Massage Therapy Degree & Career Guide
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Does Massage School Accreditation Matter?
When deciding what massage therapy school to attend, accreditation is one of many factors you’ll need to consider, along with course content, faculty experience, graduate success rates, and tuition. Although accreditation can be essential for many types of college degree programs and career paths, it’s not as crucial for massage therapy.
What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary process of review that’s available to schools or programs of higher education. The goal of accreditation is to help ensure that a school or program provides adequate levels of quality.
As part of the accreditation process, an outside agency creates evaluation criteria and determines whether the school or program has met these standards. Schools or programs that pass an agency’s evaluation are considered “accredited.”
The importance of accreditation is a subject of debate among educators in the field of massage therapy.
Does Accreditation Matter for Massage Therapy School?
“In some ways yes, and in some ways no,” says Taffie Lewis, the director of membership outreach at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), a national massage therapy association. “Accreditation does not necessarily mean that a massage school is a quality school. Accreditation means a school can offer you Title IV funding and allow you to receive federal financial aid. The school has to go through a lot of rigor behind the scenes to get accreditation, which is a positive thing. But there are a lot of really good programs out there that haven’t gone that route. Some programs keep their tuition low enough so students don’t need to take out loans.”
In fact, the importance of accreditation is a subject of debate among educators in the field of massage therapy. A study published in The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork surveyed nearly 5,000 massage educators. When asked whether accreditation improves the quality of massage education, 50% believe it does, 36% believe it doesn’t, and 14% don’t know. Comments in the survey suggested that accreditation can be beneficial, but it can also have negative consequences if it isn’t implemented well.
What Organizations Accredit Massage Schools?
There are a wide variety of accrediting bodies, and some may cover a school with many different programs, from medical billing to auto tech. According to Taffie, accreditation is not usually customized to massage therapy education, so it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll receive a top-notch education in this specific field.
However, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is focused on massage and has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a specialized accrediting agency. COMTA determines what students need to learn to be successful in massage therapy. This type of accreditation may be more meaningful for a massage school to have than other forms of accreditation you may come across. To find a school accredited by COMTA near you, search this directory.
Other agencies that offer accreditation to massage therapy schools include:
• National Accrediting Commission of Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
• The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
• Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
How Much Weight Should You Give to Accreditation?
Accreditation is one metric to keep in mind, but there are other important attributes to consider when deciding what massage therapy school is right for you.
You should also take into consideration the focus of the educational program and your intended goals as a massage therapist. A visit to the school can help you understand the vibe of the campus. Do you feel welcomed and comfortable in the school environment? Does the school representative communicate how their program can prepare you for the profession?
“It’s also important to find out how long the massage school has been around,” Taffie says. “Ask for information about graduate success. What are graduates doing? How successful are they?” Answers to these and other questions are often indicators whether their students experience successful career placement following their education.