Massage therapists can work in spas, hospitals, fitness centers, specialty massage clinics, and even hospitals. Or, they can open their own private offices. Some even travel to clients’ homes or places of business to offer personalized therapy sessions. And although some massage therapists choose to work alone in private practice, others work with teams of health and wellness professionals to provide their patients with comprehensive care. Plus, massage therapists often can work full- or part-time, giving them flexibility in their work schedules.
The best schools are often nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage, or another national or state-specific massage therapy council. So, before making their final pick, students should verify a school’s accreditation status.
In addition, students should verify that the school offers the proper training—including clinical experiences—needed to sit for the board certification exams in their state. After all, in most states, massage therapists must be licensed or certified, and those licenses can only be obtained through a combination of education and examinations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for massage therapists is robust. In fact, the field is expected to grow an incredible 21% over the next decade, which is much faster than most other occupations. So now could be an excellent time to pursue a career in massage therapy.
Here are 10 of the best massage therapy schools in the US.
Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (Tempe, AZ)
The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts has been training students to become massage therapists for almost 30 years and offers a variety of degrees and courses. SWIHA has two tracks: the Therapeutic Track or the Advanced Polarity Specialist. Diplomas are awarded after 750 to 1,000 hours of hands-on instruction. Furthermore, students can also pursue an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies. But regardless of which path students pick, they will learn all of the core skills needed for classically trained massage therapists.
Classes are flexible, and students can choose between morning and evening courses. Additionally, classes start in both the summer and the fall. SWIHA even allows potential students to sit in on classes for up to 4 hours to see if education in massage therapy is right for them.
Southern California University of Health Sciences (Whittier, CA)
At SCU’s School of Professional Studies, students can enroll in a 7-month, 13-course program to earn a certificate in massage therapy, which is approved by the California Massage Therapy Council and enables graduates to sit for board licensing exams. The curriculum is a mix of lecture courses and lab hours; in fact, over half of the program is devoted to hands-on experiences. In addition, students must take a clinical clerkship before graduation for even more practical learning in examining and caring for patients.
Through this program, students will gain basic science knowledge of anatomy and physiology, master massage and bodywork techniques, and understand how massage therapy can be integrated into other self-care practices. Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends, allowing students to continue to work during the day if needed.
Myotherapy College of Utah (Millcreek, UT)
Myotherapy College has been teaching students a clinical approach to massage therapy since 1987. The instructors at the Myotherapy College believe that the act of massage can be a form of self-empowerment. Therefore, they teach students to recognize the associations between the mind and body. Plus, students are encouraged to understand why their clients are seeking out a massage in the first place, which can help improve a client’s overall healing experience.
Students at MCU learn the anatomy of the human body, including how muscles are connected to the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems. The college keeps class sizes small so that all students have ample one-on-one time with their instructors. And students have many opportunities to refine their massage skills at the in-house clinic where they work with real clients with the assistance of established professionals.
Lincoln Technical Institute (Somerville, MA)
Lincoln Tech is part of the Lincoln Group of Schools, an institution that has been training students in a variety of medical and technical fields for more than 70 years at campuses across the country. Therefore, students who choose Lincoln Tech become part of a network of professionals helping students get the practical knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen field. At the Somerville campus, students can study to become massage therapists as well as other healthcare careers like medical and dental assistants.
The school notes that for Massachusetts students, the need for massage therapists in that state is very strong. So, students pursuing a Massage Therapist and Bodywork Technician Diploma are given the foundations they need to meet that demand. Through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on learning, instructors teach anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and deep tissue therapy along with medical ethics.
National University of Health Sciences (Lombard, IL)
Since 1906, National University has been educating students in integrative and natural medicine, striking a balance between the science and art of patient-focused care. In fact, the school was the first to publish peer-reviewed scientific journals in natural health care. In addition to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the health sciences, National University also offers a massage therapy certification program and an Associate’s degree in Applied Science in Massage Therapy. These accredited programs train students in Swedish and sports massage as well as specific techniques like neuromuscular facilitation.
As a leader in healthcare education, National University has high academic and admission standards for potential students. Plus, the school keeps student-to-faculty ratios low at about 6 to 1. And what’s more, about 90% of National University students receive some sort of financial aid, helping to keep education costs lower.
Northwestern Health Sciences University (Bloomington, MN)
Northwestern Health Science University offers a comprehensive and evidence-based education in natural healthcare. Massage therapy students have the chance to learn alongside students studying related disciplines like chiropractic studies, Chinese medicine, and acupuncture. Furthermore, NWHSU teaches a collaborative approach to patient-focused health, giving students the skills they need to work with teams of other providers in healthcare facilities and hospitals. Specifically, the NWHSU massage therapy program stresses natural and drug-free care that is non-invasive.
In addition to classroom instruction, students can apply their new skills at student and public clinics. Although health practitioners provide supervision, students learn by doing while treating actual patients. In fact, NWHSU students receive an average of 2 to 3 times the number of clinical hours need to sit for board certification exams.
New York College of Health Professions (Muttontown, NY)
The New York College of Health Professions has been a leader in holistic healthcare education since the 1980s. Moreover, the college is the only private, non-profit institution of its kind in NYC that is institutionally accredited. The school emphasizes training, community service, and research alike, so students get a balanced education. Plus, students can earn an Associate’s degree in Occupational Studies that make them eligible to sit for the Massage Board licensing exam in New York. The program can be completed in 20-24 months, depending on whether students attend full-time or part-time.
In addition to training in traditional European Swedish massage and Asian Bodywork, students also learn about holistic health care. Specifically, the program also teaches about the connections between massage and maintaining certain health conditions like neuromuscular diseases and even asthma and diabetes.
National Holistic Institute Emeryville Massage School (Emeryville, CA)
The National Holistic Institute is wholly devoted to training massage therapists. It’s also one of the largest massage therapy colleges in the country, with ten campuses spread throughout California. In fact, it was also the state’s first massage therapy school to be nationally accredited. Students can choose between an 8-month Massage Therapy Training Program or the Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy Program for advanced practitioners. And since the institute is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, students can also apply for federal financial aid.
The instructors at NHI are known for incorporating different teaching styles into their curriculum because they understand that students learn differently. And as a result of their high standards of teaching, over 87% of their graduates go on to work in the field as massage therapists.
Miami Dade College (Miami, FL)
Miami Dade Community College offers a massage therapy program on its Medical Campus. Specifically, students can pursue a Career Technical Certificate in massage therapy while studying techniques like deep tissue and sports massage. Plus, they can choose between traditional and accelerated tracks depending on their previous education and experience level.
However, the Miami Dade curriculum is very demanding. Therefore, the school recommends that students attend class full-time, as they tend to be more successful. In addition, if students do not have at least an associate’s degree, they must pass the Test of Adult Basic Education before starting the program. This exam helps the program know that students can thrive in this rigorous curriculum that includes lectures mixed with clinical opportunities at the Miami Dade Medical Campus.
Parker University School of Massage Therapy (Dallas, TX)
Parker University offers a top-rated Massage Therapy Certification at its Dallas campus. Plus, if students elect to take a few general education courses as well, they can also graduate with an Associate’s of Applied Science. Students gain 600 hours of hands-on training, ensuring they are prepared for careers as massage therapists after graduation.
Students at Parker receive a well-rounded education in addition to many opportunities for hands-on learning. For example, students hone their skills in using massage to relieve pain and stress and to help clients recover after injuries. Furthermore, Parker’s faculty also assist students in developing their business goals, just another way the school ensures its graduates are ready for successful careers in the healthcare industry.