How to Choose a Massage Therapy School
Massage therapists undergo hundreds of hours of coursework and hands-on experience in order to become professionals in their field. But first, they had to find a reputable massage therapy school that fit their needs and prepared them for real-world success.
School administrators, instructors and graduates all agree that you can’t just head to the yellow pages and randomly pick out a school to attend. Learning as much as you can about what each massage therapy school you’re considering offers is the key to getting a proper education and finding success in the field.
So where should you start? “Getting massages and talking to the therapists to see how they went about their schooling is the best way to go about it,” recommends Winona Bontrager, a licensed massage therapist, vice president on the Board of Directors of the American Massage Therapy Association and owner of the Lancaster School of Massage in Lancaster, Pa.
Bontrager advises would-be students to ask about class hours and program start dates; some schools have rolling admissions, while others only admit new students once or twice a year. If you have a busy schedule, it pays to find out what the typical study time is, in addition to hands-on work.
Beyond logistics, take a close look at the curriculum, says Pat Russo, director of sales and marketing for the Institute of Massage Therapy, which is affiliated with four hospitals throughout the state of New Jersey. “The student needs to understand what massage therapy is comprised of – there’s more than just the hands-on aspect of a massage therapy education,” she says. “There’s a lot of anatomy and physiology, which are just as important, if not more so. You don’t want to accidentally hurt someone in your practice.”
Do Your Homework
You’ll also need to ensure that the program you choose is legit. “The most important things to look for in a massage therapy school are accreditation and affiliations,” says Russo. In addition, instructors should be seasoned and have a minimum of two years’ field experience, so Russo encourages students to ask the admissions office at the massage therapy school under consideration about the backgrounds of its instructors.
Russo also advises that you get beyond the admissions rep by setting up interviews with alumni, current students and instructors, if you can, to ask about their experience. Bontrager suggests an additional tactic: “Ask where the school’s graduates work, and how long it takes them to find a job.”
See for Yourself
Visiting the campus can be crucial. “People may want more of a college experience or a more relaxed atmosphere – you get a sense of what suits you by going to the school,” explains Russo. “Someone who goes to three or four different schools before deciding on a massage therapy program is an educated student.”
Adrienne Dyer, a licensed massage therapist from Allentown, Pa., agrees that you shouldn’t just pick the first school you come across. “When I was first looking at schools, I immediately narrowed it down to accredited schools in my area,” she explains. “Then, I looked at the curriculum. The school I chose went above and beyond what I needed for certification.”
Her program gave her a well-rounded foundation in Eastern philosophy, such as shiatsu massage, among other techniques. “You get a basic foundation, and when you come out of the program, you hopefully know in which direction you want to go,” she explains.
Finally, it pays to ask about job placement services. “Most schools offer career placement guidance, which is important,” says Dyer. A massage therapy school that offers lifelong employment assistance can lead to continued success long after your schooling is completed.