Massage Therapy Schools in Hawaii

It can be surprising just how much Hawaii has going for it in the world of massage therapy. The state may be low on population but it’s high on world-class employers – and on highly regarded massage therapy programs that infuse their own unique spin.

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Educational Standards for Hawaii Massage Therapists

Hawaii is one of just a few states that allow massage therapists to receive their initial licenses on the basis of apprenticeship. Completion of a massage therapy program may, however, offer more long-term opportunities. The good news is that there are massage therapy schools located in several parts of the state. Massage therapy programs, moreover, are relatively short; some prospective massage therapists will want to travel for a short stint of training.

It’s not just massage therapists who must hold licenses — the schools themselves are licensed by the state. A student who attends massage school in Hawaii can be assured it is held to standards described in state code. Hawaii massage therapy programs are at least 570 hours. This is slightly above the level required by many states.

570-hour programs that have been approved by the American Massage Therapy Association and (AMTA) or the Rolf Institute can be considered approved; the Rolf Institute is associated with a particular modality “rolfing”.

Other programs approved by the Department of Education can be accepted if they meet the following standards:

  • At least 100 hours is to consist of theory and demonstration.
  • At least 420 hours is to consist of practical training.

State approval is the most fundamental requirement. However, there are other standard setters to be aware of. Hawaii has six massage therapy schools that have been assigned codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork ( This is no small feat considering the state’s population density. Assigned schools are located in Kailua, Kihei, Makawao, and Honolulu. Honolulu boasts three. Students who attend these schools can expect to be eligible, eventually, to test for national board certification.

One of the state’s NCBTMB-assigned programs is housed in a community college; this particular program is non-credit. The others are in vocational schools of one sort or another. In most, but not all, instances this is a school specifically focused on massage or the healing arts.

What distinguishes one program from another — assuming there is more than one in reach geographically and monetarily?

While programs typically introduce students to multiple modalities, they vary in what is included and how much coverage they are given. Modalities have traditionally been classified as Eastern or Western. Hawaii schools may include some modalities like lomi lomi. Hawaii programs vary in number of hours. Another variable is pacing: At what stage do students actually begin putting their skills in practice?

A student may want to keep in mind his or her vision when selecting massage therapy courses. People seek different things from massage, even if ultimately they are looking for healing from particular physical conditions. SF Gate recently published an article about how a place’s unique surroundings could infuse bodywork, noting some of what one could find in Maui: Hawaiian sandalwood oil, ceremoniously gathered lava stones, aqua craniosacral therapy at sunrise ( The reporter also took note of a practitioner raised in Honolulu who was now working in California but still carried with her her grandmother’s healing traditions.

Clinical coursework is also worth considering. Programs must cover contraindications; some offer coursework in treating specific vulnerable populations such as oncology patients and the medically fragile.

Funding Massage School

There are numerous potential funding sources. A program that is non-credit will not qualify its students for traditional forms of college financial aid but may still qualify some for training moneys. Some Hawaii programs have been approved as training providers through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act.

Apprenticeship Standards

For those who do complete massage therapy apprenticeships, the state, too, has set specific requirements. The first 170 hours must be academic. Of these, 50 are to be in anatomy, physiology, and structural kinesiology.

Salary and Career Outlook

Hawaii massage therapists enjoy an annual median wage of $23.19 an hour ( Notable is the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI metropolitan area; there the median wage is $33.29. In the Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area, the median is $25.81; in urban Honolulu, $21.82. The range is wide. 10% of the state’s massage therapists earn less than $9.11, but another 10% earn more than $44.17.

Hawaii may have low massage therapy employment levels when measured by total numbers, but the job concentration (as measured by massage therapy jobs per 1,000 total jobs) is the second highest in the nation. The Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metropolitan division ranks fifth out of all metropolitan divisions in the nation with regard to job concentration; by this same standard, some of the nonmetropolitan areas of the state rank even higher. In fact, the Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area ranks second of all nonmetropolitan areas in the nation. In sheer numbers, though, it’s urban Honolulu that comes out on top of other regions of the state. In Honolulu, one finds a bit of everything, from world-class spas to research-driven medical facilities.

Narrowing it down:

Massage Schools in Honolulu, HI

Massage Schools in Hilo, HI