Massage Therapy School

Massage therapy is a career choice that can be both flexible and lucrative. Read on to find out more about the top massage therapy schools and the training process.



Massage therapy can be a very rewarding career choice for anyone who wants to provide people with comfort and healing without the stress and liability associated with being a doctor. On top of this, massage therapy can offer practitioners a high level of flexibility when it comes to hours and workload, and many qualified massage therapists end up working for themselves. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, but are unsure of what steps are involved, then read on.

What is a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists use a set of hand techniques to help their clients recover from injury, reduce pain, relieve tension, and much more. The primary mechanism through which they achieve this is by working on muscles that are in a state of contraction, applying the correct type of pressure that brings them back to their normal state.

Generally, muscle stiffness falls into two categories: short and tight. A muscle is considered short when it is unable to fully lengthen even when it is in a relaxed state. A tight muscle, on the other hand, is a muscle that is having difficulty relaxing due to a high amount of tension. Both short and tight muscles cause severe problems for people, including headaches, aches, pains, lack of mobility, and much more. Aside from treating short and tight muscles, massage therapists also help to relieve general tension, knots, and some may even engage in acupuncture and reflexology.

How To Become A Massage Therapist

Step 1: Find A Program

The first step in becoming a registered massage therapist is enrolling in massage therapy school that is accredited. When looking at different options, it is important to ensure that the program or school of choice is accredited by the state’s licensing board. Unaccredited programs make it challenging to find employment upon graduation.  

Each program varies slightly by length, and some can be completed in as little as five months. Others may take up to a year. Furthermore, each state has slightly different requirements when it comes to massage therapy, and the total number of training hours can range from 500 to 750. Regardless of which program or school is chosen, students can expect to undergo more or less the same curriculum, one that includes topics such as: 

  • General anatomy and physiology.

  • Kinesiology.

  • Ethics.

  • Business administration.

  • Fundamental massage techniques.

  • Pathology.

Besides these core topics, most schools allow students to specialize in one or more areas of massage therapy. Although the field of massage therapy is broad, below is a list of the most common specialties students end up choosing.

  • Sports Massage: Sports massage is a massage technique that is performed on individuals who are highly active individuals or professional athletes.

  • Swedish Massage: Swedish massage is the most general form of massage therapy and is often referred to as the “classic massage” in places where the term Swedish massage is not used.

  • Prenatal Massage: Prenatal massages are performed on pregnant women to help them reduce tension and stress throughout their bodies.

  • Shiatsu massage: Although not taught in all schools, Shiatsu massage is a Japanese style of massage therapy that was first developed in the 1920s.

Step 2: Complete Examination

Once you have completed and passed your program, the next step is to take the state licensing exam. While some states may use slightly different exams, most cover the same topics and range from 100 to 250 questions. The price of the examination also varies by state, but in most cases, the cost to take state exam will fall between $195 and $250.

Step 3: Apply for Licensing

In some states, you are certified as soon as you pass your exam. In others, you are required to go through an application process. Beyond this, some states also require massage therapists to purchase a certain amount of liability insurance before receiving certification.

Top Massage Therapy Programs in The USA

National Holistic Institute

Located in California, the National Holistic Institute has long been considered one of the best massage therapy schools in the country. At over 800 hours, its curriculum is much longer than average, and the school takes pride in providing its students with a blend of both western and eastern healing practices. The school also has a 450-hour advanced course that even includes a cadaver lab, giving students a better perspective on the muscles as they function in the body.

Length: 8 months

Number Of Hours: 800 hours

Cost: $15,820 

The Soma Institute

The Soma Institute offers a 750-hour program that will teach students how to use massage techniques to treat complicated problems such as arthritis, digestion issues, depression, poor circulation, and sports injury.

Length: 8-11 months

Number Of Hours: 750 hours

Cost: $14,315

Southwest Institute of Healing Arts

Like other notable massage therapy schools, the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) prides itself on taking a holistic approach to treatment and has been offering classes for over 20 years. As of now, the school gives students the option of a 750-hour professional practitioner program and a 1000-hour master practitioner program. 

Along with the standard massage therapy techniques, students are also trained in techniques such as hypnotherapy, Reiki, reflexology, and much more. The fact that SWIHA offers such a diverse modality of training has made it one of the best in the country.

Length: 8-11 months

Number Of Hours: 750 hours

Cost: $14,315 

Cortiva Institute

With its 12 locations across seven states, Cortiva has become one of the more popular massage therapy programs in the United States. Like most of the schools on this list, Cortiva offers a 750-hour program, however students can choose to complete it in 32, 43, and 52 weeks depending upon their schedule and availability. This mix of flexibility and top-quality education is another reason why Cortiva is considered one of the better schools in the country. 

Length: 8-12 months

Number Of Hours: 750 hours

Cost: $16,421

New York College Of Health Professionals

At 24 months in length, the New York College Of Health Professionals has one of the longest massage therapy programs in the country. However, because of its length, students are treated to an in-depth education that explores all the latest techniques and science behind the application of massage therapy.

Length: 24 months

Number Of Hours: 1500+ hours

Cost: $40,726