If you’re thinking about a career in massage therapy, you’ve probably also thought about what it takes to get there. Massage therapy school is a key part of the process, providing you with the knowledge and real-world training you need to thrive in this field. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of more schooling — this is an opportunity to go in-depth in an area you’re passionate about, hone your healing abilities, and pursue a career that enables you to help others feel better.

To set realistic expectations for massage therapy school, you need to understand what it’s really like. 

What Is Massage Therapy School Like?

Let’s take a look at what you can expect from massage therapy school, from the admissions process to your post-graduate life.

Admissions Process

Requirements for massage therapy school will vary depending on the institution itself and the state it’s in, but in general, most programs require you to submit an application and application fee, present photo ID, and provide high school transcripts with your graduation date or G.E.D. certificate. Some schools may require you to interview; others may require you to sit for a preliminary exam.

It’s uncommon for a school to require prerequisite massage therapy knowledge or coursework, which is one of the reasons a career pivot into this field is so appealing.


A comprehensive massage therapy school curriculum will consist of both theory and practical components. Most programs will also provide business training to help you develop your communication, management, entrepreneurial, client-building, and client retention skills.

Within the theory portion of your schooling, you can expect in-depth lessons in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology to familiarize yourself with the various muscles and systems of the body, and how they interact with each other. You’ll also learn about pathology and infection control, injury prevention, and sanitation. 

With those fundamentals established, you’ll then move on to the variety of massage technique(s) you can specialize in, such as therapeutic deep tissue massage and lymphatic drainage to more clinical services like neuromuscular therapies and sports massage. 

One of the best things about attending massage therapy school is that you’re able to put all your learnings into practice before entering the real world. Expect to engage with actual clients and perform massage services tailored to their unique needs.

Time Commitment

The amount of time you’ll spend in massage therapy school depends on how many hours of theory and practical training your state requires for licensure, and whether you’re attending school full-time or part-time. In Iowa, 600 training hours are required for massage therapy licensure. Even operating on a part-time schedule of 20 hours per week, massage therapy school can be completed in less than a year.

Many individuals who are interested in pursuing massage therapy, especially as a later-in-life career pivot, might be dissuaded from doing so because they expect school to be a grueling, time-consuming commitment. In reality, flexible class and training schedules exist to accommodate jobs, families, and other commitments.

Cost of Massage Therapy School

The cost of your education is another component of massage therapy school that varies based on your state. In general, though, the range for massage therapy school tuition is broad. Shorter programs can start around $3,000, while longer and more comprehensive programs can cost $15,000 or more. 

The good news is, many accredited massage therapy schools offer some form of financial aid such as Pell Grants, federal- and state-level loans, and scholarships to help offset costs, in addition to payment plans so you can finance your education in more reasonable increments.

You’ll also want to factor into your cost expectations any textbooks, supplies, and equipment needed for training — some schools may provide these for you as part of your tuition, while others might require you to purchase them yourself.

Postgraduate Support

After hundreds of hours of training, you can expect opportunities to open up to you in all sorts of environments, including:

  • Spas
  • Resorts
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation clinics
  • Physician/chiropractic offices
  • Hospitals
  • Fitness centers
  • Athletic training

And don’t think that once you’ve completed your program, you’re on your own. Yes, you’ll graduate more than qualified for a range of entry-level massage therapy roles, but you’ll be able to rely on your school’s job placement assistance to help you secure one. 

Choosing the Right Massage Therapy School

Set all your expectations of massage therapy school aside and let the reality exceed them. There’s so much for you to gain as you start this next chapter of your career, the only thing left for you to do is pick the right school.

At PCI Academy, an NACCAS-accredited institution, our robust massage therapy curriculum has been approved by the Iowa Board of Massage Therapy and consists of both specialized coursework and practical instruction to fulfill the state’s 600-hour licensure requirements. Our flexible program schedules can accommodate your own, and we also assist with job placement as you near graduation. We never want finances to be a barrier to your massage therapy dreams, which is why our financial aid team is there to support you in applying for any scholarships, grants, and federal loans available to you that can help fund your education.

Contact us today to learn more about PCI Academy’s massage therapy school experience, or apply now to set your education in motion.