We take our first look at compensation throughout the profession
This year, for the first time Elite Healthcare conducted a Salary Survey for the massage therapy profession. With just under 1,000 total responses, we hope to be able to provide some insight into compensation levels for LMTs in different areas of the country and those at different stages of their careers. If there are additional breakdowns you’d like to see in the future, please contact us at [email protected].
To start, the survey results show massage therapy to be a field dominated by mid-career professionals. 76 percent of the responses came from therapists with 6-25 years of experience, with almost 47 percent of those coming from people between 6-15 years of experience. Professionals with five years or less experience and those with more than 25 years each comprised 12 percent of our responses.
The profession shakes out as a female-dominated arena, with exactly six responses coming from women for every one response from a male. Florida was by far the most common state of residence for our respondents, with a full 34 percent of responses coming from the Sunshine State. Pennsylvania and Washington were the next most-common states for responses.
Perhaps the most interesting item of all—a majority of people in massage therapy are working part-time. Only 34 percent of our responses came from professionals who work full time, while 57 percent answered that they work part-time. An additional nine percent said they worked either on a per diem basis, had retired, or were currently in search of work.
Over a quarter of our responses came from people who own their own spas or private practices. About 40 percent of people answered that they work in a spa/office setting, with chiropractic offices, massage franchises, or private home offices topping the list of other popular answers.
Very few massage therapists enjoy employer-paid benefits, with only 22 percent of people indicating that they have such luxuries as medical/dental/vision insurance, continuing education reimbursement, or 401(k) savings plans through work. In fact, the most commonly offered benefit was more of an intangible—the luxury of a flexible work schedule, which can’t be overstated for importance in a profession where many people are working part-time.
OK, now for the reason you came here—salaries! First of all, if we are to believe that the majority of massage therapists are working as a part-time gig, or in order to supplement another stream of income, massage therapy has the potential to be a fairly lucrative line of work. But taken as an apples-to-apples comparison to other professions we’ve covered through salary surveys (nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy) massage salaries don’t measure particularly well.
Below are the salary ranges we offered as potential responses, followed by the percentage of respondents who indicated that they earned the designated amounts of money:
$20,000 or less: 24.03%
The good news is that if our full-time/part-time numbers line up with the salaries (and nothing’s perfect) the line for full-time massage therapists would appear to start at about the $40,001-$50,000 range. The bad news is that only a select few massage therapists are reaching the high-five/low-six figure ranges that are more prevalent for experienced leaders in other professions.
Of course, the importance of these numbers all depends on your individual approach to the field. If massage therapy a full-time job, your sole source of income, or a field in which you’re hoping to rise to the top, maybe these numbers are more concerning than they’d be to someone who provides this service from home, or for a few hours per day or week. Remember, we’ve already outlined the widely appealing nature of flexible scheduling, which appears to be rampant in massage therapy.
In keeping with this theme, mandatory overtime was nearly non-existent for our respondents (only 2.6 percent reported being forced to work overtime) while only 13 percent of answers indicated that they work overtime at all (voluntary or compulsory). Those who did work overtime stayed within the 1-8 hours per week range.
The 37 percent of people answering that they work a second job didn’t answer these questions, but the fact that about half of those people put in a solid 11-plus hours per week in their second job provides further evidence for the possibility of making massage a supplemental line of income.
Of the 45 percent of respondents who said they’d be willing to relocate for a better opportunity, “better compensation” was the main reason given by a clear majority for choosing to look elsewhere.
Another piece of good news is that people in the massage field seem to genuinely do it for the love of the art. As evidence, we present the 40 percent of respondents who indicated they hold a specialty certification in their area of practice, and the fact that more than half of them replied that they pursued that certification because “I like to learn as much as I can.”
The field doesn’t require extensive schooling for entry, with only 8.4 percent of survey respondents indicating they held a degree higher than a bachelor’s. About 35 percent of people indicated an interest in returning to school, with the answer about evenly split between those who’d go the traditional, brick-and-mortar route and those who prefer online learning. In terms of choosing a continuing education provider, the diversity of available courses was by far the most important factor.
With so much information and almost 1,000 responses to our first survey, there are still some unanswered questions. At first glance, the massage therapy profession doesn’t appear to be particularly lucrative. But upon taking a deeper look, that may be because practitioners aren’t in it for the money after all. And as some of the higher-end salaries indicate, if you’re committed you can make a more-than-decent living in this field. Perhaps being able to make that choice at all is the most appealing aspect of working in massage therapy.