By some accounts, massage therapy is a $10- to $11-billion business. But the annual income for a massage therapist doesn’t necessarily align with this figure, especially when you hang your shingle on your own front door. Your best bet is to set up shop in a hospital or clinic where the facility is responsible for bringing clients to your table. Massage therapists in either of these settings often top the list of highest paid for this profession.
In 2011, massage therapists averaged $39,920 a year. Because high salaries — as seen in specialty hospitals, like those devoted almost exclusively to orthopedics or sports medicine — can skew this number, median wage is often a better reflection of earnings. Half of all massage therapists made $35,830 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association found a very different number, placing the average at $21,028 a year.
The disparity in salary is likely due to work environment. Most massage therapists — at least according to the AMTA — are in private practice, accounting for about 73 percent of people in this profession. On average, they work about 15 hours a week, and earn $47 an hour, including tips.
Besides sole practitioners, massage therapists are found in other settings. The most lucrative are ambulatory facilities, where the average salary is closer to $59,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specialty hospitals — as mentioned earlier — offer the second highest salary. In this setting, a massage therapist could expect upward of $56,000 a year. In third are nursing care facilities, with an average wage of almost $51,000 annually. If, however, you’re hoping to strike it rich at a hotel, casino or other travel accommodation, think again. A massage therapist makes only $36,000 a year, on average, in this type of setting.
As with almost any career, location affects salaries, and a massage therapist is no exception. Massage therapists in Alaska, for example, command the highest salaries, averaging over $86,000 a year. In a far second, those working in Delaware average almost $61,000 a year. Third goes to massage therapists in Vermont, where salaries average $60,700 a year. The same, however, can’t be said for massage therapists in Mississippi. On average, these massage professionals earn just $25,300 a year — almost $61,000 less than those in Alaska.
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