The Cost of Massage Therapy School

the cost of massage therapy schoolHow much does massage therapy school cost? One to two years of your life. You’ll also lose the ability to simply enjoy the appearance of a lovely da Vinci sketch without mentally naming every single muscle you can identify. (Hint: it’s all of them.)

Of course, that’s not the answer you’re looking for. “Show me the money!” you’re shouting at your computer screen in frustration. You want to know whether you can budget for this crazy massage school idea, and silly answers aren’t helping you. So here are some other, equally true answers, which may be somewhat more helpful.

The “actual number” answer, which isn’t particularly helpful at all:

You’ll probably pay between $5,000 and $30,000.

Really. That’s how wide a range there is. Massage school costs vary from state to state, city to city, and program to program. In the Cincinnati, Ohio area alone, you can find one school that costs $10,000 and another that costs $20,000. And while Cincy is a lovely town, it’s not exactly an enormous metropolis where you’d expect to find 32 flavors of massage training just waiting for you to try them all. So giving you a range and expecting it to give you a good idea of what you’re getting into isn’t actually the best idea.

The snarky-sounding answer that’s actually really useful:

Ask them.

Investigate the massage schools in your area, or in areas you wouldn’t mind relocating to. Find out their strengths and weaknesses. Ask massage businesses where their best therapists attended school. Basically, find the school of your dreams. And then call them up or look on their website and ask, “How much would I, as a student, pay in tuition? Textbooks and materials? Other fees?” Add up the various costs, and there you have your answer.

If that feels like too much commitment, try asking almighty Google, or checking the schools listed here on That way, if you’re a Colorado resident with a nursing background looking to knock out 500 hours as quickly as possible, you can find an answer that doesn’t take into account the numbers meant for a newbie looking forward to 3,000 hours of schooling in British Columbia, Canada.

The answer that’s somewhere between those two:

Between immediate-but-useless and time-consuming-but-meaningful is another way of looking at the matter. Here are some examples to show you the kinds costs you’re likely to expect. If you happen to be planning to attend any of these schools, it’s your lucky day.

Let’s say you live in Sacramento, California. California requires 500 hours of training, similar to quite a few other states. You’ve decided you want to attend an independent massage school, and that you’re just interested in being licensed, not earning a degree. So using your Google-fu, you’ve narrowed down your list to two schools in the area that look good to you: Fair Oaks Massage School, which is more holistically inclined, and the Massage Therapy Institute, which has a more clinical focus. You’ll decide later which one is a better fit for your career goals; right now you just want to know what they cost.

Tuition at Fair Oaks is $6,500. There’s also a $485.94 materials fee, a $250 registration fee, and the student tuition recovery fee of a whopping three bucks. That comes to a grand total of $7238.94. The school offers weekly and monthly payment plans at no interest, and also offers a discount if you can come up with the money upfront.

What about The Massage Therapy Institute? They bundle all their costs (including that three dollar student tuition recovery fee, woo!), and it comes to a total of $5200.00. So it’s a significant difference, but still in the same ballpark. Your next step would be to decide which of these is the right place for you, then to make it happen!

But wait! You don’t live in Sacramento, you live in Cleveland, Ohio! (Because it rocks.) And, in fact, you are interested in earning a degree. You’re thinking about eventually going on to become a physical therapist, and you’ll be darned if you’re going to do all that studying without earning credits towards a four year program that will prepare you for PT school.

You’re in luck! Cuyahoga Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Massage Therapy. Tuition is $101.21 per credit hour, and the program is 62 credits, leaving you with $6275.02 in tuition. Add $240 in fees, and you get $6515.02. Of course, this is college. So feel free to add several hundred dollars worth of textbooks onto that. Call it an even $7000, maybe.

On the other hand, maybe you live outside of the county, in someplace like Medina, Ohio. In that case, your tuition + fees would come to $8203.28.

But forget these smaller cities. You’re gonna pull a Glee and move to NYC! And if you’re going to be in the biggest-name city in America, you want to attend the biggest-name massage therapy school around. Clearly The Swedish Institute is where you plan to be. What’s it going to cost you?

$28,032 in tuition, for 46 credit hours $438 per credit. Plus $984 in lab fees. Add in $100 to register and $100 to graduate, and that’ll bring you to $29,206.

Remember that $5,000-$30,000 figure? That’s where it came from.

I basically just tricked you into doing the math with me. But if it makes you feel more confident in your ability to attend (and pay for!) massage therapy school, it was worth the effort. Cost, while a major factor, shouldn’t be the only one in choosing the massage school that’s right for you. Figure out what you want first, then figure out the money aspect. After all, the worst deal in the world is any money spent on an education that you hate. A massage education is an investment in yourself. Whatever you spend, make it a good one! 

Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn/