Best Online Massage Therapy Schools & Classes

Review top programs with online courses, learn about scholarships and financing, and get detailed information on accreditation. Get your massage therapy education started today.

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Written By
Edumed Staff

last updated

Last Updated: 09/21/2021
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When it comes to choosing a school for online massage therapy courses, what’s best for one person may not be the best for another. Each school has its advantages and disadvantages based on a prospective student’s unique needs. However, there are several quality standards we can apply to identify schools that are a good choice for most. Using metrics such as affordability, accreditation status, and program options, we have compiled our list of top online massage therapy schools. See who stands out for 2021.

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About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Sandhills Community CollegePinehurst, NC Public $ 2

Sandhills Community College offers one of the oldest massage therapy programs in North Carolina. The curriculum is designed to help graduates enter the massage therapy field with skills in kneading, friction, and methodical pressure. Classes include nutrition, human anatomy, ethics, business practices, physiology, and therapeutic massage. Both traditional and Asian concepts are taught to give students a well-rounded curriculum and prepare them to work in clinics, nursing homes, spas, medical offices, and more. The program is accredited by the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy, and some of the classes are available online for more flexibility and convenience.

Program Highlights:

Therapeutic Massage Associate Degree

  • Credits: 70
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $159/credit (in-state); $351/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy

Therapeutic Massage Diploma

  • Credits: 41
  • Length: 3 semesters
  • Cost: $159/credit (in-state); $351/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
19%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Florida State College at JacksonvilleJacksonville, FL Public $ 1

Florida State College at Jacksonville offers a hybrid massage therapy program within the Continuing Education branch. Lectures are all available online, while labs are completed on campus. The classes are broken down into five modules:

  1. Anatomy and Physiology for Massage Therapy
  2. Massage Therapy I
  3. Massage Therapy II
  4. Massage Therapy III
  5. Business, Professional Ethics

Tuition is charged based on each module, with a total cost coming to $5,995 for the program. Payment plans and financial aid are available to students who qualify. After program completion, students will be eligible to apply to take the licensure examination approved by the Board of Massage Therapy.

Program Highlights:

Massage Therapy

  • Credits: N/A
  • Length: 525 hours
  • Cost: $5,995 (in- and out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
11%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

6 Key Questions to Ask When Looking at Massage Therapy Classes Online

There are plenty of online massage therapy courses and programs to choose from. To help prospective students narrow down their list of potential schools, we’ve come up with six essential questions to ask.

1. Are the school and massage therapy program properly accredited?

There are two types of accreditation that apply to a postsecondary institution. First, there’s institutional accreditation. This refers to whether the school, as a whole, meets certain basic educational standards. Most schools receive this accreditation from a regional or national accrediting body. Next, there’s programmatic accreditation, which covers a specific program at a school. For massage therapy, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is what you should look for. There are also schools approved or recognized by a state certification or licensing board, even if they may not have programmatic accreditation.

Ideally, you should choose a school that has both types of accreditation and is approved or recognized by the licensing or certification board in the state you want to work. But even if a school doesn’t have all three approvals, it may still be a good option. For example, not all states have a massage therapy licensing or certification board. Some massage therapy professional organizations can provide program approval that can still indicate a particular school has a high-quality massage therapy program, even if that program is not officially accredited at the programmatic level. One good example is the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Do remember is that if a program isn’t accredited, recognized by a particular state’s massage therapy licensing board, or approved by a professional organization, make sure it at least has institutional accreditation.

2. Are the online classes designed to prepare me to take the MBLEx exam?

Practically all states that regulate massage therapists use the MBLEx as the main entry-level licensing exam. Therefore, it’s good to choose a program with a curriculum designed to facilitate the passage of this exam. If a school doesn’t specifically tout its MBLEx-based curriculum, that doesn’t mean it won’t prepare you for licensure. You’ll just need to ask additional questions as to how the curriculum prepares its students.

3. Does the curriculum meet my state’s massage therapy licensing and/or certification requirements?

The curriculum of most accredited programs generally meets most state licensing requirements. But, just because a curriculum meets the standards for one or more states does not mean the curriculum will meet the requirements for all states. For example, if you want to work in Nevada, studying through an online massage therapy program is not accepted. Many schools present answer to this question on their website, often on a “program disclosure document.” This will have other useful information such as gainful employment after graduation, cost of attendance, and how long it takes to complete the program. The Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals website also has a helpful map that shows licensing requirements for each state as well as state board contact information.

4. Does the program meet the requirements for the professional certifications I want to pursue after graduation?

Professional certifications may not be required to work as a massage therapist in most states, but it’s still a good idea to consider obtaining them. It can increase your marketability and allow you greater choices in employment. Each certifying body has its own eligibility requirements, including completion of an approved massage therapy program. One such example is board certification from the NCBTMB, which requires graduating from an approved school. Certain specific requirements also exist, such as expecting applicants to show they have finished a curriculum with at least 200 hours of hands-on, western-based massage training at clinics or labs.

5. Where is the in-person, clinical portion of the classwork taught?

If you’re interested in enrolling in an online program, remember that you’ll have to complete the hands-on training as well. This usually means going to the school’s campus for the in-person portion of the curriculum. If a school has multiple locations, you’ll need to confirm which ones provide you the opportunity to gain your hands-on training and experience. Don’t be surprised if a school you’re interested in attending has two or more campuses, but only one of them offers the in-person training.

6. Are the classes or program eligible for financial aid?

Given the relatively short duration of a massage therapy program, they’re not the most expensive post-secondary credentials to earn. However, they can still cost a significant amount of money, so looking for financial aid is sensible. Most forms of financial aid, especially from the state or federal government, require admission into an accredited school or program. Even if your chosen school isn’t accredited, there may be other forms of financial aid available. Ask your financial aid advisor for guidance.

Program Options in Online Massage Therapy School

Prospective massage therapy students can choose between several different program types and specializations while in school. Here’s a breakdown of the options:

Degree Levels in Massage Therapy

Diploma/Certificate

The diploma or certificate program serves as the quickest route to obtaining the necessary education and training to become a licensed massage therapist in the school’s respective state. Depending on the program, graduates may also have the necessary credentials to become licensed in many other states. The curriculum will be completely devoted to massage therapy techniques, as well as some background courses in professional obligations of massage therapists and underlying medical theories that help provide a foundational context for more advanced training.

Who it’s for: The diploma or certificate program is perfect for individuals who want to start practicing as a massage therapist in the shortest amount of time possible.

Associate Degree

The associate degree route offers all the same courses as most diploma or certificate programs, plus general education courses to provide a well-rounded education. Given that the amount of coursework is practically doubled, earning an associate degree generally takes twice as long to complete as a diploma or certificate in massage therapy. The advantage of this extra work is having a college degree and a great head start on a bachelor’s degree, should you choose to take that academic route.

Who it’s for: An associate degree in massage therapy is ideal for students who either want a full college education or who anticipate eventually moving on to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Massage Therapy Specializations

The average person may not realize there are many massage modalities and techniques, each with their own styles and benefits. Being trained in one of these specializations not only helps a massage therapist better meet the needs of clients, but also helps in professional marketability.

Reflexology

The underlying principle of reflexology is the belief that there are special “reflex” areas, usually in the hands, head, and feet, that can help achieve balance in the body. By manipulating these reflex areas, a massage therapist can bring relaxation and pain relief to almost anywhere in the body.

Sports massage

As its name implies, sports massage is commonly used to treat sports-related injuries and improve performance. Clients without a sports background can also benefit, if they suffer from pain from repetitive motion or are seeking physical rehabilitation for other problems.

Deep tissue

Deep tissue is a massage style that applies pressure at specific points of the body. While compression of tissue is common, this is also about the angle of the pressure. Deep tissue massage is a great technique to use on individuals who suffer from knots in their muscles.

Swedish massage

One of the more well-known massage styles, Swedish massage emphasizes working on the body’s circulatory system to achieve relaxation. This involves long, sweeping strokes, which is what many clients desire in a massage.

Asian bodywork

This specialization focuses on Asian-based healing theories and techniques. Students will learn how to perform various bodywork styles with Asian origins, including Thai massage, tui na, and shiatsu.

Attending Massage Therapy Classes Online: How It All Works

Most schools and colleges offer massage therapy training in a hybrid format that combines both in-person and online instruction. You can expect to complete general education and some foundational massage therapy classes remotely, or about 40 to 50 percent of your coursework. Depending on the program, online instruction may include classes such as accounting, biology, small business management, marketing, and more. The remaining require in-person, hands-on physical training or laboratory components.

Common Online Massage Therapy Courses

Required classes and training sequences vary between schools and programs. The following is a small sample of common courses typically offered by online massage therapy programs.

Business Practices for Massage Therapists

In this class, students explore methods for developing a client base and managing day-to-day business operations. Topics include essential business skills such as bookkeeping, marketing, and taxes. Additionally, distance students learn about local and state laws as they apply to massage therapy businesses. Learners also examine ethical practices for giving and receiving referrals, records keeping, and therapist-client relationships.

Theoretical Foundations and Clinical Practice

This foundational course, based on both theoretical knowledge and clinical skills, prepares new students to administer their first hands-on massages. Throughout the course, students learn to communicate professionally with patients and give general relaxation massages. Learners develop notetaking skills and methods for documenting case histories. Upon completion of the course, massage therapy students can assess and analyze body alignment and posture, administer palpation-based exams for diagnosing diseases or illnesses, and test bodily flexibility.

Introduction to Kinesiology

Students study human movement, muscle groups, and body motion. For a massage therapist, this class helps learners identify which muscles relate to patients’ ailments, disabilities, poor posture, or limited movement. An understanding of kinesiology and exercise helps therapists provide effective treatment for specific cases with elderly patients, athletes, handicapped individuals, and patients suffering from job-related physical stress.

Physiology and Human Anatomy

Students in this class study musculoskeletal anatomy, including all major muscle groups and related nerve activation. The course also covers palpation methods, strengthening and stretching exercises for each muscle group, and treatment for common muscle disorders. Additionally, students obtain foundational knowledge about the circulatory, respiratory, excretory, digestive, and endocrine. This class typically includes a laboratory component in addition to text-based studies.

Swedish Massages

This class helps beginner students refine more advanced hands-on massage techniques such as effleurage, compression, vibration, friction, petrissage, and tapotement. The course focuses primarily on the circulatory system and how to cultivate a sense of balance and relaxation for patients. Students establish a foundation of knowledge on which other types of more advanced massage techniques are built. Massage therapy learners also develop advanced draping procedures, basic pathologies, and massage sequences.

Primary Skills You’ll Learn

Each school has the freedom to design its own curriculum, but students will generally learn the same set of core skills, including:

Ethics

Ethics

Students learn how to establish appropriate boundaries with clients and to act in a manner that effectively facilitates the healing and wellness component of massage. Students also gain an understanding of how to factor in the cultural or social differences between themselves and their clients.

Business-Acumen

Business Acumen

As great as it is to help people improve their health, massage therapists must, at the end of the day, provide a service that’s profitable. Whether it’s making business decisions or merely understanding how someone else’s decision affects the massage therapy business, this skill is critically important.

Nutrition

Nutrition

A client’s diet can have a significant impact on their overall health and wellness. Students will gain an understanding of how good nutrition can complement their clients’ well-being, to make the most of the benefits from massage therapy.

Human-Anatomy

Human Anatomy

It is important to understand the basic vocabulary and language relating to the human body, its parts, and its processes. Students learn the basics of major organ and biological systems and the muscular and skeletal systems, and how they interact with each other.

Massage-Techniques

Massage Techniques

To maximize the level of care they can provide as well as improve their marketability, students also learn a variety of different techniques. This includes treatments designed to target certain sports injuries, and age-specific massage concerns.

How Much Does Online Massage Therapy School Cost?

The cost of earning a massage therapist credential varies widely based on a number of factors, including whether the student is earning an associate degree or certificate/diploma, state and county residency status, type of school (private versus public), and whether the school charges a different tuition rate for courses delivered online. Here are a few examples of what a massage therapist student can expect to pay for their education. Note: The following tuition figures are accurate as of May 2019. Please check school websites to confirm tuition and other costs.

U.S. Career Institute, Massage Therapy Certificate $4,989 (entire program cost)
Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Massage Therapy Diploma $198.95/credit

To learn more on how to help pay for school, check out EduMed’s comprehensive guide to financial aid.

How Much Do Licensed Massage Therapists Make?

Before entering a new career, you want to know what kind of compensation you might earn after graduation. We’ve created the following chart to give you a range of what to expect. Keep in mind that this is nationwide data, so what a massage therapist earns in a specific state can vary.

Percentile 10% 25% 50% (Median) 75% 90%
Hourly Pay $10.26 $13.68 $19.92 $27.75 $37.64
Annual Salary $21,340 $28,450 $41,420 $57,730 $78,280

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018

Job Demand and Career Outlook for Massage Therapists

The compensation a massage therapist can expect is promising, and the career outlook is even brighter. From 2016 to 2026, employment for massage therapists will increase by more than a 25 percent. That’s faster than the healthcare industry as a whole, which is still a sky-high 22 percent.

Job Outlook (2016 to 2026)
Job Growth 26%
# of New Jobs Available 42,100

What’s causing this demand? One of the reasons is the aging American population, which naturally demands a greater amount of healthcare and related services. In addition, the Affordable Care Act now allows a greater percentage of the population to obtain healthcare services. Finally, there’s now a greater acceptance by the mainstream medical community of the health benefits of massage therapy. What used to be seen as a fringe form of medical care and a way to relax is now being viewed as a substantial component of many medical treatments and a healthy lifestyle.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Massage Therapy Student Resources

So you’re about to start your training to become a massage therapist, but have more questions or would simply like to learn more about the profession. This shortlist of additional resources will help you get the most out of your education and achieve your professional goals.

AMTA

American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
The AMTA is the largest professional organization for massage therapists. Its website has a host of resources, including massage therapy schools and a list of massage therapy regulations for all 50 states.

ABMP

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
The ABMP primarily exists to help its members obtain necessarily liability insurance to work in the field of massage and bodywork. However, it also provides a host of resources, including the free Massage & Bodywork magazine, and tools to help students get through school and pass the MBLEx.

COMTA

Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
COMTA is the leading organization that accredits massage therapy programs in the United States. A special section on its website outlines what prospective massage therapy students should look for when choosing a program.

FSMTB

Federation of States Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
The FSMTB is the primary regulating body in the United States for massage therapists. Most notably, they oversee the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) which is widely used by states for licensing massage therapists.

Massage-Therapy-Foundation

Massage Therapy Foundation
This organization’s mission is to promote the benefits of massage therapy to the general public and advance massage therapy research.