There are about 70 massage therapy schools in California, and the number continues to grow.
Many private institutes provide the education and training that prepare students to obtain state certification. Some public colleges offer associate’s degree programs, which involve general-education coursework and other additional classes. Students may be able to complete several of their early curriculum requirements online.
California leads the nation in the employment of massage therapists, and the job-growth rate is outpacing the national average.
If you are looking for a school to study massage therapy, have a look at our list below.
This agency administers a voluntary certification system for massage facilities and practitioners. It sanctions and regulates schools, and ensures that students receive the proper education.
Providers of massage therapy instruction that earn the council’s recognition must maintain their status by continually proving they meet standards concerning curricula, faculty qualifications, student-to-instructor ratios, and other standards. Officials do site visits and conduct interviews as part of their investigations.
The council mandates that prospective therapists complete their studies, pass a written exam, and submit to a criminal background check before applying for certification.
To become a massage therapist in California, a student must receive 500 or more hours of instruction and training at a school that the state board recognizes.
The curriculum has to include at least 100 hours in each of the following subject areas: anatomy and physiology, health and hygiene, contraindications, and business and ethics. Students get credit for up to 75 hours working under supervision in a massage clinic.
Beyond their core curricula, many schools offer elective classes that enable students to pursue various areas of interest. Among the many examples are hot stone massage, craniosacral therapy, sports massage, sciatica, and massage for seniors and other special populations.
Some programs entail as many as 1,000 hours. Students may continue their education to earn certification in certain specialties, or enroll in holistic healthcare programs that teach additional aspects of massage facility services. No work experience or on-the-job training is required, other than that obtained in school.
Upon graduation, a future therapist’s next step is to pass an exam administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. The agency requires 750 total hours, but allows practitioners to begin working in the field when they reach the 500-hour benchmark. The remaining coursework can be done later.
We selected the schools below based on the programs that they offer, accreditation, student population, graduation rate and reputation.
View our Ranking Methodology to learn more about how we rank schools.
This nationwide company offers massage therapy programs in eight California locations: Sacramento, Mission Viejo, Pleasant Hill, San Jose, San Leandro, Citrus Heights, Stockton, and Pomona.
The nine-month certificate curriculum includes classes in Anatomy and Physiology; Terminology; Function and Structure of the Body’s Skeletal, Muscular, and Internal Systems; Ethical, Legal, and Business Concerns; Personal Care, Communication Skills and Practice Management; and Success Skills.
If you attend this massage therapy school, you can expect to learn Swedish massage, sports massage, deep-tissue applications, Shiatsu, and chair massage. They attend a career-development seminar and complete an externship.
An associate of science degree in health studies entails an additional 42 weeks of general-education studies
Massage therapy programs are available on this school’s campuses in West Covina, Pomona Valley, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Riverside. The 940-hour curriculum takes nine months to complete.
Classes at this massage therapy school cover many kinds of massages, including Swedish, sports, soft tissue, reproductive, Reiki, Shiatsu, and alternative methods. There are also these courses: Anatomy and Physiology, Reflexology, Craniosacral Therapy, Spa Services and Wellness Strategies, Pain and Massage Strategies, Business Skills, Computers, and Ethics and Professionalism.
In addition, students take part in a career seminar and perform a clinical internship.
This school in Santa Clara, with a history stretching back more than a half-century, has graduated thousands of students in various fields.
The certificate program in massage therapy covers a number of massage techniques and practices. Students also take classes in Human Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology, Pathology, Nutrition, and Massage Theory and History. They get hundreds of hours of practice in an on-campus massage clinic, as well.
The school equips graduates for employment by giving them message tables with headrests, bolsters, carrying cases, and sheets.
Located in Lancaster, this school offers a 33-credit-hour certificate program that requires nine or 10 months to finish.
You must first take the Message Therapy Prep Course to learn the basics of bodywork, professionalism, legal issues, and medical terminology. The next classes are Introduction to Bodywork and Spa Modalities, which include facial treatments and aromatherapy.
The remaining courses are Anatomy and Physiology, Massage Techniques and Biomechanics, Assessment Procedures and Wellness Education, Serving Special Populations, Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, and Business Considerations and Professional Development.
The final step is to complete an externship to gain experience in the field.
Formally known as the DAS Career and Education Center, this Los Angeles-area school has operated in the community of Downey for more than 70 years.
The program involves 600 hours of classroom instruction. There is no student clinic. Among the courses are Pregnancy Massage, Infant and Elderly Massage, Swedish Massage, Advanced Circulatory Massage, Myofascial Release, Stretching and Resisted Stretching, Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage, and Acupressure.
There are options to take classes during the day or in the evening. Programs begin 10 times each year.
A private, for-profit school, NHI is based in Emeryville. There are also campuses in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Ana, and Petaluma.
The Massage Therapy Training Program takes eight months for full-time students and 10-12 months for part-timers. It teaches massage techniques such as Swedish, Shiatsu, deep tissue, lymphatic, sports, prenatal, hot stone, and Thai.
Other courses include Myofascial Therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hand and Foot Reflexology, Acupressure, Energy Work, Rocking and Shaking, and Aromatherapy. There are also classes that cover anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, business, and marketing. Each campus has its own student massage clinic.
This school, which has been in operation for more than 70 years, has campuses in Los Angeles, Ontario, and Costa Mesa.
The 38-week massage therapy program features 750 hours in classrooms and 407 hours in practical settings. Required courses are Swedish Massage, Massage for Special Needs Population, and Therapeutic Communication.
Other classes include Deep Tissue; Myofascial Release and Neuromuscular Therapy; Spa Treatments, Aromatherapy, and Stone Massage; Assessment, Treatment Plan, and Clinical Massage; Nontraditional and Alternative Bodywork Therapies; and Ethics, Business, and Professional Development. Students also perform externships.
There are several options here. All except the first one meet the state council’s certification requirements; and each covers anatomy, physiology, and therapeutic massage (plus a massage lab).
Massage Practitioner Certificate of Training — up to 357 hours, 12-24 months, with a kinesiology class
Massage Therapist Certificate of Training — up to 561 hours, nine to 12 months, with sports massage and clinical massage classes
Massage Therapist Certificate of Achievement — up to 1,173 hours, 12-24 months, with core courses including First Aid, CPR, and Medical Terminology (in addition to many electives)
Massage Therapy Associate in Science degree
Massage Therapist Advanced Certificate
Located in Bruno, Skyline issues certificates of achievement to students who complete 32-38 units (600 contact hours) in two semesters.
Required courses are Massage Theory and Practice; Holistic Health Science; Massage Techniques and Clinical Experience; Pathology and Pharmacology; Clinical Kinesiology and Applied Biomechanics for Manual Therapy; Sports Medicine and Manual Therapy; Asian Bodywork Traditions Theory and Practice; Introduction to Consciousness, Intent, and Meditation; and Conscious Eating: A Sustainable Approach to Health and Healing.
Students choose from among 14 additional classes.. They then may pursue advanced certificates for holistic, complementary, alternative, or integrative medicine in various therapies.
In 2016, the number of positions in this profession in California was 26,900. The figure will rise to 34,700 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That would be a 29 percent job-growth rate, faster than the projected national average of 26 percent.
The most California massage therapy positions are found in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan area. Napa has the most practitioners per capita in the country, with the San Rafael region placing third.
BLS data show that the top 10 percent of earners receive an annual salary of about $68,500 or an hourly wage of nearly $33 in California, less than the national medians of about $77,500 and more than $37. The average practitioner makes more than $36,650 (almost $18 per hour) in the state, compared with about $40,000 (in excess of $19 hourly) nationwide.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop