Massage Therapy FAQs

Interested in starting your career in massage therapy? Learn more about the Massage Therapy Program offered at Harper College.

Massage therapy is one of the oldest known health care practices. References to massage are found in ancient medical texts written more than 4,000 years ago.

Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of enhancing health and well-being. Massage therapy consists of a group of manual techniques that include applying fixed or moving pressure, holding, and/or causing movement to parts of the body. While massage therapy is applied primarily with the hands, sometimes the forearms or elbows are used. These techniques can cause targeted effects for the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body. Learning what those effects can be and how to use them safely and intentionally is the goal of massage therapy education.

While there are many types of massage, called modalities, the techniques taught in the training at Harper College fall into two main categories:

  • Relaxation Massage: also known as Swedish-style massage; practiced in settings like spas, wellness centers, resorts, cruise ships and private practices

  • Rehabilitative Massage: sometimes called as deep tissue, medical, therapeutic or clinical massage; practiced in many settings such as clinics, hospitals and chiropractic offices for patients after an injury or illness, and private practices; Also includes sports massage used with athletes

Many massage therapists work in a combination of settings, sometimes including private practice and need to be able to offer a variety of technique choices for the clients in those different settings. 

Harper College offers a comprehensive Massage Therapy program that exceeds state requirements. Harper College is one of three schools in Illinois to be accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission and the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). We offer a top-tier program with experienced faculty dedicated to seeing you succeed. Being part of a community college, we are able to also offer outstanding menu of services and student benefits to benefit both our current students and graduates, and all for an unbeatable in-district tuition cost.   

Combining a variety of healing modalities with a focus in both relaxation and rehabilitative massage, our program provides a diverse education that increases a graduate's potential for working in a variety of environments.

Excellent, experienced instructors along with the combination of classroom and clinic experience allow the student move into the profession prepared for real-world situations.

Classes are small to allow students individual attention. In lab classes we maintain a maximum student:teacher ratio of 14:1 to ensure students can receive individual support and instruction throughout their educational journey. Throughout the entire training our faculty members prioritize the students' learning and help them get ready for a career as a successful massage therapist.

We offer a full-time day program which meets four days per week and a part-time program that meets 2-3 weekday evenings and a full day on Saturday. The full-time program can typically be completed in less than one year, while the part-time program can be completed in roughly 17-months. Graduates are prepared to sit for the licensure exam used by Illinois and most other states, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), as well as the highest credential in the field, Board Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB).

The Massage Therapy Program is offered at Harper College's main campus, located in the northwest Chicago suburb of Palatine. The program is housed in Harper's Avante Center, Building X (near Parking Lot 4). View maps and directions.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook for Massage Therapists (published 09/08/2022), employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations (5% growth for all occupations nationally over the same period). Continued growth in the demand for massage therapy services will lead to new openings for massage therapists.

The Massage Therapy program at Harper College prepares graduates to become a state Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and to become Board Certified for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB). 

A massage therapist can be self-employed, an hourly or salaried employee, or work as an independent contractor running their business. Job opportunities include private practice, salons and spas, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, sports clinics and sports teams, fitness centers, medical and chiropractic clinics, geriatric/nursing homes, and many more.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Massage Therapists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm (visited September 26, 2022).

Yes. The state of Illinois requires that massage therapists successfully complete a minimum of 600 hours of education including hands-on training from a program which meets the state's standards and then pass the national licensing exam. Harper College's program provides 768-hours of training and prepares our graduates for the national licensing exam called the Massage Board Licensing Exam (MBLEx).

In addition, in Illinois a license applicant must be at least 18-years of age, have a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and must be able to pass a criminal history background check.

As of September 2022, 46 states plus the District of Columbia require a license to practice and one state (CA) has a voluntary state certification. In states without a state license requirement (KS, MN, WY), local jurisdictions (cities or counties) often require a local massage "license" in order to practice.

Students are strongly encouraged to research the laws and rules in place for the jurisdiction in which they plan to work. More information about the requirements of different states can be found at the website for the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the most respected professional association for massage therapists. Graduates of the Massage Therapy Program at Harper College are eligible to apply for Licensure in IL and all other states with a license requirement with the exception of Nebraska and New York where the educational requirement is 1,000 hours. (Note: Completion of a massage therapy program does not guarantee licensure.)

Students in Harper College's Massage Therapy Program get a free student membership in the AMTA for their entire time as a Harper Massage Therapy student, which can help on many levels but particularly when moving from one licensed state to another.

While there is no way to guarantee a graduate will be licensed or hired, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported in Sept 2022 for massage therapists nationwide was $46,910, while the median wage in the Chicago-Elgin-Naperville region is reported as $49,390. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession in our region made more than $89,040, while the bottom 10 percent made less than $27,350. Many massage therapists are self-employed or work part-time, so earnings range widely. 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Massage Therapists, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm (visited September 26, 2022).

Looking at just the cost of tuition, students who qualify to pay in-district tuition rates are charged $133.50/credit, meaning our 34-credit program tuition costs $4539.00. Students can qualify for the in-district tuition rate by living or working in the Harper College geographic district, or if they live in the district of another IL community college but that college does not offer a massage therapy program. (This last option can work, but does take time to set up so applying early is important.) 

In addition to tuition, there are also college registration and course fees, as well textbooks and supplies. Overall between tuition, fees, supplies and books, the grand total comes to roughly $6300. 

Because Harper is a community college, we offer several forms of financial aid, as well as grants, scholarships, and other forms of tuition relief, such as work study and now even apprenticeship options for those who work for a clinic or facility where they can work for a period of time after earning their massage therapy license. For more information, contact the massage therapy Program Coordinator.  

 

Yes, students are required to take MTP 100: Introduction to Massage Therapy. This course typically lasts just 1-week and offered at least once each semester.

In order to be eligible to enroll in the MTP 100 course, prospective students must enroll as a Harper College credit-course student and then complete the Registration Permit Application Form online.

If there is time before the MTP course, students are strongly encouraged to complete the other program admissions steps as well. Those include:

  • Provide a copy of a government-issued photo ID (driver's license, state ID, passport, military ID, etc.)
  • Have high school transcripts OR college/university transcripts (showing at completion of at least 60-semester credits) on file with the college. If this obtaining this will be a problem, contact the program coordinator for an alternative   
  • Complete an IL state Criminal History Background Check through Harper Police in building B
  • Email a scan or picture of your covid-19 vaccination record to the program coordinator
  • If the student has enrolled in credit courses at Harper in the past, the records need to show a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0. The GPA can be checked by logging into the Harper Student Portal. If the GPA is below 2.0, a GPA Action Plan must be set up with the Program Coordinator to move forward with admissions.

If there is not enough time to complete all these steps prior to the MTP 100 - Introduction to Massage Therapy course, the student can proceed with the Intro course, but to start classes in the main part of the program in the Fall or Spring semester, all steps must be complete and an acceptance letter received.

The full-time program starts every Fall semester and typically takes 3 semesters to complete, (Fall-Spring-Summer), or roughly 11 calendar months. In this program structure, students attend class Monday-Thursday with classes starting no earlier than 8:00 A.M. and typically ending no later than 5:00 P.M.

The part-time program starts every January and typically takes 4 semesters to complete (Spring-Summer-Fall-Spring) or roughly 17 calendar months. In this program structure, students attend class 2-3 evenings per week and a full day Saturday with classes starting during the week no earlier than 5:30 P.M. and ending no later than 10:00 P.M. and class on Saturday typically from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

(Times provided here are rough estimates and are subject to change.)

The clinic is operated as a "teaching clinic" where each student receives individualized instruction while providing massage therapy treatments to real-world clients. The Harper Massage Therapy Clinic is on campus and simulates a real-world massage therapy working environment for our students. Students are provide massage therapy care to patients from the public under the supervision of Licensed Massage Therapists who are Massage Therapy Program faculty members. 

Once a student graduates from the massage therapy program, in order to get a job they must apply for a state license. Part of the licensing application process involves a national fingerprint-based Criminal History Background Check. The IL licensing law sets out a few specific crimes that would automatically cause an application to be rejected. If an applicant does have a criminal history, their application status is decided by the licensing board on a case-by-case basis, but it is important to note, having a criminal record is NOT an absolute bar to getting a massage therapy license. 

The massage therapy licensing board has provided this informational handout about how criminal history factors into the decision to grant a massage therapy license. Graduation from any massage therapy program, including Harper's, is not a guarantee of being able to get a license. 

 

Adult learners often make the best massage therapy students! Many massage therapists enter the profession as a second career or come to school many years after their last educational experience. Many students find massage therapy becomes a calling for them. Having more life experience often enables a practitioner be a more compassionate provider. 

Regardless of your age and how long it may have been since you have been called a student, a full community of educational professionals stand ready to help you succeed! 

 We're happy to try to help!

You can attend a Health Careers Information Session to learn more about the Massage Therapy program at Harper College - find the next Info Session date and RSVP to save your spot at THIS LINK. Attendees are provided a voucher which waives the college application fee.

You can also connect with the Massage Therapy Program Coordinator - Jeremy Miller by phone (847-925-6076) or by email jmiller4@harpercollege.edu


For more information about professional massage therapy training courses offered at Harper College, fill out our Request Information form now or visit the Massage Therapy Program page.

Last Updated: 11/4/22