relaxation, and beauty techniques, many spa therapist programs include business training related to spa management or entrepreneurship. Some general topics that get covered include marketing, customer service, sales, and basic accounting.
If you wish to become a licensed massage therapist (LMT), you will likely have to complete a more in-depth program that provides up to 1000 hours of training or more. If you choose to specialize, you may need to spend some time on continuing education courses, as well as take the time to earn your credentials. While you will most likely learn about relaxation-based massage techniques, the primary focus of licensed massage therapy programs is on the treatment of injuries and illnesses. Therefore, the majority of LMT courses tend to highlight therapeutic techniques, such as:
- Deep tissue massage
- Sports massage
- Chair massage
- Thai bodywork
- Myofascial release
- Lymphatic drainage
- Neuromuscular techniques
- Joint mobilization
Licensed massage therapy programs also usually provide an extensive background in healthcare-related topics, including anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology. And, since LMTs are required to obtain national certification, programs generally need to be accredited by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) so they can prepare students for national certification examinations.
What are the massage therapy certification requirements I will need to meet?
For most states, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) certification is required by law to work as a massage therapist. Many of these states will also accept a passing grade on the MBLEx exam as an alternative to the NCBTMB exam. However, even if you don't live in a state that requires certification, there are various reasons why you should still consider becoming certified:
- It shows that you are dedicated to your profession and committed to maintaining the highest industry standard in terms of skills and knowledge.
- It proves that you have obtained a minimum of 500 hours of instruction.
- It ensures that you have a strong understanding of safety and ethical considerations.
The NCBTMB offers two different exams:
- National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB)
- National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM)
The eligibility criteria are the same for both exams and require that you:
- Obtain the minimum hours of instruction: 125 hours of body systems, 200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory, and hands-on application, 40 hours of pathology, 10 hours of business and ethics, and 125 hours of further theoretical instruction in massage therapy or another related field
- Graduate from a program at an NCBTMB-accredited school
Both exams are multiple-choice and share most of the same content, including general knowledge of body systems, detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, therapeutic assessment and application, and professional standards, ethics, and legal practices. The only critical difference between the two is that the NCETMB also includes questions regarding bodywork assessment and application, whereas the NCETM focuses solely on massage.
How long is massage therapy school?
The length of your training depends on the type of program you choose and the type of school offering the program. But to provide a general idea, data from the AMTA shows that in 2018, training time totaled an average of 667 hours for aspiring massage therapists.
Vocational trade schools and colleges usually offer short-term, career-focused programs. These programs are typically one year or less in length (and very rarely longer than two years) and focus solely on providing the hands-on skills and practical knowledge required to work in the industry. Graduates generally receive a massage therapy diploma or certificate.
Many public and private colleges and universities also offer certificate and diploma programs and often provide massage therapy degree options. Massage therapy degree programs are usually two to four years in length and, in addition to practical and theoretical massage therapy courses, also tend to include general education courses related to business, professional development, and more. This can be of benefit if your future goals involve taking on advanced or managerial positions in the industry or becoming an entrepreneur and opening your own massage therapy business.
No matter which type of massage therapy program or school you choose, it is important to keep in mind that if you want to live and work in a state that requires NCBTMB certification, the program you choose must meet the minimum requirements for training hours, and the school must be accredited by the NCBTMB.
How much does massage therapy school cost?
Just like with program length, the program cost is dependent on the type of program you choose to pursue.
However, for a typical certificate or diploma program, the average tuition can be as little as a few thousand dollars on the lower end of the scale, to $15,000 or more. The average tuition for a degree program can range from $20,000 to $40,000 and higher.
It is important to note that regardless of which program option you choose, most will require that you purchase books and equipment (such as a massage table), which are added expenses on top of the price of tuition. These prices vary, but the overall average is around $1,000.
Why is massage therapy so important?
Getting a professional massage might sound like an enjoyable way to relax and de-stress (and it is), but the positive effects go far deeper. It helps release muscle tension and improves blood flow to joints and muscles. It has also been proven to have a positive effect on various body systems, including:
- Central nervous system — triggers a relaxation response, causing the body to release endorphins that act as natural painkillers and calming aids.
- Circulatory system — helps stimulate the circulatory system, increasing circulation, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching body tissues.
- Digestive system — helps stimulate organ activity, improving waste removal, enzyme production, and more.
- Respiratory system — deepens, stabilizes, and normalizes breathing patterns and can help clear lung congestion.
- Skeletal system — decreases inflammation in joints, helps restore range of motion, and can help improve posture.
Additional benefits include:
- Reduction of pain and stiffness in muscles and joints through the removal of lactic acid and other waste
- Lowering of stress hormone levels, helping to reverse the damaging symptoms of stress, such as raised blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, and respiration
- Increased cranial vagus nerve activity, which helps with food absorption, heart rate, and respiration
- Heightened levels of dopamine and serotonin, which reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
- Decreased stress, which often leads to better sleep, improved concentration, and more
Some of the conditions for which massage therapy can be utilized as a part of a treatment or prevention plan include:
- Arthritis, tendonitis, and other inflammatory conditions
- Headaches and migraines
- Repetitive strain injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back pain, including sciatic nerve conditions
- Muscle strains, sprains, and spasms
- Rehabilitation from surgery or injury
Certain groups may also especially benefit from massage therapy as an alternative or addition to traditional medical treatment. Veterans, for example, are likely to experience physical and mental health effects like chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other issues that massage has been proven to help with.
Additionally, non-pharmacological methods of pain management are becoming more vital to Americans as awareness of the opioid epidemic increases. But the potential for addiction isn't the only reason people want to avoid taking more medications for their health conditions. Side effects, costs, and availability are just some of the other factors that make massage a great alternative to drug treatments.
Research from the AMTA shows that 61 percent of massage therapists received referrals from medical offices and hospitals, and 75 percent had clients referred by chiropractic or other integrative care professionals. Fifty-two percent of consumers surveyed said their last massage was for medical purposes, and 87 percent stated that they believe massage is effective in reducing pain. What do these numbers tell us? They illustrate that the medical community increasingly regards massage therapy as a powerful tool for promoting and maintaining health and wellness. And consumers reflect the same shifting ideas.
Massage Therapist Career Information
With an origin that traces back thousands of years, massage therapy is an ancient practice that is not only still relevant but has also been increasingly gaining in popularity over the last two decades.
More and more people are turning to holistic health practices, and studies have shown the positive effect massage therapy can have on relieving stress and pain and improving overall well-being. All these factors have combined to make it an in-demand career field.
How much do massage therapists make?
Salaries in this field tend to vary depending on experience, work environment, geographic location, and other factors. However, according to the BLS nationwide salary estimates from May 2021, massage therapy pay looked like this:*
- The median yearly pay for massage therapists was $46,910.
- The top 10 percent of earners made more than $77,600.
- The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,450.
When it comes to salaries for licensed massage therapists, it is important to keep in mind that they tend to earn a combination of wages and tips. It is also notable that according to the BLS, roughly half of massage therapists work part-time.
Are massage therapists in demand?
The alternative health sector is becoming more and more popular, and one of the main areas people are embracing is massage therapy. National projections indicate that, between 2021 and 2031, the number of massage therapy jobs could rise by 20 percent.* That is much faster than the national average for all career fields.
What does a day at work look like for a massage therapist?
This depends on a few factors, including the type of massage therapist and their work environment. For example, a licensed massage therapist (LMT) working in a sports medicine facility can be quite different from a spa massage therapist working at a resort. However, there do tend to be common duties.
The administrative portion of the career usually involves:
- Scheduling appointments
- Consulting with new clients to review symptoms, record medical histories, and learn about lifestyle factors
- Billing and insurance processing
Aside from specific techniques and types of massage therapy (outlined next), most jobs consist of a standard set of general hands-on tasks. The typical process begins by setting up the massage table in a private area and organizing any needed supplies (massage oils, aromatherapy candles, etc.). Once the patient has arrived, they are taken to the private area and left alone to disrobe and lie face down under a sheet on the massage table. (In North America, clients must be covered by a sheet at all times, with the massage therapist only exposing the part of the body being massaged.)
Once the therapist returns, they ensure that the client is comfortable and begins the massage. Most massage sessions last between 30 and 90 minutes. Unless a specific injury or illness is being treated, massage therapists begin with the back and neck, followed by the legs. The client is then asked to turn onto their back, and the massage resumes with the neck, arms, abdomen, and legs. After the massage, the therapist will give the client time to redress, often asking for feedback afterward to add notes to the client's file and plan future sessions. They will then complete the billing process and schedule the client's next appointment if applicable.
Now that the general similarities between massage therapy careers have been covered, it is important to understand that there is a significant difference between spa and licensed massage therapy:
Licensed Massage Therapy
- Tends to involve advanced techniques plus additional therapies, including hydrotherapy
- Generally requires more education and has stricter certification requirements
- Focuses on therapeutic treatments for general or orthopedic pathologies, including chronic back pain, tendonitis, chronic headaches, and muscle strains
- Career choices for LMTs are more likely to include health care settings, such as chiropractic offices, sports medicine clinics, or nursing homes
Spa Massage Therapy
- Tends to focus on relaxation and stress management rather than therapeutic treatments
- Is generally performed within spas, salons, resorts, or cruise ships
- Aside from massage, it can include additional services, such as aromatherapy, reflexology, body wraps, and hot stone treatments
- Generally attracts clients who are looking to treat themselves with enjoyable pampering rather than seeking treatment for an injury or illness
What are the main types of massage therapy?
Here are some of the most common massage techniques found in the industry today:
- Deep Tissue
- Thai Bodywork
- Trigger Point
- Stone Therapy
- Myofascial Release
What is a massage therapist's work environment like?
There is a wide range of working environments for both LMTs and spa therapists. Some examples include:
- Private practices
- Health clubs and fitness centers
- Spas and salons (including ones at resorts and on cruise ships)
- Chiropractic offices
- Physicians' offices
- Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing homes
- Sports medicine clinics
In addition, some massage therapists opt to work in more than one environment. They buy portable massage tables and make house calls, spending their days traveling from house to house.
What are some of the top benefits of a massage therapy career?
- Bright job outlook: You can become part of a growing career field.
- Exciting opportunities: You can explore many different routes, from entrepreneurship to health care. Plus, if you choose to pursue a position on a cruise ship, you could even travel as part of your job.
- Flexibility: Depending on what area of the field you choose, you could enjoy extreme flexibility when it comes to your work schedule. Many independent massage therapists can set their own hours.
- Work that's rewarding and interesting: If you are truly passionate about the work, you will likely never tire of it. Many massage therapists feel physically, mentally, and spiritually fulfilled by healing others through touch.
- Building valuable relationships: Since you will be working one-on-one with clients, you have the opportunity to meet a variety of people and build close and lasting professional relationships.
* Unless otherwise noted, salary information is based on May 2021 data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. Job growth estimates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are for the 2021 to 2031 period.