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What are your thoughts on ABMP's survey showing falling enrollment at massage schools and many small schools closing?

According to the new survey just released by ABMP, massage school enrollment continues the decline that started several years ago, and the number of massage schools has started to decline after a period of explosive growth.  Were we in a bubble?  Is a massage recession starting?  Or is it all a necessary correction to the "market"?  What do you think the impact will be on your practice, massage schools, the AMTA and ABMP, massage chains like massage envy, etc?

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I don't think there is a "massage recession". In fact those seeking massage as therapy keeps increasing. But changes in regulations has increased the costs to small schools that fight chain schools, online CEUs and community colleges to maintain their turf is taking its toll. In California, the voluntary system for state certification which employers in effect have made mandatory, excludes almost all of the Chinese and Korean language schools because of suspicion of being transcript mills. Odd though that no other cultures are suspect. This is causing their closure. Things are definitely changing and the small traditional massage school based on a founder dedicated to the field is vanishing, if not at least fading.

The school that I attended went out of business last year after 16 years. It was a proprietary school, and the owner could no longer compete with the cheap tuition and financial aid offered at community colleges.

Just as a further sign of the recession, the building and 5 acres of land went on the auction block this past Tuesday and only brought $125,000. In addition to the lovely facility itself, it also has a gorgeous mountain view and is located at the end of a dead end road in the country.

My practice has continued to thrive, but this is not the only school that has gone out of business here. Some have been very long-standing, not some fly-by-night place. Good owners, good programs, but just not financially able to stick it out anymore.

It is sad that many owners are nearing their retirement with well known schools that should be sellable or able to support them as they turn over reigns. But the landscape is changing. Those who built it are now often being left behind.

I don't think that it matters too terribly. The bubble is bursting but i have always had a hard time getting therapists who have a good work ethic. The schools in my area are graduating therapists with poor people skills, poor work ethics and there must be some assumption that once a student graduates, people will be clamoring for their skills ( of which they have very little at that point).

I believe that the therapists who do finally go to school, graduate and establish themselves as solid therapists are better off for having put in the time to hone their skills and create a wonderful business. It's attrition. Survival of the fittest. 

Dan is right that the landscape is changing but I hope that it's for the better. We had schools cropping up all over the place around here but not much to show for it. The ones that remain must know what staying power is and how to harness it. Good luck to them.

I have had my own business for 16 years against the spas of my area and have held my own. Those chain businesses are pricey and they are hiring the same therapists that I am. No one is better or worse. It's just different. I can afford to charge less though. That benefits me and my clients. 

I think it was needed.  There were too many bad massage schools out there.  Massage schools popped up all over with the demand for schools but they didn't have enough good teachers.  They often used recent grads as teachers. 

 

See this article on my blog - http://thebodyworker.com/massage_blog/phenonmenal-growth-in-the-num...

 

and this chart - http://www.thebodyworker.com/numberofmassageschools.htm

 

I also just did a google trends search yesterday doing a search for massage schools comparing it to massage jobs. 

http://www.google.com/trends?q=massage+schools%2C+massage+jobs  (Can you get that link and see the chart?)

Not that it tells the whole story but interesting.

 

If school enrollement is down it just means more clients for you (us!)

 

It is sad to see those mom and pop type of schools being bought up by larger corps or going out of business.  They are the ones who made the profession what it is today.  The thing really is how much those big conglomerate chain massage schools will hurt the profession.  I think it is Everestt college who now has an agreement with Massage Envy to supply therapists there so they teach for getting a job there. 

 

Julie

 

Julie

@Julie,

I agree with your thoughts on which schools will be affected, and also wonder what the impact will be.

 

I don't see the ME / Everest partnership as a bad one.

 

Steiner has been vertically integrated with their schools feeding their cruise operations and now their Bliss and Elemis spas. Makes sense -- get them trained on your products and protocols which makes them easier to train to spa specifics.

 

Then if they leave, they are likely to use your products -- just like Biotone dominating most massage schools.

 

EVerest grads may not be the right ones for every job, but if you have a school producing grads that are easily placed with a major employer, then is sounds like everyone -- especially the students -- benefit.

 

Not unlike my MBA program...they taught us to be desired by the biggest names in the industries we were interested in. More educational institutions -- at all levels of education -- should have an eye to what the marketplace is demanding.

Where did you see this survey, Alexei? I was under the impression that this industry was growing faster than ever and the demand will only increase in the upcoming years.

Actually I don't know if ABMP has released this survey to the general public, (I run a school that participated in the survey) here's a link to a news item about the results of the survey:

http://www.skininc.com/spabusiness/trends/120593874.html

In my anecdotal opinion the industry is booming and growing in my area, Massachusetts.  A declining student enrollment may be indicative of other factors at play, like the economic recession, and trends in for-profit education.

We did make the results of that survey available to the general public - you can find them at http://www.abmp.com/school_administrators/school_operations.php#mas...

 

Regards,

Abram Herman

Social Media Coordinator, ABMP

abram@abmp.com

Alexei Levine said:

Actually I don't know if ABMP has released this survey to the general public, (I run a school that participated in the survey) here's a link to a news item about the results of the survey:

http://www.skininc.com/spabusiness/trends/120593874.html

In my anecdotal opinion the industry is booming and growing in my area, Massachusetts.  A declining student enrollment may be indicative of other factors at play, like the economic recession, and trends in for-profit education.

My belief is that it is just a readjustment, I have seen just as many schools open in my area as I have seen close - Tucson, AZ.  I just opened my 4th location last month and am opening my 5th in September of this year - the massage industry is still growing and thriving!
At our Board meeting a couple of days ago, one program director announced the closing of her school in Asheville NC, which is not that big a city and had 5 schools. No big surprise on that one, although I thought they had a good program and a beautiful facility. We also rec'd two applications to open new schools in areas that are not saturated. Location is a factor as is the local economy.

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