There are seven massage therapy schools in South Dakota that state officials have approved. Many of them are in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
Private colleges and academies offer occupational certificates, which require less than one year to earn. Curricula involve classes, labs, and clinics.
Most South Dakota massage therapists do not make as much money as their peers in other states. However, the job-growth rate is comparable to the national average and exceeds that of most occupations. Officials project about 20 job openings in the field every year during the decade ending in 2026.
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This government agency, a division of the state Department of Health, regulates massage therapists and establishes criteria for postsecondary schools.
The board issues MT licenses to state residents who successfully complete educational programs at accredited, approved schools. It ensures that license applicants pass a required exam, and that practitioners periodically renew their licenses and obtain continuing education.
To receive state approval, a school must comply with state requirements concerning curriculum components and faculty qualifications.
The governor appoints five board members, four of whom are licensed to practice massage therapy in the state.
Obtaining a high school diploma or GED is the initial step to become a massage therapist in South Dakota. Taking college-level classes in health, science, and business may help win admission to schools with competitive enrollment policies. Next, a student needs to enroll in an accredited training school that satisfies state requirements.
The board approves institutions that offer programs with 500 or more clock hours of instruction and training. This must include at least:
The remainder of curricula is at individual schools’ discretion. Some programs cover a wide range of massage techniques, while others provide additional instruction for students who plan to open massage businesses.
Upon graduation, a prospective practitioner must pass the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM), the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB), the NBCA Massage Therapy Certification Exam, or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
Fees for the computer-based tests range from about $200 to $275. Students need to register with one of the exam providers, and request that results be sent to the state board.
Most people take the MBLEx, which the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards administers. Students take the multiple-choice exam at Pearson VUE testing centers.
License renewal is required every two years, which involves eight hours of continuing education. The courses may be online, but the board must approve them and their providers.
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 private, for-profit cosmetology school in Rapid City provides “flexible schedules in a relaxing and soothing environment.” In addition to an associate degree in cosmetology, the college offers certificates in esthetics, nail technology, and massage therapy.
The MT program involves 600 clock hours. Students attend eight hours of daytime classes, Monday through Thursday, for about 18 weeks. They may begin the curriculum in either January or July.
BHBC maintains a 100 percent acceptance rate, but accepts a limited number of students. The school’s student-to-instructor ratio is 12:1.
This small, private beauty school in Rapid City awards certificates in the same fields as BHBC. The 750-hour massage therapy program specializes in Swedish massage. It also features an “introduction to a wide variety of massage, including reflexology.”
The program is available only full time, with day classes. Students give full-body and five-pack massages at an on-campus salon, and perform community service by administering 24 hours of free massages.
The school has a 100 percent acceptance rate, enrolling qualified applicants on a first-come first-served basis. The student-to-teacher ratio is 10:1. Classes start in February, July, and October.
The typical South Dakota practitioner receives more than $30,800 annually or nearly $15 hourly, less than the national median of over $41,400 a year or about $20 per hour.
The best-paid 10 percent in the state make more than $50,300 or about $24.20, not as good as the U.S. median of around $78,300 or $37.60. The lowest-paid 10 percent receive about $23,400 or $11.25 in South Dakota, better than the national average of over $21,300 or around $10.25
Positions for massage therapists in this state totaled 140 in 2016. The field will expand to 180 jobs by 2026, based on federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. That would be a growth rate of 25 percent, about the same as the anticipated 26 percent nationwide.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop
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