by Terry McDermott
The process of choosing a massage school is not dramatically different than selecting any other education program. The most important preliminary decision is to determine what exactly you want to do with your training. Are you interested in offering massage to help clients alleviate stress or alleviate pain? Would you like to work with medical patients, athletes or a variety of clients? By yourself or with a team?
You should also explore the various massage techniques to see if a particular approach or philosophy appeals to you more than others. Swedish, Reiki, Shiatsu, Acupressure, Sports Massage, Deep Tissue, Deep Muscle, etc. Each approach presents a specific benefit and you may find that massage schools offer training in multiple techniques or specialize in one discipline.
After narrowing your focus, you can begin evaluating massage schools in your area to determine which schools offer programs that are compatible with your interests. You should then contact each school to obtain any written information that identifies details, costs and requirements for the programs available at the school.
Make certain that you become familiar with the licensing requirements for the state in which you expect to practice. Pay specific attention to the number of education hours and the required exams. As you investigate your potential schools you will need to make sure that you will have the ability to meet all licensing mandates by matching them up with the programs offered by each massage school.
Take the time to visit each massage school on your list. Discuss your plans with the admissions staff and take note of the level of professionalism. Do they answer all of your questions convincingly? Do they make you feel comfortable or do you feel like you are receiving a sales pitch?
Tour the school and examine the classroom and training facilities. Is the school clean and sanitary? Is the equipment modern and well maintained? Does the facility feel like it will be comfortable environment for learning?
Find out whether the schools have received any accreditation. There are a number of organizations approved by the United States Department of Education to provide accreditation to massage schools. Some of these groups focus on broad educational
standards while others use occupational training standards. Still other have an even narrower focus on health and even, very specifically, massage credentials.
The cost of a massage school education will be directly related to what you want to accomplish and the type of institution that you choose. If you plan to practice massage therapy in a state that does not have licensing requirements then you can may be able to become certified for as little as $1,000. But if you aspire to a career as a respected massage professional, and intend to meet or exceed all licensing requirements, programs may require 600-900 hours of training. Your total investment could range from $5,000-$10,000.
Financial aid is available for a massage therapy education. Federal loans and grants are available for federally accredited schools. Low interest education loans are also available and the school should be able to direct you to appropriate lending agencies.
You may find it extremely helpful to speak with alumni from the massage schools that you are considering. Ask them about their experience while attending the school and their contact with the school after graduation. You will want to know whether the school was helpful in providing career guidance and in finding employment. The feedback that you receive from alumni will be an indication of the support you should expect.
The more information that you acquire and the more questions that you ask, the better equipped you will be to make a sound decision. Massage therapy is a career that offers the potential for immense personal and professional satisfaction. With the proper training and guidance you will literally have in your hands the power to positively alter the physical and mental well-being of many appreciative individuals. The time you take to give thoughtful consideration about your choice of a massage school will pay dividends for many years to come.
J. Terrence McDermott is the administrator of Massage Schools Guide, a website offering resources for prospective massage therapists.