Choosing A Chicago Massage Therapy School: Location, Cost and Program Type

 By: Brandon J. Thomas
Like many other major cities in the U.S. (Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami), Chicago has numerous massage therapy schools that potential students can choose from, all located within the city. Unlike many other major cities, Chicago does not have many nationwide or statewide vocational schools, like Everest College, offering a massage therapy program. Instead, nine largely local schools offer Chicagoans a massage therapy education, and a good way to break down which school is right for you is with three factors: Location, cost and program type.

Starting with location, many Chicago massage therapy schools are located downtown, within a few blocks of Grant Park. These schools (Cortiva, The Soma Institute) are good choices for students either living in the downtown area or relying on public transportation, as there are many options nearby. Also within a mile or so of Grant Park and located near public transportation is The New School of Massage. Other options farther from downtown Chicago, but located along the I-94 corridor, include Northwestern College and the Marco Polo Schools.

If transportation is not the ultimate deciding factor, cost may be. And Chicago massage schools vary widely in tuition rates. On the high end, for example, is Northwestern College, with tuition topping out at $20,000-plus. On the lower end of the scale are schools like the Marco Polo Schools or the Rosel School of Massage Therapy, whose tuitions total around $6,000. In the middle are schools like The Cortiva Institute and The Soma Institute, with tuitions that total around $14,000.

Why the variation? Clearly one factor is the curriculum, and this leads to a final determining factor when deciding which Chicago massage therapy school is right for you: Program type. All massage schools in Illinois state are required to offer a massage therapy program of at least 500 hours of supervised classes/instruction, with classes focusing on anatomy, massage therapy technique, and professional standards, among other subjects.

Some programs are longer (like Northwestern College's more than 1,200-program-hour certificate or The Cortiva Institute's 750-program-hour program) and will set you up to perform several types of massage (office massage, private-practice massage, therapeutic massage). Other programs are shorter (like Marco Polo Schools' 550-program-hour program) that will set you up to get your Illinois massage license or national massage certification, but may not give you as extensive a skill set as a longer program would.

Obviously this final factor is a difficult one, as it is difficult to make a final decision based on numbers alone. Touring a school and visiting with current faculty and students will give you a better perspective on whether the program length and cost are worthwhile. Also, speak with current graduates to find out if they use all the skills they were taught at school, or if they wish their program had been shorter.

Finally, make a decision based upon location, cost and program type. If you are planning on becoming a Chicago chair massage therapist only, then maybe consider a shorter program that will be less expensive and get you licensed more quickly. However, if you plan on making massage therapy a full-time career, doing office massage as well as table massage with different modalities, then most likely a longer program, which will emphasize massage therapy techniques, history and industry, will be the right one for you.
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