What is a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists are skilled individuals who are trained to manipulates the soft tissue muscles of the body through touch. They press and rub skin, joints, muscles, and tendons to treat body aches and overworked muscles. They help to relieve pain and stress, rehabilitate injuries, improve circulation, and increase relaxation in their clients. Their work primarily focuses on the general wellness of their patients. For more on job duties, please visit our massage therapist job description page.

Where do Massage Therapists Work

Massage therapists have a large array of work environments, both public and private. They can work in their own private offices, running their own clinic, or in spas, hospitals, cruise ships, resorts, corporate offices, physician offices, or fitness centers. Some will travel to a client’s home or office for an in-house massage. Some will even set up a chair in a public area such as a mall or farmer’s market.

As there is a wide range of potential areas to work, how the work environment is set up will depend on the chosen milieu. Hospitals will be well-lit, though subject to potential pathogens; a spa will be comfortable, often with soothing background music. A private office, however, allows the massage therapist to create whatever work environment they would most enjoy, and that will be most beneficial to their client’s wellbeing.

Work Schedule

The work schedule of a massage therapist is, like work environment, dependent on where the therapist works. Working independently, one can set whatever hours one wishes. Working in a spa, however, a masseuse may be required to work a full forty-hour workweek. There are also many part-time positions available, which can run the gamut of potential work schedules; it is a highly flexible career.

Approximately 3/4 of massage therapists work less than 40 hours per week, as it is physically straining job. Many will work evenings and weekends when people are most likely to get massages. A massage therapist has a lot of freedom in how much they want to work, but it ultimately depends on their own schedule.

Mean Annual Massage Therapist Salary

The average annual massage therapist salary is $40,400. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. The lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $18,280 and the top 10% makes over $71,020.

Massage Therapist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$40,400 per year
$19.42 per hour
Top 10% Salary$71,020 per year
$34.14 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$18,280 per year
$8.79 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201379,040

Massage Therapist Job Outlook and Prospects

Massage therapy is a field of work currently in demand, and with a high rate of growth. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 132,800 massage therapists in the United States. Another 30,000 new jobs, or a 23% increase, are expected by 2022. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is due to the increasing professionalism of the field, changes in way health care and insurance are handled nationally, and the aging population, as well as education about the benefits of massage. There will be more job vacancies in spas, massage clinics, chiropractic offices, resorts, and health clubs as the demand for massage services increases.

What Affects The Massage Therapist Salary

The current average annual massage therapist salary is a comfortable $40,400. While this salary can be marginally influenced by the industry worked, of greater influence is the experience of the massage therapist (and, related to this, their education), as well as their geographic location.

The potential range of salaries is large; the lowest 10% of massage therapists tend to earn around $18,280. However, the upper echelons of the career are quite lucrative, with the highest-grossing 10% receiving average annual salaries of $71,020.

Education and Specialization 

Most states regulate massage therapy, and require massage therapists to be licensed or certified. However, standards and requirements vary by state, and even by locality, so these regulations are flexible. Licensed or certified massage therapists generally make more money because clients are willing to pay more for a qualified massage therapist. Certain third party insurances may cover massage therapy, but only for services provided by massage therapists who are registered with the state. These therapists can therefore charge a higher premium.

The greatest massage therapist salary is earned through experience, and experience can often be gained through education; a postsecondary education in the field generally includes 500 hours or more of experience and study, allowing a greater potential salary offer.

Training in particular specialties is a further means of massage therapist salary gains; being specialized in pain and injury treatment will make one highly desirable to hospitals or other injury rehabilitation centers. Sports massage and neuromuscular therapy are further areas of specific health-related massage, whereas deep tissue and Swedish massage are areas for consideration in technique.

Experience and Position 

Experience is an important area for consideration for massage therapist salary. As massage therapists tend to find steady work through word of mouth, experience is an important means of gaining initial trust, and building a body of clients. In fact, a massage therapist’s business is built upon returning customers. By providing excellent service, clients will return and will refer others to them as well. As they build a loyal client base, these individuals are more willing to pay a higher fee for a service they trust.

Position is highly dependent on the environment worked in; in a spa or hospital, one can rise in the ranks. In a private office, however, one is already at the top of the hierarchy, being the owner and head of the company.


The majority of industries tend to offer massage therapist salary close to the mean of $40,350. However, there are notable exceptions, primarily in specialty hospitals and physicians offices, which offer around the $50,000 mark; nursing care facilities, which offer an average of $56,790; and the highest-paying industry of ambulatory health care services, which has a mean annual wage of $60,150.

An additional source of income for some massage therapists come from tips. Therapists that work in hospitals are not tipped for their service; whereas those who work at a resort or high-end spa will earn very generous tips.


Location worked offers the widest range of massage therapist salaries, stretching from $18,760 in Puerto Rico to the highest-paying state of Alaska, which offers an annual mean of $84,120. It should be noted that Alaska’s salaries are far outside of the norm; the state with the second-highest salary, Vermont, has a mean of $58,050, and Rhode Island comes in third at $54,680. Indeed, the state of Alaska is split into two metropolitan areas with data; Anchorage offers a mean salary of $83,130, while Railbelt/Southwest Alaska has a salary of $84,560.

Massage Therapist Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Anchorage, AK: $83,130Alaska: $84,120Other Ambulatory Health Care Services: $60,150California: (9,540 jobs) $39,770
Danbury, CT: $67,980Vermont: $58,050Nursing Care Facilities: $56,790Florida: (5,650 jobs) $38,060
Holland-Grand Haven, MI: $65,920Rhode Island: $54,680Technical and Trade Schools: $51,060Texas: (4,270 jobs) $38,000
Corvallis, OR: $63,480Washington: $53,760Offices of Physicians: $50,520Washington: (3,580 jobs) $53,760
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA: $62,710Delaware: $51,540Specialty Hospitals: $50,380Arizona: (3,390 jobs) $37,350

massage therapist salary state by state 2013