Question From A Reader: How To Choose A Massage School?

We got an email from a reader who is trying to decide on which animal massage school to attend. It is a very difficult choice to make, and we decided to post her question and my answer, hoping it would help others who are undecided as well.Choosing an animal massage school

If you have attended an animal massage school and have feedback you would like to share with us, please comment on this post, or if you prefer to not share your name, send your testimonial directly to me, and I will post it anonymously.

After you finish reading the post, make sure to scroll down to the comments section to see the very helpful replies from Lola Michelin (Northwest School of Animal Massage) and Theresa Gagnon (Bancroft School of Massage Therapy).

Lisa wrote:
Hi, I have been considering going to school for pet massage for a couple months now. Your website has a lot of great information and is the best comprehensive look at schools that I have been able to find.

The main problem I am having is finding out truly how good these schools/certification courses really are and how well they prepare you to start your own business. Of course all the schools are going to say they have the best program and prepare you to be confident to start your own business and have testimonials on their websites that stand by these statements.

But what I am looking for are the students’ individual opinions of the schools who have completed the pet massage program, with maybe some good and some bad. Or an expert who has looked over several schools and their programs and has the knowledge to compare them to one another.

Without being able to physically visit the schools myself it is very hard to tell which one would be right. I was hoping that perhaps you have some knowledge of this or maybe you have connections to people who have completed pet massage courses at a variety of schools and can give you their opinions. If you could post this information on your website it would be so helpful. Not only for me but for others trying to weigh their options.

Right now I am leaning towards Pet Massage LTD in Toledo, OH but because I haven’t seen any honest, straightforward opinions of any pet massage schools, I am still undecided and unsure. I would greatly appreciate any help. Thank you.

My answer:
Hi Lisa!
You’re absolutely right, it is very difficult to decide which school to choose, especially as more and more of these courses are popping up everywhere. Did you see my post comparing canine massage programs? It gives you a brief overview of the more comprehensive small animal massage programs currently offered.

My advice would be to select a program at an accredited massage therapy school that is at least 200 hours total, and includes plenty of hands-on instruction. 200 hours is the minimum required to be able to take the NBCAAM exam, which I absolutely recommend for everybody who wants to practice animal massage or acupressure for a living. The laws about animal massage are very much up in the air in almost every state, but if you have a solid training and the NBCAAM certification, you are in a much better position if/when they do change.

I would also check each school’s website and contact their graduates and ask what they thought of the program(s). If there are none listed, I would call or email the school and ask for contact info. If they are not willing to give that to you, I’d pass on that school.

How well the schools prepare you to start your own business is a very good question. I think most focus the majority of the instruction on bodywork, and some have basic business classes. If I were to design the business part of one of these programs, I would make the students start on a business plan at the beginning of the program and have them work on it throughout the entire education, perhaps with weekly check-in sessions that would allow for idea-swapping and reality checking. I think many people who go into this don’t think enough about the business side of things until they have to.

One thing I found out recently is that many colleges have Small Business Development Centers, where they help you with all aspects of starting a business. Some also have workshops and classes, so that’s another option if you find a massage program you love but feel is lacking on the business side of things.

Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Cattie Coyle

Cattie Coyle

Founder and Editor at Animal Wellness Guide
Cattie is the founder and editor of Animal Wellness Guide. She is a freelance photographer, graduate of Bancroft School of Massage Therapy’s small animal program, and has studied Applied Zoopharmacognosy. Learn more about Cattie
Cattie Coyle
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  1. says

    This is such a great question, I had to chime in. When potential students contact our school and are comparing programs, we recommend they ask all the schools they are considering three questions:
    1. What are the subjects studied and how many hours of the curriculum focus on anatomy and physiology? (we feel at least a quarter of the program should center on A&P and the curriculum should also include behavior/ handling / biomechanics and massage at a minimum)
    2. Can you contact some graduates/students with questions? I agree, if they say no or balk…look elsewhere. We have forums on our website and a yahoo group / facebook page where people can also go without having to first contact us.
    3. Lastly, what are the qualifications of the instructors? (ie: do they have their own practice? are they qualified teachers? do they have additional training in the animal health care or massage industries?…)

    You mentioned in your answer that a program must be at least 200 hours to qualify for the NBCAAM exam. Actually, students can combine hours from multiple programs, so a 100 or 150 hour program may still be very acceptable training and might represent the best value. Our program is divided into levels of 150 hours each so that students can select from specialty areas (such as sport massage or rehabilitation massage) once they complete the initial program. With two levels of training, our graduates are more than prepared for the national examination.

    Cost is always a consideration of course, but I think in our field you get what you pay for. Don’t consider a program simply based on cost because many of the best programs, while more expensive, are still a better investment when you consider they prepare you better for a solid career. A weekend course may be inexpensive but isn’t likely to give you the depth you need to go beyond providing massage for your own pets.

    Lastly, I believe it is important that a program include business practices and ethics. We dedicate a good amount of time to formulating business plans, marketing strategies and defining scope of practice and code of ethics. Many other programs do as well. There are so many more programs availabe today than even 3 years ago and, thanks to the increasing visibility of our profession, there are MANY VERY GOOD programs to choose from. Wherever you decide to go, you are certain to be thrilled with your new career opportunity! Good luck to you.

  2. cattie says

    Lola, thank you for all this info! You’re right, I should have been clearer about the fact that the 200 hours can be from different programs. I also heard from Theresa Gagnon at Bancroft School of Massage, who said:

    “If someone were going to school for human massage, there are course requirements in place in state laws and that are recommended by the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Assoc.) and ABMP (Associated Massage & Bodywork Professionals). They include the specific courses and classroom hours for each course. When Bancroft developed its courses, we looked at that and then took each course and designed a program based on what human massage requires. So I would recommend any school that has also done the same thing. There should be course such as anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, pathologies, business, and so on. “

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