Hello out there future healers! You are taking initial steps on a journey to becoming a massage therapist and your first big choice is where to attend massage therapy school. It can feel like a big decision – because it is! Let us help guide you through the steps of choosing a school that is right for you.

STEP ONE: Establish how far you are willing/able to commute to school

Get on google and find the massage therapy schools in your area that are driveable for you. Consider things like any public transportation, what the parking situation is at the school, and (if you’re lucky enough to be in New Jersey like we are) where the best en route Wawa is.

STEP TWO: Judge the schools you find

You are Simon Cowell and the schools you’ve narrowed down within your commute are competing to be finalists. Bust out some judging criteria:

  • Are they approved by NCBTMB? That is a good acronym to know as a massage therapist, they are the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
  • Are they accredited by COMTA? That is another good acronym: Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. They are more selective and set high standards for massage therapy education.
  • What is their MBLEx pass rate? Yes, more acronyms. The MBLEx is the massage and bodywork licensing examination, and most states – including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware – require it for licensure.
  • What is their job placement rate? Massage therapy programs should be preparing students to step right into work as a massage therapist the moment their license is in hand. 
  • What does their curriculum look like? Is their school catalog available on their website? Spy, search, poke, prod – let it wash over you that there is a good chunk of health science education involved in massage therapy school. Anatomy and physiology is right there alongside massage theory.
  • Finally, determine that the school meets all the requirements in your state. ABMP has a great resource for checking that out. (And yeah, that’s another acronym, ABMP stands for Massage Therapy and Bodywork Professionals.)

STEP THREE: Count the cost

This step is all about calculating what resources your potential schools will require and compare that to what you are willing and able to give. And it isn’t just money–it is also your time and energy.

A helpful exercise is to break down the schools still on your list and figure out two big things: financial requirements & time requirements.

Explore everything the school covers in their tuition cost. These are not all the same. See if equipment (such as a massage table and linens) are included in your tuition and provided as part of the program, or if you are expected to purchase these things yourself. Same goes for textbooks. And uniforms! It is typical that there is a required uniform when you enroll in a program, and sometimes the uniform or part of it can be covered in the initial tuition cost.

Check to see if the school accepts financial aid. The FAFSA is not only for degree programs; if your school is part of the federal student loan system you can apply for financial aid.

There might also be scholarships available. This is a great question to keep in mind for the next step when you tour your top schools, but is also something you might be able to find on the school’s website.

STEP FOUR: Go on tour

You found some schools in your area, you made sure they are approved by your state, and you did some initial number crunching – you’re ready. Schedule a tour with the school and go see them. Test out the commute, get a feel for parking, and definitely, definitely see how you feel being physically present in the building and when interacting with staff.

Write a list of questions and don’t apologize for asking them. See a classroom. Ask if you can sit in on a class. Ask tons of questions about tuition and financial aid. 

STEP FIVE: Make the call

Focus on finding a school that is a good fit for YOU. Your situation is unique. Partner with a school that is going to support you in your journey, not only as a student but as a licensed professional.

Like most big decisions in life, the trick is finding that sweet spot between feeling comfortable with your choice and realizing you’re taking a leap of faith into something new. Trust yourself and your decision making. Now get out there and start your journey!