Massage Therapy Degree & Career Guide
Massage Therapy School Tuition
Massage therapy school tuition is often less expensive than a four-year college degree, but the costs vary widely program to program. Most schools require 500 to 1,000 hours of training to complete, and costs tend to be higher for programs that offer more training hours and a more in-depth curriculum. As you explore options for your education, arm yourself with expert advice on the best way to finance your education.
How Much Does Massage Therapy School Cost?
There’s a big span in tuition costs for massage therapy school. “I’ve seen some community college programs as low as $5,000–$7,000,” says Taffie Lewis, the director of membership outreach at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), a national massage therapist membership association. “I’ve also seen tuition as high as $20,000 for a one-year program.”
When evaluating how much tuition you can afford, try to balance the costs of your education against your future income potential.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, the average massage school tuition—just tuition, not books, massage tables, equipment, etc.—was $13,605 in 2013, with average costs to attend corporate and for-profit programs (programs with multiple campuses across different states that are part of a larger branded entity) skewing to the higher end of the spectrum.
The type of school can affect the overall cost, but as Taffie points out, the length of a massage therapy program and the number of credit hours included may play a factor as well. More expensive programs may be longer and offer a broader range of coursework to allow students to learn more specialized techniques such as hydrotherapy, sports massage, or trigger point therapy. Less expensive programs, on the other hand, might involve fewer hours of training and focus on the core fundamentals of massage.
Most states regulate massage therapists and require them to meet certain legal requirements in order to practice. Regulations vary state by state, but criteria may include a minimum number of hours of education and training through the massage school that students must complete—usually ranging from 500–1,000 hours. If your state has minimal training requirements, you can choose to complete a shorter educational program, which will cost you less in tuition. You can always decide to add continuing education courses later on if you want to learn more about a specific area of massage.
Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider for massage school, however. You’ll also need to buy textbooks and supplies. These costs vary by school, with some schools estimating between $600 and $750 for books and supplies. You may also need to buy a massage table if this item isn’t included in your tuition already. Besides the tuition itself, massage tables are one of the biggest ticket items you’ll pay for—and can range from $200 to as much as $3,000.
Some schools also charge additional fees, such as a $50 application fee, and require you to pay for student liability insurance, which is usually fairly inexpensive, available for as little as $15 a year.
Is Financial Aid Available?
If you attend an accredited massage school, you could be eligible for federal financial aid.
“Higher-cost programs often offer financial aid,” says Taffie. “But some schools keep their tuition low enough so federal student loans aren’t as necessary. Some schools offer financing and payment plans directly to students.”
When you begin researching schools, be sure to ask about tuition costs and financial aid and payment plans available to students. A financial aid officer can walk you through the options that are available and let you know about any scholarships that may be offered through the school. A few other financial aid tips to keep in mind:
A few tips to consider:
The ROI of Your Education
As you compare different massage schools, tuition may not be the only factor on your mind, but it’s certainly an important one, especially when you’re looking at it in terms of return on your investment in education.
When evaluating how much tuition you can afford, try to balance the costs of your education against your future income potential. Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median 2020 annual salary for a massage therapist as $43,620, according to an American Massage Therapy Association Consumer Survey, massage therapists earned closer to an average annual income of $25,810 (including tips). It’s possible that you could earn much more or less than average, but these metrics are valuable data points to keep in perspective as you think about how tuition payments could fit into your overall budget.
Keep in mind that recent graduates tend to earn an income on the lower end of the spectrum, and it can take a number of years to build a reputation and a base of repeat clients. While everyone’s financial circumstances are different, avoiding heavy student debt loads can help you have a more stable financial outlook as you look to build momentum in your career.