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 Chinese medical texts written more than 4,000 years ago.

Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues. Massage therapy consists of a group of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable 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 affect the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body.

While there are several types of massage, called modalities, they all generally fit into two main categories:

  • Relaxation Massage: also known as Swedish-style massage; practiced in settings like spas, wellness centers and resorts
  • Rehabilitative Massage: also known as deep tissue, medical, therapeutic or clinical massage; practiced in many settings like clinics, hospitals and chiropractic offices

Harper offers a comprehensive program that exceeds state requirements.

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

Excellent, experienced instructors along with the combination of classroom and clinic experience allow the student to prepare for real-world situations.

Classes are small to allow students individual attention. Generally, there are less than 20 students per class.

The program can be completed in less than one year.

The Massage Therapy Program is offered at Harper College's main Palatine campus, located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The program is housed in Harper's Avante Center, Building X (near Parking Lot 4). The Massage Clinic is located in Room X105. View maps and directions.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook for Massage Therapists (published 06/01/2018), employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 26 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. 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, a salaried employee or work on a commission basis. Job opportunities include private practice, spas, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, sports clinics and sports teams, fitness centers, medical and chiropractic clinics, geriatric/nursing homes, and many more.

Yes. The state of Illinois requires that massage therapists successfully complete a minimum of 600 hours of education including hands-on training from an approved provider and then pass the national licensing exam. Harper College's program provides 768 hours of training and the national licensing exam is administered as the Massage Board Licensing Exam (MBLEx).

In addition, in Illinois to get a license an applicant must be at least 18 years of age and must be able to pass a criminal background check, so these are requirements for our program as well.

As of Feb 2019, 45 states plus the District of Columbia require a license to practice and one state (CA) has a voluntary state certification. In states without a license requirement, local jurisdictions (cities or counties) often require a local massage license or permit in order to practice.

Practitioners are strongly encouraged to research the laws and rules in place for the jurisdiction in which they plan to work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for massage therapists was $39,990 in 2017.

The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made more than $77,470, while the bottom 10 percent made less than $20,300. However, many massage therapists are self-employed or work part-time, so earnings range widely.

For more career information, visit the website for the American Massage Therapy Association.

Yes, students are required to take MTP 100: Introduction to Massage Therapy.

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


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