How Much Does Massage Therapy School Cost?

massage school studentShort answer: It depends.

Slightly longer answer: It depends on a wide variety of factors, including how long the program is, what is included in the tuition, and whether the school qualifies for federal financial aid. Attending massage therapy school can also involve hidden costs that you should think about when budgeting for you massage education. Of course, the resulting career can be rewarding, both financially and personally. But it’s good to get a feel for the costs before you begin.

Program Length and Massage School Tuition

One of the biggest factors in accounting for the huge range of massage therapy school tuition rates is the length of the program. Programs in some states may involve as little as 500 hours of education, while others may include 700 hours, 1,000 hours, or more. Naturally, you’d expect a 1,000 hour program to cost around twice as much as a 500 hour program. As a result, $6,000-$10,000 total tuition is common in some states with lower education requirements, while $15,000-$20,000 is the norm in others.

If you live near a border, you might be tempted to attend a cheaper school in one state, but keep in mind that you’re attending school in order to work as a massage therapist after graduation. Making sure that you meet the education requirements in both states will open up twice as many jobs. An extra 100 hours of training might seem like an unnecessary expense right now, but could save you a lot of hassle down the line!

Location, Location, Location

Aside from paying instructors for their time and expertise, massage schools spend most of their money on the same thing you do: rent. And as always when dealing with real estate, location definitely comes into play. Big cities are more simply more expensive for maintaining a facility than a rural area or small town. If you live in a metropolitan area and need to attend massage school close to your home and work, you may pay a premium for the convenience factor. Alternatively, if you’ve got more time than cash (and fairly reliable transportation), you might extend your massage school search to outlying areas. It’s sometimes possible to find excellent schools for a fraction of the cost if you’re willing to commute 45 minutes out of town. Use that time to listen to your recorded lecture notes, and you might even find you appreciate the benefits of an extended drive!


Some massage schools feel it’s important to have beautiful surroundings and a spa-like clinic. Others prioritize top-notch instructional technology. Others place little emphasis on the physical facilities and instead put most of their money into recruiting the best instructors around.

For some schools, affordability is a high priority. You may find schools that:

  • Accept federal financial aid

  • Have their own scholarships available

  • Work out payment plans for students who cannot pay on a traditional schedule

  • Minimize some expenses in order to keep tuition low

On the other hand, many massage schools do none of these things. They may have other priorities that they consider more important than affordability. It’s up to you to find a school that matches your own priorities and values.

The “Because I Said So” Factor

Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the difference between the cost of one massage school and another. At some point, a business owner made a decision, and she stands by it. That’s okay! You get to decide where to spend your hard-earned tuition money, just like schools get to decide what to charge. Cheaper isn’t always better, and more expensive isn’t always better either. Best only exists relative to your wants and needs.

The Hidden Cost of Massage Therapy School

While tuition is the biggest expense, it’s far from the only one. Here are some other expenses you should take into account when working out your massage school budget.

Time away from work. Is the program full-time or part-time? Evenings, weekends, or weekdays? What is the time you spend in school rather than working worth to you? A more expensive program that allows you to keep your job might save you money in the end.

Equipment purchases. Things like a massage table, linens, lubricants, pillows or bolsters, textbooks, etc. Do you need to have everything right away at the beginning of your first semester, or can you stagger some purchases? Does your school sell used equipment at a discount? Can you borrow or rent some equipment while you save up to purchase your own?

Childcare and Eldercare. If your daycare closes at 6pm and your massage class starts at 6:30, how much is it going to cost you to find additional care each week? Would you be better off taking day classes so that you can be with your family in the evening? Would a community college program with childcare onsite be a better option for you than a private massage school?

Exam prep. Some schools offer licensing examination prep after graduation at no additional cost to their students. Other schools charge for the service. Still other schools don’t offer this kind of service at all, and assume their graduates are well-prepared. Is this something you need? Is it something you’re willing to pay for?

Exams, licensing, insurance, vaccinations, and other miscellaneous stuff. Taking a licensing exam? That’ll cost you. Background check? You’ll pay for that too. Need a TB test? Liability insurance? Professional association membership? These things don’t cost a ton of money, but they do have a cost, and you will be the one responsible. If you’re cutting it close, you’ll need to plan for these expenses so they don’t push you into the red.

So how much does massage therapy school really cost?

Probably somewhere between six months and two years of your life. Your ability to look at the people around you without analyzing their posture. Your long fingernail addiction. Your self-consciousness about your body. And a fair chunk of cash, several thousand dollars at least.

But you get the ability to rattle off Latin names for muscles without thinking twice. An understanding of the body you’ve spent your entire life walking around inside. The ability to touch people and ease some of their anxiety, discomfort, and pain. A new career.

Is massage therapy school worth the expense? It absolutely can be. So get studying! What you pay is only your first choice; what you gain from that investment is entirely up to you.

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