Massage Therapy Salary: The Truth About How Much You Can Make as a Massage Therapist

If you are thinking about becoming a massage therapist, you are probably wondering what your massage therapy salary will be.   There are many different sources and they all say different things. Just like any other job, your salary will really depend on your ability to negotiate your salary and how well you can 'sell' yourself to a potential employee.  You can make as much or as little as you want.

Salary Stats: What they really mean.

Massage therapy salary statistics vary greatly.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports:  "The median annual wage for massage therapists was $35,970 in May 2012."

Indeed.com reports: $61,000 as of Jan 2014

American Massage Therapy Fact Sheet says: "In 2012, the average annual income for a massage therapist (including tips) was estimated to be $20,789."

Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals report:  Employees (average): $19,605 (2011 Income Survey)

Are they all right?  Or are they all wrong?

The issue is that we just don't know. These income statistics are for massage therapists who are actual employees for a company.  The salary statistics from the BLS are based on estimates that use 40 hour work weeks which really is unheard of in massage.

Most massage therapists actually start their own business, so their income is not counted in these statistics.  There are also many companies who hire massage therapists as an independent contractor which is also not counted in salary statistics.  An IC is basically someone who is self employed but goes in and contracts for their massage work from an employer which can be a salon, clinic or other massage business setting.

So if you are looking for a job as an employee where the employer hires you for set hours, a set pay and provides all of the clients/supplies and services needed for you to do your job, chances are this is going to be at a Massage Franchise where the starting salaries are $12-$15 an hour.  They also assume that you will be getting tips to make up for the low salary, but tips are usually not required and are optional. Massage Envy, Massage Heights, Hand and Stone and Lavida are a few of the many massage franchises.

You might only get paid when you actually have a client and get paid minimum wage when you don't have a client to work on.  As an employee, you have to show up when they want you there and perform massage according to the employers directions.

When you are looking for a job in massage, you will be able to negotiate your rate of pay, just like any other job.  That will require that you show a potential employer just how much more money you can make them in the way of repeat clients and getting new clients in the door.

Earning Potential:  $15 an hour x 20 hours a week =$300.00 per week x 48 weeks = $14,400 per year (minus taxes).  Plus tips - $5-$10 an hour from an estimated 10 clients a week.  You do the math!

The Massage Therapist Independent Contractor

As an independent contractor (IC) for an employer you will be able to choose the hours that you work and you can perform the massage the way you want to as compared to an employee of a massage business that may have to do a "signature massage service" which might be a massage done in a specific way.  Many massage therapists are actually misclassified as IC's because many employers don't want to have to pay the additional fees that they need to pay when hiring employees.  It is up to the employer to determine the correct category, but if you feel that you are being taken advantage of as a massage therapist, you can bring this to the attention of your labor board.  This might cause problems for the employer which might make them pay all the back fees which could affect their ability to continue on in business. 

As an Independent Contractor you can negotiate your salary and the things that the employer will do for you as far as providing clients.   You will have full control over your schedule.  You may also be renting space from another practitioner.

As an IC you can make as much or as little as you want depending on how many hours you want to work and what salary you can negotiate.  In general, expect to make between $25 and $70 an hour depending on where you work and what massage services you are performing.($70 is really high but if you live in a high end area and work at an exclusive resort or spa it is possible!)

Estimated Earnings:

$25.00 x 20 hours/week = $500 per week x 48 weeks = $24,000 a year + tips,  - taxes

$47.00 an hour x 20 hours/week = $940/week x 48 =$45,120 a year (+ tips, - taxes, - expenses like rent, lotions)

The Massage Business Owner Income

As a massage business owner, your income will depend on many things like how much you charge, how many hours you work each week, how many clients you can get on the massage table, the amount you charge, charging people for missed appointments, and all of your overhead.  Some of the expenses you will need to cover are things like:

  • Rent ($100-$1500 a month)
  • Phone ($100 a month roughly)
  • Website ($10 - $30 a month for hosting, additional fees for initial design $500-$5,000)
  • Laundry ($100 a month)
  • Online Scheduling system ( $20-$50 a month)
  • Liability Insurance - yearly
  • Licensing fees- yearly
  • Business License (if required in your area)
  • Bookkeeper/Accountant
  • Taxes (Self employed tax - 15% approx.)

You can also charge more per hour than some of the franchises so you can make more but your expenses will also need to be covered.  You will also need to make enough to pay yourself and save for retirement and vacations.