ABMP Massage Profession Metrics: The Growth, and Decline, of Massage School Enrollment (Part I)

Regular readers of this Blog know that we love the AMTA’s annual fact sheet and the statistics and data provided each year that help shed light on the multi-billion-dollar massage therapy industry. We’re now happy to announce that the ABMP also puts out its own fact sheet and a surprising amount of other data as well that provide even more details on the massage therapy industry and the interesting trends within it.

Indeed, we wrote only last month that U.S. News & World Report listed massage therapy as one of the top 50 careers of 2011. The ABMP’s statistics provide a nice corollary to that entry as, in fact, while the number of professionals entering the massage therapy field has increased dramatically over the past decade, it has been declining from 2004 to 2009. In the ABMP’s Massage Profession Metrics, the organization provides a lot of precise figures on the fast growth, and recent decline, of the number of students entering massage therapy school.

As you can see in the Metrics, from 1998 to 2004 the number of people enrolling and graduating from massage therapy school increased a whopping 107 percent, from under 40,000 in 1998 to over 70,000 in 2004. Not surprisingly, the number of massage schools in the U.S. also increased at a dramatic pace over that time, from just over 600 schools in operation in 1998, to just over 1,400 schools in operation in 2004 (these figures and growth rates are captured nicely in this graph).

2004 was the year the trend of going to massage school peaked, and quite drastically. Indeed, since 2004 to 2009, the number of massage school enrollees and graduates has declined to under 60,000, to what the ABMP considers to be a more natural, stable number.

Interestingly, the number of massage schools in operation has continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace, with nearly 1,600 schools in operation as of 2009. I’ll write more about this interesting trend next week, but one immediate implication seems clear: In the U.S. News and World Report’s article, massage therapy was a top career due to the relative inexpensiveness or going to massage school; with a declining number of students and an increasing number of schools, it would stand to reason that the cost of attending massage school shouldn’t start to rise any time soon.

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