What are Average Massage Therapist Salary Levels?

What are Average Massage Therapist Salary Levels?
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Massage therapy is decompressing the tried and overworked soft-tissue muscles of the body by touch, to treat ailments, alleviate pain, reduce stress, rehabilitate injuries, and promote overall health. Massage therapists administer such massage therapy, and most therapists usually specialize in several modalities such as deep-tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure, sports massage, and others.

Wage Levels

The Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2009 survey shows an average massage therapist salary of $16.94 an hour or $35,230 a year. The lowest 10 percent of message therapists earn $8.30 an hour or $17,270 a year, and the lowest 25 percent of message therapists earn $11.32 an hour or $23,550 a year. The top 25 percent of message therapists earn $24.88 an hour or $51,750 a year, and the top 10 percent of them earn $33.01 an hour or $68,670 a year.

Massage therapists salary ranges, however, depend on factors such as the nature of work, location of work, the type of massages offered, and experience and expertise levels.

Image Credit: af.mil

Employer Comparison

Massage therapists held about 122,400 jobs in 2008. Full time employers include massage centers attached to hotels, resorts, and tourist centers, offices of physicians and chiropractors, specialty hospitals, nursing homes, personal care services establishments, and fitness and recreational sports centers, malls, airports, and even private offices.

Specialty hospitals and other health care facilities are the best-paying employers of massage therapists, with average wages of $26.49 an hour, or $55,100 a year. Such facilities require massage therapists specialized in offering massages aimed at treating specific injuries such as sports injuries and other ailments. The other top paying industries include dental offices, junior colleges, civic and social organizations, and outpatient care centers.

The largest employers are personal care services, traveler accommodation centers, amusement and recreation industries, and offices of physicians. These facilities do not pay as much as health care facilities, but clients in such places offer tips, not available in health care facilities.

About 57 percent of all massage therapists work part time and on a freelance basis, and as such, earnings vary considerably depending on the hours worked. As it is with the case of other freelance professions, they get only their pay and usually have to spend a portion of the money to buy tools of the trade such as massage oils, laundry, space rentals, insurance, and marketing, and do not receive any other benefits. As such, the net remuneration for such freelancers remains on par with standard hourly wages for full time employees.

About 19 percent of freelance massage therapists work at multiple locations, including hospitals or clinics, and have variable schedules. About 48 percent of all freelancers take up this profession on a part time basis to earn supplemental income, working only a few hours a week.

The job of a physical therapist is physically demanding and prone to repetitive-motion problems and fatigue from standing for extended lengths of time. Many freelancers also require time to travel to the various work locations. As such, most massage therapists work only for about 15 to 30 hours per week.

Regional Comparison

The salary level of massage therapist varies considerably by location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 survey indicates that the best pay for massage therapists is in Alaska, with an average massage therapist salary of $85,050. Washington, which offers an average annual salary of $52,550 and Oregon which offers an average annual salary of $51,800.

Massage therapists remain in demand across the country, but most new employment opportunities come in metropolitan areas and resort locales. The best paying city for a massage therapist is Anchorage, Alaska, with average salary levels of $86,530.

Although opportunities in well paying industries are limited and the field highly competitive, the growth prospects remain bright as more and more people start learning about the benefits of message therapy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a decade growth rate of 19 percent through 2018.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11. “Massage Therapists.” https://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos295.htm. Retrived 01 January 2011.
  2. Salary.com. “Dream Job: Massage Therapist.” https://www.salary.com/Articles/ArticleDetail.asp?part=par270. Retrieved 01 January 2011