How much you make as a massage therapist depends on the area you live and the skills you have to negotiate a job in massage or to start and run your own massage business. Currently, massage therapists are in high demand which means employers are offering bonuses, more benefits and you have the upper hand in negotiating your salary as a massage therapist.
The salary statistics on websites like the Bureau of Labor are an inaccurate representation of just how much a massage therapist can make. They assume that a job in massage is a 40 hour work week when in fact the hands on time for most massage therapists is usually a maximum of 30 hours and most are around 25 hours. The way salaries are set up in the massage profession is that you are paid for the hands on time you provide – like a piece work setting.
Massage schools will not often post the salary rages or they give the inaccurate information —remember, they are trying to get you to go to massage school. Our massage associations give varying numbers. The American Massage Therapy Asscociation’s Massage Research Report in 2022 *(available to members only) states that massage therapists made gross wages of $23,339 which was down because of COVID. In 2019, the gross wages were reported as $29,439 which is the highest that was reported by AMTA. The Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals Jan 2022 Report in their magazine Massage and Bodywork claims that 17% of massage therapists made around $30K and 24% made $40K and 12% made $50k. 41 percent of respondents to their professional survey reported earning $12,500 or less in 2020. That is NOT a living in most places and is also the reason that most massage therapists start their own business at some time in their career.
The other source often cited for salary information is the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Handbook and their section on massage therapists that says:
The median annual wage for massage therapists was $43,620 in May 2020.
Their data is so inaccurate as they base the income on a 40 hour work week which is very uncommon for massage therapists. Most work 20-30 hours.
How much can you make per hour?
The issue here is how hourly pay is calculated in the massage therapy profession. It is different than most payment structures where you work each hour and get paid for each hour or are on a monthly salary. In the massage profession, pay is usually only for Hands on work – the actuall massage session given to clients/patients. You don’t usually get paid for the time in between clients that it takes to clean and set up the room. It is more like factory piece work payment structures. Many will set up the pay structure to be more like a commission based pay with each hour being paid at minimum wage but a commission added when you have a hands on session.
Entry Level Massage Therapists
Massage therapy school teaches you how to give massage safely as an entry level massage therapist. A good school will use the Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP) as their main source for creating a course curriculum. You will be able to get a job in massage therapy or start your own business if you are an entrepreneur. Entry Level Jobs are usually at franchises/spas where you will have to give many massages which will get you the experience you need to grow as a skilled therapist. You may be able to stay at these places and make more money because the demand for massage therapists is so high right now. It is also good for a part time job to supplement your family income. In small towns where the cost of living is low, you should be able to do well in an entry level massage job.
Advanced Level Massage Therapists
After you get a few years of experience, you might consider learning more clinically oriented massage therapy which would be treating pain, injuries, headaches, fibromyalgia, and other health conditions where massage can help allieve symptoms and restore health.
You may want to branch out into working with athletes of all callibers – high school, college, amateur, weekend athletes all could benefit from getting regular massage.
Working in a hospital environment is becoming more popular as massage can be helpful in many situations like in the labor and delivery centers, pain clinics, surgical recovery centers and more. Working in a hospice providing massage to the dying is a life changing experience and requires extra skills in working with medically fragile people.
Extra training is required to work with animals – horses, dogs, zoo animals, wildlife rehabilitation centers are all other opportunites to explore.
Starting Your Own Business
Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals reports that 59% of massage therapists start their own business. The American Massage Therapy Association reports this at 70% in their 2020 Massage Profession Report.
Starting and running a business is challenging but with so many resources out there today in the form of websites, marketing material, social media networking, business coaches and mentors makes it much more easier. You don’t have to do it alone!
Clinical massage settings offer massage for injuries/health condtions along with wellness massage therapy. In home massage is more popular in recent times, but it is much more risky and more time is involved in travel and set up.