Massage Therapist Salary Guide & Career Information

Massage therapy is the practice of applying various combinations of pressure, friction and heat to particular muscles and soft tissues in the body to produce a desired outcome such as relaxation purposes or medical benefits. It is renowned for offering relief from muscle pain, reducing tension in overworked muscles, decreasing stress levels, rehabilitating injuries and promoting overall health. It is one of the most common therapeutic techniques used to help both professional and recreational athletes recover from muscular injuries such as strains, tears, cramps and contusions. An individual who has graduated from a massage therapy training program or degree and has obtained the required license can be referred to as a massage therapist. They can specialize in one of more than 80 different modalities (types of massage) such as: reflexology, sports massage, deep-tissue massage, neuromuscular massage, Swedish massage and acupressure. The following is an overview of the job, work environment, required education and the average income for the career.

Job Description

Before giving a massage to a new client, a therapist asks the client a series of questions to learn their medical history, current physical condition and what kind of massage they want (stress relief, relax, reducing pain, etc.). Based on the information received from the client, the therapist chooses one or more techniques that best fit their needs and will produce the desired effects. For a soothing massage, lotions, oils or creams are used while rubbing a client’s muscles. Some therapeutic techniques are only for special clients. For example, prenatal massages are only given to pregnant women.

A massage therapist can work in a number of different environments including, but not limited to: the offices of other health practitioners, hospitals, homes, private clinics, airports, fitness centers and shopping malls. They are most often self-employed, in which case they must possess the chairs, sheets, pillows, body lotions and tables essential for giving a massage. Depending on the preferences of the client, they will sometimes play light music and fill the room with pleasant fragrances to make the experience even more relaxing. Clients are required to call in and make an appointment for each massage session.

Therapists who work full time in malls, hospitals or private clinics and consider themselves to be full-time workers generally work around from 15 to 30 hours a week (not counting the time need to complete business functions such as billing, travel and marketing). A little less than half of all individuals employed in the occupation work part time, many of whom have variable schedules. One of the hard parts of the job is standing for the length of a session several times every day. As a result of spending this much time standing, therapists can suffer from fatigue and repetitive motion disorders/injuries. However, the risk of injury can be reduced significantly by using the proper massaging techniques, scheduling breaks between sessions, getting regular exercise and also by receiving a massage from time to time. To reduce the physical strain on their bodies, many therapists only work part-time.

Required Education and Training

The education standards, qualifications and training requirements for pursuing career as a massage therapist vary significantly from state to state. After completing their high school diploma, aspiring students should enroll in a part or full time massage therapy program. These programs typically require around 500 hours of in class instruction and training. The courses that make up the program cover subjects such as physiology, anatomy, the study of tissues and organs, study of body mechanics, kinesiology and business management in addition to practical massage sessions to obtain hands-on experience. When enrolling in courses it is important to choose a school that is accredited by the state board. In some states it is mandatory to have a degree from an accredited school in order to start private practice as a massage therapist. Some schools even offer placement services and continued education programs.

In several states, massage therapists are required to obtain a license once they have completed their formal education and training. To obtain a license, a candidate must pass either a state administered exam or one of two nationally recognized examinations, the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination. Licenses must be renewed periodically in order to stay in effect. It is essential for them to learn their state’s requirements and be sure they have been fulfilled before starting to work with clients. For a complete list of state by state regulatory requirements such as insurance coverage, education hours and exam completion, click here.

On top of learning the many massage techniques, it is also essential for therapists to develop rapport with their clients to so that they are more likely to become regular customers. In some cases, a client’s doctor recommends they get a massage to help with their health problems, but the client avoids getting one because it makes them feel uncomfortable. They must do their best to make these clients feel at ease and relaxed. It is also essential to be loyal to the profession as well as the clients. The anonymity and privacy of a client’s personal details must be maintained and respected at all times. Above all, a massage therapist must always use the correct techniques because improper techniques can injure the client. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a massage therapist, see this official AMTA resource.

Salary Guide

The average salary for a massage therapist working in the United States is $39,770 based report released in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This works out to a mean hourly wage of approximately $19.12. The salaries reported by this official government resource ranged from $17,970 to $69,000. Taking location into account, the highest paying states are Washington and New York with average salaries of $54,770 ($26.33 per hour) and $50,050 ($24.07 per hour) respectively. Around 60,040 CMTs are currently employed in the United States. Here are the three highest paying industries (that employ over 1000 therapists):

• Offices of Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists – $45,980 per year (employs 1700)
• Offices of Chiropractors – $44,650 per year (employs 8130)
• Offices of Physicians – $43,480 per year (employs 1570)

And here are the sectors that employ the highest number of massage therapists:
• Personal Care Services – $37,620 per year (employs 27,200)
• Offices of Other Health Practitioners – $43,480 per year (employs 16,940)
• Traveler Accommodation – $34,990 per year (employs 6,370)

Salary by Years Experience (United States)

Massage Therapist Salary by Years Experience

Massage Therapist salary levels by years of experience

According to reports provided by, an average massage therapist’s salary ranges from $20,955 to $72,254 (including bonuses and profit sharing). The statistics that make up the report were submitted by 51 massage therapy professionals, most of who had 1-4 years of work experience. The average salary is approximately $44,000.

As therapists gain experience and develop a loyal customer base of clients who visit on a regular basis, they can increase the hourly rate they charge to increase their income and earn an even more comfortable living. To earn more money, therapists can start a training program to teach others how to perform certain massage techniques correctly. To become a successful masseuse, it is essential to have the willingness, motivation and work ethic to stay up-to-date with new techniques being used by other professionals and to be empathetic and friendly to clients.

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