Salaries vary widely in massage therapy since so much depends on the clientele and the amount of networking. Salaries are influenced by geographical areas, years of experience, and employment setting. According to the AMTA, nearly 73 percent of persons practicing massage therapy started it as a second career. Around 57 percent of working massage therapists earn income working in another profession, such as bodywork, workshops, or health care. Massage therapy remains in many ways part-time work, but it is a growing profession with consumers demanding the service and states pushing licensing and professionalization at massage therapy schools.
Massage therapists’ median earnings are around $16.78 according to the government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, and this is including gratuities. Some businesses earned as little as $11.00 an hour and some as much as $25.00 an hour. Median earnings mean one-half of the massage therapists earn below $35,000 and the other half earn above $35,000. Since massage therapy is mostly part-time work and most figures are derived from annual earnings, these statistics can give a false impression. Massage therapist surveys show that therapists charge between $35 and $130 per hour. Most therapists work part time so yearly earnings vary as well. AMTA annual surveys put annual pay at around $35,000 for fifteen hours of massage work per week.
Massage therapy is mostly a self-employed enterprise and has very little in the way of providing insurance benefits to a massage therapist. Professional organizations are beginning to organize and provide these services. Be aware that a self-employed person at the present time will have to provide their own benefits. The laws for health care benefits and insurance practices are in a time of rapid change with all the new legislation. Joining a professional organization will help a massage therapist keep track of benefits they can use.
Massage Therapy Work Environments
The workweek at an average massage therapy business is thirty-five to forty hours per week. About twenty hours of the workweek is dedicated to massages. The rest of the workweek is making appointments and taking care of business-related items, such as taxes, supplies, and billing. Massage therapists tend to work evenings and weekends. Some massage therapists travel and work within clients’ homes. These massage therapists work odd hours. Often full-time massage therapists work out of several settings, such as spas, fitness centers, nursing homes, and malls.
Massage therapists tend to work in clean, comfortable environments, such as homes, businesses, or health care institutions. Basic equipment tends to be a portable chair, a table, sheets, lotions, and sometimes a padded chair. Businesses usually have sterilization equipment to maintain a hygienic work area. Businesses often create a relaxed atmosphere by dimming lights, lighting candles, providing scents, and playing music.
During a session, a client is draped in sheets and lies undressed on the table. Oil or lotion is used to smooth the skin and make massaging easier. To enhance a massage, a massage therapist may use belts, steam, rollers, or packs of hot water or ice.
A good massage therapy school will simulate many of these work environments. Make note as a student which ones you perform best in.
Massage Therapy Workplace Options
You have spent the time to study for your massage therapy career. You have passed the tests and received your license from your massage therapy school. The next step is deciding what workplace options you have. There are five general categories of workplaces a massage therapist can be hired into after graduation: spas, self-employment, medical or health care settings, franchises, or fitness/sports facilities.
In the spa industry, a massage therapist does not work alone and is surrounded by support staff. The support staff takes care of appointments, cleaning, and business items. Spas tend to supply the massage therapist with equipment and lotions. The massage therapist gets to focus on massage alone. Spas expose massage therapists to a variety of approaches, such as wraps, scrubs, and hydrotherapy. Appointments tend to be back-to-back with a short turnaround time.
Self-employment means a person sets up and starts their own business. It means they have become an independent contractor. A self-employed massage therapist is responsible for everything from billing to the massage itself. Self-employment involves setting up at the very least a sole proprietorship. A person has to keep track of expenditures and income for tax season. They must learn the techniques of advertising and marketing to obtain clients.
Employment at a medical or health care facility means a much more clinical environment and massages geared toward healing or improving maladies. The massage is going to take place in the patient’s room around medical equipment, such as IVs or catheters. Appointments are often more random and chaotic because a massage therapist must work around medical personnel’s needs. Again, a massage therapist’s focus will be on massage, and the business end will be taken care of by the health care facility.
Franchises are premade businesses that a person buys the right to use. Massage therapists must follow the program of a franchise, and they will pay a percent of the gross income back to the franchise owner. The advantage is it lets an inexperienced massage therapist learn the business under a proven method that works. The disadvantage is if the business does not become profitable, you are out of your initial investment and in debt. Much research on a local area’s need for massage therapy services should be done before buying a franchise.
Fitness/sports facilities massage therapy goes back thousands of years to Greek and Roman athletes. Major and minor leagues of various sports sometimes have a massage therapist on staff to enhance warm-ups before a game or to encourage healing after an injury. Those teams not able to keep a massage therapist on staff often allocate funds to hire independent contractors.