Massage Therapy Schools in South Carolina: Seeking first-time career skills or already have a degree

In June 2017, Greenwood’s Index-Journal profiled an entrepreneur who had found ways to utilize several of her passions, including therapeutic massage, yoga, and even drama ( The woman drew from a broad academic background that included massage school.

Massage therapy training can offer opportunities to carve out one’s own path or seek traditional employment. Education can generally be completed in less than a year. This can be a plus, whether one is seeking first-time career skills or already has a degree.

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The Basics: Attending an Authorized Massage School

South Carolina massage therapists need to complete approved program of at least 500 hours. The Board defers to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to determine that schools have met minimum standards. A prospective student will find a list of massage therapy programs on the CHE website ( The list includes five nonpublic institutions, some of which have two South Carolina addresses. Two hold national accreditation through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). One school has both North and South Carolina locations. (Schools may operate in multiple jurisdictions if authorized to do so. However, similar names can sometimes create confusion — the Avalon School of Massage in South Carolina is not to be confused with the one located in Texas.)

The CHE-provided list also includes public institutions that offer massage therapy programs, though they are not under CHE jurisdiction. There are nine public technical or community colleges offering programs. One holds program-level accreditation through the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).

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Massage schools in Greenville

Massage Schools in Charleston

Massage Schools in Columbia, SC

The Massage School Experience

The massage therapy school may focus primarily on Western techniques such as Swedish and deep tissue massage or may incorporate other modalities such as reflexology. Students may begin, quite early in the program, to practice their techniques on each other. South Carolina massage therapy programs, like those in other states, often go beyond minimum contact hour requirements. A program may include an internship and externship. An externship experience takes place off-site. Students who enroll in a school with an externship component should expect to be in the field only under supervision and only after they have progressed through a substantial portion of the program and have proved their competence.

The school may offer innovative career building classes: Students could, for example, learn how to incorporate aromatherapy and other spa techniques or how to use chair massage as a marketing tool. The program may include community service where students attend and help out at events where massage is offered. Such events afford an opportunity for networking as well as service.

Are all the above components included in every program? No. All programs should cover the fundamentals: human body systems, basic massage techniques, and safe practice (for example, establishing a hygienic environment, assessing patient condition and knowing when techniques are contraindicated). Hands-on practice is another fundamental component. However, there isn’t room in even a 700-hour program for everything a massage therapist may need in order to establish his or her career. Students often need to prioritize. A program may, for example, provide more of a focus on medical settings or more of a focus on spa settings.

Students who attend programs assigned by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork have taken a first step toward achieving a second voluntary credential: board certification. South Carolina has six assigned schools (

Entering Massage School

South Carolina’s licensed massage therapists hold, at minimum, high school diplomas or equivalency. Massage schools are often more selective that what is required by law – after all, student success is their success – but this doesn’t mean they require high levels of academic achievement. One South Carolina school notes that they seek students who have been matured by their life experiences.

A student can be young, but he or she must be ready for professional responsibilities. Open house can be a chance to learn whether massage school is a good fit – and whether a particular school is the best option.

After Massage School: Career Outlook and Average Salary

Analysts have predicted that South Carolina will see 21.8% massage therapy occupational growth in the span of a decade. This would bring employment levels from 2,000 (the base 2014 figure) to 2,430. The highest job concentration (according to 2016 data) is in the Charleston/ North Charleston area. Two other metropolitan areas, Columbia and the Greenville/ Anderson/ Mauldin area are not far behind.

The median hourly wage for a South Carolina massage therapist was $16.86 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A wide range of salaries was found, with 80% falling between $8.69 and $34.89; 10% of the state’s massage therapists made more than $34.89.

The Pee Dee area was reported as having the highest average massage therapist wages in South Carolina. In fact, the average wage in this area – a median of $31.78 — places it on the list of the highest paid nonmetropolitan areas in the nation.

In most parts of the state, the median is in the low to mid-teens. In the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metropolitan area, the median is $17.04, but 10% fell below $8.86 and another 10% made more than $36.99. Figures for the Charleston/ North Charleston area revealed an even wider range, with those at the 10th percentile making $8.31 and those at the 90th percentile making $40.26; the median here was just $15.84, the mean a higher $18.92. A narrower range is listed for the Columbia area, with a median of $16.62, a 10th percentile figure of $9.42 and a 90th percentile figure of $29.53. This does not mean that there are not opportunities to go beyond this figure in Columbia – in fact, 10% are. Very savvy massage therapists find the opportunities – or create them.