Real Reasons To Choose Massage School Over College

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in massage therapy, first and foremost, you’ll want to have a complete understanding of all that goes into being a massage therapist.

Along with that, I recommend sitting with, and determining your level of interest in working with the human body.  Because no matter what you’ve heard, massage school is not always as easy as it’s made out to be.   

If for any reason you choose to ignore what I just mentioned, then, much like most of the people that attend 4-years of college, you run the risk of not being productive with all of the time that you’re going to have to invest.

Time, that could be put to better use somewhere else.

If you decide to attend school to become a massage therapist, in order to get a license in the state that you reside in, you have to fulfill a certain number of hours. Then, in order to get a license to perform massage therapy in your state, you’ll want to pass the MBLEx exam.

In order to find the right school, I recommend looking at reviews online. Along with that, spend time talking to a number of licensed massage therapists that have attended the school that you’re considering attending.

In doing this, you might find that in order to get their license, they had to take the MBLEx exam multiple times.  This is valuable information.  Because if you end up having to retake the exam, you’ll have to pay a fee each time.

Meanwhile, until you pass the exam, you’re unable to work in a field that you just spent 500-800 hours preparing for.

Do your homework 

Don’t leave your future to the recruiter of the massage school.

When you meet with them, you’ll want to inquire about whether or not they know what it feels like to be in the trenches as a massage therapist.

Said another way, a 4-year degree might have been a requirement for them to land their position, but if they don’t have a working knowledge of the product they’re selling, then, that expensive piece of paper isn’t serving either one of you.


Since there are numbers that have to be made, as long as they get you in a seat, it’s quite possible they don’t care about whether or not massage therapy is the right fit for you.

By making it a point to do your homework beforehand, you’re taking the necessary steps to avoid a place where you find yourself saying, shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I’ve seen this scenario unfold with some of my former kinesiology students that want to attend chiropractic school.

What they’re unable to see is, for more reasons than one, they’re going to see little return on their investment.

But even still, they can’t bring themselves to a place where they’re capable of taking in what I’m saying to them.

If for no other reason than the temptation for the title is just too great.

They’ve fallen prey to all that credentialism promises.

Once you buy into pursuing a credential, you have to pay all of that money back.  Financial choices like this will dictate how you make decisions in the future.

A great example of a decision where there are no take-backs is that of a turkey before Thanksgiving.

“From the day a Thanksgiving turkey is born, everything about its life indicates that things are only going to get better.  It’s hatched in a safe, sterile environment.  It’s cared for and fed daily.  Every single day, this pattern happens again.  It wakes up to find plenty of food and a place to live.  It is at the moment when the turkey has the most historical data to show that its life is likely to keep improving, on the 4th Wednesday of November, that it realizes–it’s not so good to be a turkey.”  

-Taylor Pearson, THE END OF JOBS

Before you jump to conclusions or default to the conventional wisdom that says, “in order to make something of yourself, you have to attend college”, I recommend pressing that invisible pause button that’s always available to you.

If we’re being honest, a lot of people end up attending college because it’s what is expected of them after high school.

This, even when you’ve never shown signs of being wired for college.

As you might have already figured out for yourself, you weren’t even presented with all of the choices that are available to you.

Although I’ve made my share of mistakes, bypassing 4-years of college to attend massage therapy school was not one of them.  If for no other reason than I’m just not cut out for any amount of college.  I’m also not the perfect fit for being an employee, either.

Which is why 20 years of working as a licensed massage therapist has been good for me.

<figure><img src="" alt= "Massage For Shoulder Muscles" width="500" Height="364" /></figure>

To be clear, having a certain level of intelligence (IQ) isn’t the only variable.  That’s just one piece of the pie.  Which just so happens to be the piece that gets the most attention.

For some reason, the attractiveness of college is looked at in a different light.

In other fields, all of this attention that’s designed to change your mind in a certain area is called, marketing.


Truth be told, everyone possesses multiple intelligences.

Unfortunately, for many individuals, these remaining forms of intelligence are either not recognized or not improved upon.

The case could be made that in many instances, attending college for all of those early years ends up taking an individual with legitimate gifts in certain areas farther and farther away from all of the potential they could have put out to the world.

A couple of forms of intelligence that are important for a massage therapist is what Daniel Goleman refers to as emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ) (affiliate).

Much like what’s traditionally considered to be intelligence, EQ and SQ can be severely under-developed in some individuals.

It’s extremely difficult for people that lack one or both of these forms of intelligence to recognize it in themselves.  Therefore, in order to have longevity as a massage therapist, you’ll want to know that you possess both.

Along with having an interest and a working knowledge of all that being a massage therapist entails, you’ll want to add EQ and SQ to your list of prerequisites.

If you’ve already attended 4-years of college, you might already be up to speed on how outdated the content is.

Content that you’re paying top-dollar for.

There’s also a bunch of content that you’ll never use.  And let’s not forget about the part of the story that says, “these classes will allow you to be more well rounded.”  

Cha-ching, cha-ching…

The problem with all of that is, in the world in which we live in today, even if you get a job in the field that you envisioned from the start, you’re more than likely not going to be prepared for what’s going to be asked of you.

And if you do land a job in a field where you feel like you’re prepared, it’s more than likely you are only feeling that way because you are surrounded by college educated people that were cut from the same cloth as you.

In my area of expertise, spending all of the time it takes to become a physical therapist or athletic trainer comes to mind.

To reinforce this point, in April of 2015, Greg Lehman, a well-regarded physiotherapist and chiropractor said this on The Physio Matters Podcast: “And then you go to physio, and their teaching, they’re great teachers, but their going through their credentialing process, and they’re saying these things that…to me is 30 years behind in [that of] chiropractic.”

To which the host replies, “Absolutely!  And worldwide…I would say. So…I can see that resonaten throughout different countries.” 

Sidebar: People in Canada, Europe, and Australia refer to physiotherapy as what we refer to in the United States as, physical therapy. ]

If you feel something beating inside you that feels like a calling to work with the human chain, I’m telling you there’s more than one path.

As an example, if you decide to use your massage therapy training as a stepping stone to go to college to be an athletic trainer, then, by all means, you should follow that path.

By attending school for massage therapy first, you’ve put yourself in a better position to not only learn more (and question more), you’ve also put yourself in a position where you’re more marketable than if you only had a 4-year degree in athletic training.

Then, if you decide to attend college at a later date, by graduating from a reputable massage school beforehand, you’ll go into it with a skillset that you could put to good use on weekends.

A skillset that along with the tip, on average, pays 2-3 times what you would make at a job that pays minimum wage.


Another thing to keep in mind: there are many different forms of massage. So try to stay open to everything that’s presented to you.

<figure><img src="" alt= "Two Lego Figures Stretching" width="500" Height="281" /></figure>

Photo Credit: legomeee Flickr via Compfight cc

Having said that, I highly recommend finding a specialty that allows you to offer something different than what everybody else is offering.

And aim to solve a problem.  Preferably, a problem that your potential clients don’t even know they have.

For me, this is where all of the outdated information that’s prevalent in chiropractic, physical therapy, and athletic training comes into play.

Whether anybody wants to admit it not, on a daily basis, the majority of the people in those fields are not delivering on a promise to the people they serve.

For more information on this, check out my interview with Neil Lyons from Massage Therapy Schools Information.

You don’t have to have a burning desire going into massage therapy school.

In fact, as I remember it, when I decided to attend massage school in 1992, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If you’ve ever spent any time studying all that went into a person having success in any field, for the most part, all it takes is a glimmer of interest.

That glimmer of interest is the spark. A spark that when attended to, has the potential to become a passion.

Your passion. (emphasis added)

If you’ve never had an opportunity to feel it, working on something that you’re extremely passionate about, far outweighs working at something that lights-up somebody else.

Doing work that you’re passionate about is a tremendous gift that keeps on giving.

When you possess a passion for your work, you’ve put yourself in a position where you’re capable of doing meaningful work that not only means more to you, it also means more to the person on the receiving end of your hands.

Since not every massage stroke allows for the same results, when the work has the potential to significantly impact the quality of life of the person that’s underneath your hands – it’s even more special.

So much so, that on a daily basis, you’re changing people’s lives for the better.

Having felt this level of work for quite some time now, no matter how lonely it feels, I can tell you that it’s like adding fuel to your own fire.

Maintaining that level of expectation for what you’re capable of doing for another human being is addictive.

And as you might have already imagined – extremely fulfilling.

[ Sidebar: For the record, no matter how good you think your massage school is, none of what I just mentioned is going to happen overnight.

Take responsibility for yourself, show up to do the work, and last but not least – always be in the mindset that you’re creating your future.  A future where if you do the work upfront, and you’re open to continuous learning along the way, you’ll eventually get to a point where you don’t have to answer to anyone. ]

“Through imagination, we not only bring to mind things that we have experienced but things that we have never experienced.  We can conjecture, we can hypothesize, we can speculate, and can suppose.  

In a word, we can be imaginative.  As soon as we have the power to release our minds from the immediate here and now, in a sense we are free.  We are free to revisit the past, free to reframe the present, and free to anticipate a whole range of possible futures.”

– Ken Robinson, Ph.D. – the Element

In case you don’t know how special it is to find what Robinson refers to as the element (affiliate), most people spend their entire working life pursuing multiple careers where they never experience anything close to that.

Who cares more about where you spend your working hours than you?



If you found this post to be educational, and you know somebody that’s been thinking about attending school for massage therapy, I would greatly appreciate you sharing this post.  You can do this by emailing it to a friend, family member, colleague or feel free to share it on Facebook. 

A BIG thanks in advance.  🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this post!  If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Engaging Muscles.  You can also like Engaging Muscles on Facebook, subscribe to my YouTube Channel or feel free to connect with me on Twitter @rickmerriam

Books mentioned (affiliate): 

The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

the Element by Ken Robinson


Photo Credit: legomeee Flickr via Compfight cc

Real Reasons To Choose Massage School Over College
Article Name
Real Reasons To Choose Massage School Over College
If you're serious about pursuing a career in massage therapy, first and foremost, you'll want to have a complete understanding of all that goes into being a licensed massage therapist in your state. Along with that, I recommend sitting with, and determining your level of interest in working with the human body.  Because no matter what you've heard, massage school is not always as easy as it's made out to be.
The following two tabs change content below.

Rick Merriam

Owner/Licensed Massage Therapist at Engaging Muscles
I have held a license to practice massage therapy for over 20 years. For the first 18 years of my career, I was a nationally certified personal trainer. During that time, I completed thousands of one-on-one personal training sessions. I went on to teach biomechanics to personal trainers, group exercise instructors, and physical therapists throughout New England. I worked as a sports massage therapist at ESPN. Over the last few years, I have been quoted in Runner’s World UK, Massage Therapy & Bodywork, Massage Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, Massage & Fitness Magazine, and The Guardian Liberty Voice. I have also served as an applied biomechanics consultant for the fitness staff at Canyon Ranch, The Greenbrier, and ESPN. For the last 8 years, I've been teaching applied anatomy & kinesiology at Parker University. I have a private sports massage therapy practice in Dallas, Texas.