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?

10 thoughts on “Massage Therapist Salaries – The Truth

  1. In 15 years I’ve never been paid even minimum wage to clean the bathrooms or do laundry. It is part of the job and only paid for the hands on hours I’ve worked.

  2. If you haven’t been paid to clean the bathrooms and do laundry then you are being taken advantage of by your employer and probably should be employed as a independent contractor. You don’t have to clean and stay if they don’t pay you. Check your labor laws and contact them and a labor attorney. If it is part of the job – you need to be paid for it.

  3. I agree with most of this very honest and realistic report of expected massage income except the sentence “Most prefer part-time and low wages”. I think most of us would prefer average or above wages,and not aspire to low wages. Potential massage therapy students should read this article or be informed of this very challenging reality prior to entering the field.

  4. Thank you, thank you Julie! I love being an independent massage practitioner in the state of Washington, and I also want to be sure that those considering following in my footsteps get the reality of the business. Gross income based on a full-time week is one thing, net income based on part-time hours is another deal. I guess the BLS is paid to inflate employment statistics, anything else is not politically expedient.

  5. Here is the problem. Most states allow business to sell Massage Therapy. We hold a License in most states of which we work very hard for and spend a lot of money obtaining. But, then, Massage Therapists give that license to businesses to make money off their backs! You don’t have to work for a low wage or give your license to a business to make money off of it. Does a Doctor, Nurse or Chiropractor do this? No, neither should you. A team of massage therapists can run a practice just like doctors and business owners. Cut out the “Corporate” middle man and market your own clients.

  6. $12 to $15 is ridiculous. I don’t think we’re ele ting the fight people in office here in Florida, because an LMT’s salary we t down extremely. 14 years ago, I started my first job at a chiropractic office earning $500 per week and now if they’re offering the same or less. It’s unbelievable. Chiropractors can’t really have a business now a days w/o an overseeing doctor. Florida is not a good place for massage therapist. The people in charge have let this happen. I’m starting practice as we speak, and run it but I’m looking out the door.

  7. Allie,

    You are spot on. We are allowing businesses to sell our licenses. Something we can do ourselves. When we are working for other business they see us cash cows only. They will milk the cow until it’s dry and broken and go ahead to next healthy one. I’m so happy about your statement. I will never forget those spoken words. My question to my fellow therapists. Why do sell your hard earn skills for $12-$15? While the companies makes $40-$60 plus from your hard work. Believe it or not your hands will hurt, and employers will no longer need your non-service. No free housekeeping therapists.

  8. I am fairly young (30) but have been a therapist for 12 years. I do not agree with this article. I started out making $40,000 a year back in 2004 in PA. Due to the change in industry (Massage Envy Hand and Stone style corporations) what you make per massage has changed, yes. Believe me, I am not fond of it and it had pushed me to go back to school (Currently working on my Masters Degree) But I know no one who makes as little as 8.50 an hour. Even at the corporate style spa that I work at if you clock about 30 hours (about 25 massage a week because we receive an hour break) you are making about 800 a week after taxes between services and tips.

  9. Hate to break it to you Sarah, but that’s not a norm. I’ve interviewed at several high end spas and was told to start at 8.50 an hour, no commission, but an automatic 20% gratuity for every massage. I was more shocked by lmt’s from Colorado who were offered the same thing at high end spa’s. Massage Envy pays me $15 an hour and that goes for all of us. We only get an extra dollar for every year we’ve been there for requests only = but we’re capped at $20.

  10. It happens because most of this places (chain massage places) paint a rosy picture but the reality is far from rosy. The consumer needs to take some of the blame here. They go for a cheap massage where they may or may not get quality depending on the talent of the massage therapist. Most consumers still see massage as a luxury not a health care necessity. Also, most consumers are unaware of the working conditions of therapist. There is also another aspect that is being overlooked. Most of the field is women dominated. If the field were male dominated would the working conditions be the same? Think about it.

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