Things you should know before choosing a massage school.
Are you interested in becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist and need help sifting through all the information on the internet?
If so, this guide is for you. I've put this together to help you decide the best path to licensure for you.
1) Determine what is required in your state.
To begin, I am going to assume you have already decided that you want to be a massage therapist; you just want to know how to do it. That being the case, the first thing you will need to do is determine what is required in the state where you will practice. There are very few places left in the United States that don’t require a license and some type of formal training to practice massage therapy. I wish I could tell you that training is pretty standard around the country, but it isn't. Requirements range from 500 to 1000 hours. You can check with organizations like the ABMP for details regarding each state.
2) Determine what schools in your area are approved to offer the required training in your area.
Once you've determined what is required you will need to find and interview some schools in your area that provide that specified training. Here in the state of Florida we require at least 500 hours of specific training. Before providing that training, schools must obtain approval from the state. In Florida a school receives approval and oversight from the Florida Board of Massage and from the Department of Education or the Commission for Independent Education. In your first contact with any school you should inquire as to whether they are approved by the proper authority in your state.
3. Tour the schools you have determined might meet your needs.
This could be an article in and of its own. This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Once you've determined which schools to visit, the following questions will help you narrow your choices.
I'll begin with the things that are sometimes overlooked.
- Is the school easy to get to? (Consider traffic and parking.)
- Is it in a safe area? (Be sure to ask this question as well be mindful of your surroundings.)
- Is the campus clean and inviting? (You'll likely spend the next 10 to 20 months there.)
- Is the staff friendly and helpful?
- Is information readily available?
The above questions will help you take notice of a few things that are many times overlooked in the excitement of pursing a new career or the stress of finding a new place. These questions are often forgotten but might be used to easily eliminate bad choices from your list very early.
4. Now what?
You've likely eliminated one or two choices from your list with the questions above, but there are still a few choices on your list that look promising. How do you narrow your choices to one from here?
Here are a few more questions that should be asked.
A. What does it cost?
In most cases this will be a lengthy conversation. Many times prospective students will need to borrow money to attend school. You will want to know how much you will be borrowing and at what percentage rate. Are there any grants or loans available that you might be eligible for? What is the out of pocket expenses for the student after the loans and grants are applied.
This is likely the most important discussion you will have with your enrollment specialist. Make sure you are aware of the exact cost before deciding what school is the right one for you. Here in Jacksonville, Florida schools range from $1,500 to $26,000 after all costs are added in. That's a surprisingly large price difference that should be considered carefully. Pursue all your options including some options for self pay without loans. While important, I hope cost will not be your only deciding factor.
B. Are the instructors experienced?
Ask about the instructors that will be given the responsibility for training you for a competitive job market. How long have they been practicing? How many years have they been teaching? Do they have credentials beyond an LMT like specialties or certifications? You will be investing time, energy and money so know if that investment is being placed in the hands of competent people.
C. What is the school's pass rate?
Most states require that students pass a licensing exam. The MBLEx is accepted by most states. (You can learn more about the MBLEx at: https://www.fsmtb.org/mblex)
Each school should be able to tell you their pass rate and how that compares to both your state and national averages.
D. What is the school's drop rate?
Every school will have students start and drop, many due to nothing more than life situations. But if that number is really high there may be other problems. These numbers can usually be checked with the governing board in each state.
E. What is the school's placement rate?
This one is often overlooked and I am surprised at how often I have to bring it up in enrollment interviews. The idea for attending massage therapy school goes well beyond passing the required courses and exams, you'll want to get and keep a job. You'll also want to excel at it as this industry is tip heavy. So you will need to know if graduates from the schools you are looking at are employed.
There are a few things that will help you get to the truth behind this question and some of it goes beyond just asking the school's enrollment officer.
- Ask about the amount of hands-on training you will receive and how much of that will be on clients from outside the school. Massage therapy is a hands-on career and requires practice to perfect. Sandy Fritz says that it is "science and art" and I agree. You won't become an artist while in school but you should have a strong foundation to rely on while building your career when you graduate.
- Ask what the placement rate is. If you feel it is necessary, this number is tracked by some state boards and can be verified.
- The following is most important in my opinion. Ask the employers in your area where they are hiring from. Are there schools in your area that they look to for competent therapist to fill open positions? Remember, the idea behind career training is the career. Who best to help you choose a school than the employers. I would encourage you to call several to get a feel for what is happening throughout your area.
I'm glad you've chosen to pursue massage therapy. Good luck in your search and I hope I have helped you make an informed decision. I am open to feedback, suggestions and questions by email at our contact page.