How to Start a Massage School

Massage therapists are in demand right now.  There are not enough therapists to fill all of the jobs that are currently available.  Many massage schools have been closing even though more massage franchises are opening.  We are at a big turning point in the massage profession and need more Quality schools, with Quality teachers using the most current information. I wrote this in July of 2015 and am updating it today – May 19, 2021- and things are getting worse as far as the number of massage school graduates coming out of massage school. ABMP wrote this article in April 2021, which is Titled: Massage Schools stay Resilient During COVID-19 Pandemic but it also says the number of graduates is down to 20, 598 in 2020 which is down considerably from the all time high back in 2004 of 72,272. The number of massage schools has also significantly decreased down to 919 in 2020 down from the all time high of 1,600 in 2008.

  1. Start with talking to Shari Aldrich at the Body Mechanics Institute who offers all the tools and information you need to start and run a massage school. Or take the following steps on your own:
  2. Find out what is needed in your state as far as opening a massage school.  You will need to contact the board of massage in your state to find out what the exact requirements are for opening a school.  Will you have to be approved by the board?  Will you have to meet specific criteria for classes and information that needs to be taught? Will there be specific requirements for learning?  Find out what is required for a student to become licensed to practice massage in your state and in other surrounding states and eventually every state.
  3. Find out about getting accredited. Commission for Massage Therapy Accreditation or COMTA is the main accrediting agency for massage schools.
  4. Create a business plan on how you will raise money, make money and spend money.  Here is a report from 2010 from ABMP for starters.  Schools Operation Survey (PDF)
  5. Set the core curriculum.
  6. Set up the advanced curriculum.
  7. Choose massage textbooks.
  8. Create your own textbooks or get authors to create more affordable texts using PDF delivery with free updates.
  9. Set up procedures and procedures for administration of the school.
  10. Create and administer the admissions program guidelines and procedures for entry into your school.  Admissions and Enrollment.
  11. Find out about financial aid for students or use creative ways to help students pay for school – ie.  have them work in the student clinic to pay their tuition.
  12. Find a location for your school.  You will need classrooms, a student clinic, office space.
  13. Hire experienced teachers who know what they are doing and keep up with the latest research and evidence on massage therapy.  Make sure they have teaching credentials and are not just teaching because they just got out of massage school and need a job.
  14. Create a hands on learning clinical portion of the program where students can learn in school but where they can also work later when they graduate to get their start in working and in creating a business.
  15. Marketing Your School.   You will need a really good website that generates leads to start with.
  16. Create a graduate services department to help grads get jobs or start their own business.
  17. Set up a mentoring program to match students with graduates or other massage therapists in the community.
  18. Start a coalition of proprietary (small individually owned) massage schools to support each other and create innovative ways to collaborate like create online training for anatomy and physiology courses and more support for students and teachers.

Get Creative!

The thing is that the decreased number of massage schools and massage therapists graduating from massage school is may also be indicating that there needs to be some big changes in the massage profession. My first “guess” would be that there has to be better pay and benefits for massage therapists or they need to learn how to start and run a massage business. Massage school only teaches people how to give massage safely and effectively. It does not teach you how to actually “be” a successful massage therapist. Not many professions actually do teach you how to be successful. Law school teaches people about the law and how to think. It doesn’t teach you how to be a successful lawyer. That comes from learning on your own.

Massage school classes have traditionally all been in person classes meaning the massage profession is way behind in online learning opportunities.  Much of what is taught can be learned online particularly anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology and massage theory.  The hands on portion should focus on putting all of that learning together so that students can become accomplished in the art and science of massage therapy. Licensing laws do not allow online learning and that needs to change.

When looking through massage school websites as I was thinking about creating a directory of massage schools, I found that massage schools themselves do not know how to market themselves. I see old websites out of date and no social media presence whatsoever.


Entry Level Analysis Project – created by the Coalition of Massage Associations outlines specific competencies that students should be required to learn.

Job Task Analysis Report  – from the Federation of Massage State Boards gives a detailed look into what jobs are like in the massage profession.

Model Practice Act created by the Federation of Massage State Boards

Body of Knowledge for the massage profession.

Alliance for Massage Therapy Education – – join this profession for more help in creating your school programs.

Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals Schools –

ABMP – School Operations Resources

AMTA Schools Resource Center