Back To Career News

Massage Therapist Salary


Name: Gilda Hart
Job Title: Owner/Registered Massage Therapist
Where: Round Rock, Texas
Employer: Self-employed – Wholeness Therapeutic Massage
Years of Experience:2
Education: About 6 months of Massage School (plus some college in Business Marketing)
Salary: According to the PayScale Research Center, the average massage therapist salary ranges from $26,579 (Philadelphia) to $72,250 (Austin)

Massage Therapist Salary

If you have ever wondered, "What is it like to have a career in massage therapy?" or "What is the average massage therapist salary?" this soothing Salary Story will answer your questions. Recently, massage therapist Gilda Hart spoke to us about the factors that affect a massage therapist salary, how to become a massage therapist, choosing massage therapy as a career, and how continuing education can influence the average massage therapist salary.

You may already be working as a massage therapist and want info on how to boost your massage therapist salary. Or maybe you’re sitting at your desk imagining a career change, wondering what it would be like to have your own massage therapy business. Whatever your reasons, if you want more info on the average massage therapist salary (and more), keep reading!

Massage Therapist Job Description:

As the owner of the business as well as a massage therapist, I need to stay on top of just about everything. Since my business is still fairly small, I can’t afford to hire an accountant, or any other type of help, so I do it all myself. The first thing that I do everyday is check my e-mails for any news or new bookings; then I send out follow-up e-mails and appointment reminder e-mails.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Depending on the day of the week or how busy the week is for me, I might work on updating my massage therapy website, checking on some marketing postings, write up an entry for my massage therapy blog, work on accounting, make more marketing contacts for on-site chair massage events, or just do a load of laundry – sheets, face rest covers, towels, etc. Of course, that’s if I’m not giving a massage, which I’m only doing 3 days a week for now.

Can you give us info on how you became a massage therapist? What were your career steps?

My career steps to becoming a massage therapist were spread out over a few years. For the last fourteen years, I considered becoming a massage therapist (ever since my first massage when I was pregnant), but there were always obstacles. About two years ago, I discovered that our family needed an additional income to help with the cost of living. Since I am a strong believer in being available to my children until they go off to college, I didn’t want to work outside the home.

I analyzed three options (all requiring training/certification) that would fit my needs, and massage therapy was one of them. Obviously, massage therapy won me over because it was the shortest amount of time to get from beginning to end. I applied at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School and got started a month later. I was surprised by the amount of anatomy and physiology (more than just skeletal and muscular) that was required to pass the state exam, but now I realize how important all that information has been to my career.

At the time of my training, we were required to have 250 hours of classroom training (which includes anatomy and physiology, business, and massage technique training). There was also a requirement to do about 15 hours of free massage sessions to learn how to market our business and how to interact with clients; this was done on our own time. After the initial 250 hours (if we passed the final exam), we put our information into practice with a 50-hour required internship, with instructors supervising our sessions.

Once all was completed, it was time to schedule the written exam and if that was passed, you went on to take the practical exam. I think the part that was the most challenging was the practical exam that’s performed in front of a camera.

Does the job of a massage therapist provide for any humorous moments?

Making sure that people know to get “under” the top sheet and blanket. Some people have been known to get down to their birthday suits and lay on top of the blanket! It’s never happened to me, but it has to other massage therapists; it’s kind of funny when I’m explaining it to people.

Do you have to be licensed to become a massage therapist?

In Texas, where I live, there is a law that requires people to be licensed. Most states have some sort of licensing program in place with different prerequisites and training hours. There has been a large push lately to have it all fall under one national licensing program, but that would take away the extra money going to individual state governments. I am supportive of the national program because I believe it would make the industry better regulated and ensure that everyone was getting the same amount of training for whatever level they want to be licensed for.

Does the job of a massage therapist have a high turnover rate?

Yes, there is a high turnover rate with massage therapists and I believe it has a lot to do with not taking care of themselves. During my training, the school I went to was very adamant about us taking care of ourselves by receiving massages as often as possible and by exercising and stretching. They taught us how to maintain our postures, using gravity as much as possible, instead of muscle power, and to keep our thumbs aligned with our forearms.

Work environments may also come in to play as a lot of franchise places only focus on quantity of massages, and many therapists don’t believe they can say “no” to an employer. Therefore, they end up working way too many hours non-stop, then stress out and give up on their career.

Any advice on how to become a massage therapist?

I think that most people want to get into massage therapy because they think it’s an easy occupation and they could earn a good amount of money, but that’s not how it works. I knew a few people in school who thought that as soon as they had their licenses that they’d have clients leaping onto their tables. Even if you do charge $65.00 per hour, you will only be able to do a few sessions a week because it can be physically tiring.

Do you have any info on massage therapist employment in the future?

I believe that as more and more people start to look beyond traditional medicine as the “cure-all”, the massage industry is going to continue to grow along with acupuncture, naturopaths, etc. There’s always room for more massage therapists. We just have to continue putting out the information that this isn’t just a frivolous thing to do once a year as a treat. People are beginning to understand the total health benefits of regular massage, and with that happening, the massage therapy industry will continue growing.

What factors can affect a massage therapist salary?

If you go into business for yourself, you’ll need to consider having a 2nd career or 2nd income to rely on for the first few years because it will take awhile to develop repeat clientele. If you go work for a spa or clinic, be prepared to do things their way which may mean doing “cookie cutter” massage sessions and not being able to customize; all this affects what gets charged to the client. For example, since I work out of my home, my overhead is very low so it allows me to keep rates low for my clientele and adapt rates for special populations.

If I had to lease/rent a space, I’d either have to increase how many sessions I do on a weekly basis, by utilizing some marketing strategy, or I’d have to raise the prices. Working for a company allows you to earn your money and tips, with most companies providing everything, except lubricants. One of the downsides is that for all the work you put into the massage session, your salary is only a percentage of what’s being charged to the client.

The other factors that impact a massage therapist salary are years of experience and specialties (e.g. deep tissue, sports massage, tuina, hot stone, Thai massage, etc.). The more specialties you can add to your “certification” wall, the more clients you can bring in and the more money you can charge.

How does your salary compare to the average massage therapist salary? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.

Matt Schneider
Read more from Matt

Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Ronnie Williams Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ronnie Williams
Ronnie Williams

A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that a massage therapist can earn an average of $17 per hour with 57% of the massage therapists self-employed, while growth expected is to remain at 19% until 2018.


What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.