As people look for natural ways to maintain and improve health, the field of massage therapy has seen a surge of interest in recent years. Massage therapists use various techniques to heal injuries, reduce stress and help clients relax. They may work independently or be employed in diverse settings such as spas and health care facilities or by sports teams.
States have taken different approaches to the occupation with some requiring massage therapists be licensed. Even in states where a license is not required, employers may prefer to hire those who meet certain requirements, such as having a formal education.
Massage therapy degree programs are offered by more than 300 accredited institutions, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. While diplomas and certificates are common in the field, some schools also award associate degrees. Although online massage therapy degrees would be convenient, they are not common since this is a hands-on occupation. Those online degrees for massage therapy that are available may still have in-person requirements.
Best Colleges for Massage Therapy Degree Programs
Massage therapy degree programs are generally offered by schools focused on holistic medicine as well as institutions, such as community colleges, that provide vocational training. Schools.com analyzed 100 schools using a comprehensive methodology and found these are the top colleges for massage therapy.
Seeing that it teaches massage therapy exclusively, it isn't too surprising that the Colorado School of Healing Arts tops this list of best colleges for massage therapy degree programs. The school's core mission is to provide a quality education that teaches best practices in the field.
The program at Colorado School of Healing Arts results in a certificate. It requires 720 hours and can be completed in 9-12 months. Upon completion, graduates should be prepared to take the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.
CSHA ranks first for prominence among all the schools analyzed. It also had the seventh best graduation rate among the 100 institutions surveyed. According to CSHA, the school has an on-time graduation rate of 81 percent.
Nashua Community College is located in a New Hampshire city of the same name. It was founded in 1970 and is one of seven community colleges in the state. It offers nearly 35 associate degrees and more than 20 certificate programs.
While some of the top schools for massage therapy have only a degree or certificate in the field, this college gives students two educational choices. Nashua Community College offers both an associate degree in holistic massage therapy and a certificate in massage therapy. Both prepare students to take the National Certification Examination for Massage and Bodywork.
Beyond that, Nashua Community College is notably for its student support services and low, 9-1 student-faculty ratio.
The Universal College of Healing Arts is another school focused solely on massage therapy. For that, it ties for first place in the prominence ranking. UCHA is also one of the places to find online massage therapy degrees. Its programs combine intensive residential weekends with online coursework.
Massage therapy students at UCHA can earn a diploma, hellerwork diploma or an associate degree. The diplomas can be earned in 12-16 months while an associate degree can require two years of study. Students who enroll in the programs have a strong record of completing them, and Universal College of Healing Arts ranks first for its graduation rate.
The college has its campus in Omaha, Nebraska.
As one of the public community colleges in North Carolina, Tri-County Community College has its campus in Murphy. It was founded in 1964, and TCCC says its's mission is to engage, inspire and enrich student learning.
Although TCCC has an open enrollment policy, the spots in its therapeutic massage program are limited. A maximum of ten students are admitted each fall. Those who do get admitted have access to a program that gives them the skills needed to work in a variety of settings. Plus, they are prepared to take the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam after graduation.
Tri-County Community College offers both a diploma and an associate degree in therapeutic massage. It ranks high not only for the student support it offers but also for its affordable tuition rate.
At the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, also known as PCOM, students learn how to be holistic health care practitioners. Its programs include acupuncture and nursing in addition to massage. The college was founded in 1986 and has locations in New York, San Diego and Chicago.
The New York campus of PCOM gets high marks for having a strong graduation rate and small student-faculty ratio. It also ranks ninth for the prominence of its massage therapy program. Students have access to night and weekend classes, academic advising and career placement services.
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York offers students an associate of occupational studies in massage therapy. The curriculum includes instruction in both Asian and Western bodywork therapies.
Another of the top schools for massage therapy is the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. Located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the school is the oldest continuously operated massage therapy institution in the country. It was founded in 1916 and today offers a number of certificate and associate degree programs.
The massage therapy program at Swedish is intended to prepare students to take the New York State licensure exam. The school notes that over the course of the past ten years, 90 percent of its graduates who took the exam, passed it on the first try.
The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences awards an associate in occupational studies, and students can select from either a 20-month or a 32-month program. Swedish has the third best graduation rate among surveyed institutions.
Myotherapy Institute ties for having the most prominent massage therapy program in this ranking of best colleges for massage therapy degree programs. Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, the institute offers a comprehensive curriculum that comes in four different majors.
This program results in an associate in applied science degree and includes both general education and massage-specific courses. Students can choose to specialize in chiro-massage, long term care massage, animal massage or facial massage. There is also a 12-month diploma option available. Both programs should prepare students to apply for licensure in Nebraska.
MI offers four start times so it's convenient for students to begin classes when they are ready. What's more, Myotherapy Institute has a strong graduation rate, ranking fourth for that metric.
With a campus in North Dakota, Williston State College rounds out this list of the ten top schools for massage therapy. Among other things, the school gets high marks for its solid graduation rate.
WSC is a state community college that offers both vocational training and transfer degree programs. For massage therapy students, there is both an associate of applied science as well as a certificate program available. Students complete 75 hours of observed massages in the student clinic as well as 75 hours of massage outside the clinic. Among graduates who take the national licensing examination, the school has had a 100 percent pass rate during the previous three years.
Williston State College is a public institution and one of only four schools in North Dakota offering massage therapy.
Massage Therapy Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Massage therapy diplomas, certificates and degrees are intended to lead down one career path: that of a massage therapist. However, that isn't to say there aren't variations within the field. Some therapists might work with specific populations while others may specialize in a certain type of massage.
Career Outlook for Massage Therapists Majors
Interest in holistic treatments continues to be strong, and the future looks bright for massage therapists. Here's what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about job growth in the field.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Massage Therapy Degree Programs
As with other fields of study, there are specialized financial aid opportunities for massage therapy degree programs. Examples include scholarship programs from the American Massage Therapy Association and the Massage Therapy Schools Information Institute. Plus, students may be eligible for government aid or direct assistance from their school.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015