Despite the impact COVID-19 had on massage school enrollment, a recent survey from Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) finds that massage graduate numbers are on the rise.
ABMP conducts a census of all state-approved massage programs every two years, and recently completed its analysis of 2022 massage program results and trends. The census was conducted January 2023–April 2023, during which time ABMP representatives attempted to contact more than 900 programs. Of that number, 570 approved programs responded to the survey. Those who were reached (and still in operation) were asked, “How many students graduated from your primary massage program in 2022?” For the segment of schools that did not respond, ABMP used state and program data to project results.
Combining survey data and projections, ABMP estimates there were 22,183 graduates from 872 programs in 2022, putting the average number of graduates per school at just over 25 students.
The number of graduates has increased compared to the low point of ABMP’s 2020 survey, which would suggest the COVID-19 pandemic had a temporary effect of lowering enrollment, and that the effect is fading.
Unfortunately, the number of state-approved massage schools has decreased slightly from 2020, which indicates that some schools did not weather the reduced enrollment and additional challenges. In ABMP’s regular course of supporting schools, however, we have also heard from several dozen new programs that have opened since the pandemic.
As referenced in a recent update to ABMP’s massage therapist population estimate, surveys of ABMP membership indicate that session pricing is on the rise, and only 4 in 10 respondents said they had openings for new clients. Taken together with the fact that franchise and spa businesses are in constant need to hire more massage therapists to meet demand, it's safe to say the demand is present in the market to meet an increased number of massage therapists.
Types of Programs and Their Graduates
ABMP categorizes massage programs into six organizational types:
- Career School—multiprogram institutions offering many career training programs in addition to massage therapy, typically medical and dental assisting, medical recordkeeping, etc.
- College—massage program offered at a community, junior, or technical college.
- Corporate School—massage therapy and spa programs as part of a multicampus, multistate, larger corporate entity.
- Nonprofit—programs whose organization is incorporated as a nonprofit entity.
- Proprietary—traditionally and typically “Mom & Pop” programs; single owner at a single campus.
- Public—programs offered through the public education system/school district.