Massage Therapist Salaries – The Truth

Massage Therapists salaries are mostly really inaccurate.  We do not have any real concrete data on massage therapist salaries.  The many websites out there that give salary statistics don’t tell the whole story.

The real story is that entry level massage therapists start at $8-$15 an hour depending on where you live and what type of place you work.  Entry level jobs are usually at a massage franchise like Massage Envy or Elements.  You can make more if you find the right job or work your way up into a higher paying jobs.  High end spas, other massage therapists or medically oriented clinics will often pay more per hour.

Here is the key with any salary statistic in the massage profession:

  • Most massage jobs are 20-25 hours a week.  Salary statistics usually multiply the number of hours by a 40 hour work week.  Massage therapists are unable to work that number of hours due to the physical demands on your body, mind and emotions.
  • In most jobs in massage, you only get paid your massage therapist salary when you have a massage client.  If you don’t have a client, you may be cleaning the bathrooms and doing laundry for minimum wage or you don’t get paid at all.
  • Most massage therapists start their own business.  These statistics are not counted in job statistics.  Massage therapists are usually sole proprietors and do the massage themselves.  Some may hire other massage therapists to work for them as an independent contractor or employee.
  • Most massage therapists who do have jobs are hired as independent contractors.  That means that they are not paid directly as an employee but are considered to be self-employed.  These numbers are not reflected in any salary data

So how much does a massage therapist make?  You can make as much or as little as you want.  Most prefer part time and low wages and have spousal or family support.

This is from the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professional Metrics page:

What do massage therapists earn?

  • Independent practitioners (average): $25,365
  • Independent practitioners (median): $22,000
  • Employees (average): $19,605
  • Employees (median): $15,750
  • Average gross income during first year of practice: $8,864

This is from the American Massage Therapy Association:

In 2010, the average annual income for a massage therapist (including tips) who provides approximately 15 hours of massage per week was estimated to be $31,980, compared to $37,123 for 2009. The reduction in income reflects both a decrease in the number of average hours worked and lower numbers for consumer use of massage in 2010.

In 2014, the average annual income for a massage therapist (including tips) was estimated to be $22,165

So not sure why the big difference in massage therapist salary reports from the two major massage associations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for massage therapists was $34,900 in 2010. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made approximately $69,000, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $17,970. The top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation include Anchorage, Alaska, Tallahassee, Fla., and York-Hanover, Pa.

In 2012 they say the median annual wage was $35,970 per year.

So how much can you make? The question really should be – How much will YOU be able to make?

That depends really on your ability to negotiate job contracts and show employers how you will help their business grow.  It depends on your skills in the area of getting a job in general.   It depends on your commitment to be constantly improving your skills and knowledge.

The top massage therapists who work in clinics and spas should earn at least $25 an hour and most likely $35-50 an hour.  Getting that may take some time and energy in your job search and it may mean taking a lower paying job first to work your way into a higher paying job.

If you stay in a job, your earning potential is limited but you will often gain experience and knowledge about building a business making it a good experience and opportunity so that you can go on to start your own business.

Massage therapists who are in business for themselves can charge more per massage, hire other massage therapists to work for them or to rent rooms from you to reduce your overhead and expenses and make more per hour.  You will need to know how to create websites that will get you most of your clients and learn how to network to build a massage business.

If you are just thinking about becoming a massage therapist you can read more about massage therapist salaries in my Book – A Career in Massage – Is if for you?