How much is a Massage Therapist Salary?

In this article we answer all the questions you might have about a massage therapist salary. We discuss various factors that affect how much you can earn in your massage therapy career including geography, types of massage therapy jobs, gratuities, and average salaries for massage therapists working in the United States.

Written by Margaret Dunn and Bill Burden

Are you considering making a career switch? Perhaps you’ve looked into massage therapy but aren’t sure about taking the leap. There are many factors to take into consideration before switching careers. It is a big move and requires many sacrifices to make it, so it is important to be prepared and certain that it is what you want. One of the main questions people have when considering going into massage therapy is what is a massage therapist’s salary? While this answer varies quite a bit depending on factors like location and type of job, there are some average numbers to look at to get a better idea of what to expect.

Geography Makes a Difference in a Massage Therapy Salary

Let’s address the obvious point that the geographic location where you practice will play a role in determining your salary as a massage therapist. As with any career, there are some parts of the world where you will earn more and some where you will earn less. According to using data collected in 2019 from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics with adjustments for cost of living, the top ten massage therapist salaries by state in order are:

    1. Alaska
    2. Washington
    3. Kentucky
    4. Oregon
    5. Idaho
    6. Indiana
    7. Texas
    8. Minnesota
    9. Nebraska
    10. Tennessee

Keep in mind salaries fluctuate between cities and towns, and that many other things factor into your earning potential as a massage therapist.

massage therapist salary by state
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Working for Yourself vs. Working for Someone Else

In addition to geographical location, a massage therapist’s salary depends largely on whether they work for a company or for themselves. For example; many therapists, after acquiring a license to practice, will start their own business and set their own prices. However, when a therapist goes on to work at a company or for someone else, then the service prices will typically be set for them and a portion of that money will go to the company itself. Some things to take into account when deciding what kind of massage therapy career you wish to pursue are taxes, overhead and flexibility.

Working For Someone Else

When you work for someone else, oftentimes, massage therapy jobs will fall into two categories – employee or independent contractor. This distinction can have a big impact on a massage therapist salary, and how income taxes are handled. As an employee, your employer would withhold a portion of your paycheck for income taxes, social security etc. As an independent contractor, you would receive your full salary, and then be responsible for keeping track of how much you owe in taxes.

Additionally, salaries may be structured as hourly, commission based, flat rate or some combination of the three. There are a multitude of things to consider in determining what kind of business relationship is best for you that go beyond salary and taxes, and let’s be honest – it is complex and can be confusing at times. The massage therapy curriculum here at the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy includes a detailed business development course with individualized career counseling.

massage therapy students practicing in the outdoor classroom
Students Practicing in the Outdoor Classroom

Working for Yourself

massage therapist salary depends on the type of job
Student Clinic at the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy

Going into business for yourself as a massage therapist can be very rewarding. You have flexibility to set your own hours and prices. However, you might also have additional expenses and responsibilities. Who is going to handle washing all the linens? Also, much like an independent contractor, you’ll need to handle your own taxes or hire an accountant. These extra responsibilities are worth it for many massage therapists as research indicates that on average, the highest earning massage therapists work for themselves and travel to clients’ homes.

What about gratuities?

Most massage clients will leave their therapist a tip. This is great because this is money that goes right into your pocket, even if you work for someone else. The rule of thumb when tipping a massage therapist is typically to leave between 15% and 20% of the treatment price. However, in some establishments, 25%-30% is encouraged. Of course, not everyone leaves that much, and some people leave more. It depends on the client as well as the quality of the massage. Yet whatever the tip may be, that is the therapist’s money to keep and it can add up over time. Another thing to consider is that some higher-end spas and even some independent massage therapists will set a flat price and will not allow tipping.

So, what is the average massage therapist’s salary?

According to, the average massage therapist salary in the United Sates as of June 2020 is $51,949. In 2019, the average wage of a massage therapist was recorded as $21.98 per hour, according to Career Explore. Again, these numbers can fluctuate depending on the area you are working in and who you are working for. As far as the average salary range, it usually falls between $46,497 and $59,675, though that range may be wider depending on the type of education and continuing education the therapist has received, additional skills, the amount of time they’ve been practicing, etc.

On the higher end of things, ZipRecruiter found that around 2% of massage therapists make between $88,000 $95,000 a year. Keep in mind that if you are working in a more expensive area and if you work for yourself, you have the potential to earn on the higher end of the scale. Take a look at this article from Massage Magazine about the highest earning massage therapists in the industry.

The bottom line is if you are considering the switch to a career in massage therapy, it can be a very lucrative career. However, most of our students don’t list money as the reason they wanted to get into massage therapy – they say they became interested in massage therapy because they love to help people.

students practicing craniosacral therapy for massage therapist salary blog
Students Practicing Craniosacral Therapy at CRSMT

Article written by: Margaret Dunn and Bill Burden

The Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy and Yoga is the world’s premier study abroad program for massage therapy and yoga. We offer both a 600 hour and a 700 hour COMTA Endorsed Curriculum Massage Therapy course which satisfies the licensing requirements for massage therapy in most of the United States. Additionally we offer continuing education for massage therapists and yoga teacher training.


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