According to the American Massage Therapy Association, “there is no such thing as a standard massage therapy practice.” There are a variety of reasons for this—the two most influential are that massage therapists work in many different environments and practice many different types of massage and that licensing and certification regulations differ among states. Because different massage therapy students have different needs, there is also great variation in the programs offered by massage schools. Over a series of posts, we’ll explore some of the top factors to consider when selecting a massage therapy school.
When choosing any type of school or program, the first thing you should verify is that it is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This indicates that the school or program meets a certain standard of quality. Massage therapy schools may be accredited by several agencies, including the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. These are just some of the accrediting agencies, so check the U.S. Department of Education website to make sure the school you are considering is recognized.
One of the biggest sources of variation in the massage therapy industry is the different regulations in each state. These variations can be large—some states require only 500 hours of training, while others require up to 1000; some states require massage therapists to be licensed, while others don’t (though most states are moving toward mandating licensure). Be sure to check the regulations in your state to ensure that the credential you earn will allow you to work.
There are many, many types of massage. Some schools specialize in one particular type, like Swedish massage, some schools offer a couple of different specializations, and some have more jack-of-all-trades types of programs. Examine the course catalogs for the schools you are considering to make sure that the programs and specializations they offer are well aligned with your interests. Regardless of what kind of massage you choose to pursue, the school you attend should provide a solid foundation in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and basic massage techniques.
Opportunities for Hands-on Practice
When it comes to learning massage therapy, nothing beats hands-on practice. States that have licensing requirements usually also stipulate a minimum number of hours of massage therapy training that needs to be dedicated to practicing on a real person. But the more practice you get, the better therapist you will be, so look for a school that meets or exceeds the minimum practice requirements for your state.
In the next post, we’ll look at a few more factors to consider when choosing a massage therapy school.
American Massage Therapy Association. Starting a career in massage therapy: What you need to know.
Renaissance College. Massage program.