How much does a massage therapist make annually?

Updated April 17, 2017

Massage therapy can be a lucrative career, whether you're looking for part-time work to generate extra income or a full-time profession. A successful private practice can generate the most income, but also may require the most work and time to build, according to Spas, hotels, and gyms pay hourly rates that are more stable, and these institutions sometimes offer health insurance. Income levels, of course, vary by location.

Hourly Rates

The standard rate for an hourly massage varies depending on your location and type of practice. Keep in mind, however, that it is very hard for a massage therapist to work 40 hours per week. The job is physically demanding, and therapists must figure out how many massages they are capable of completing without injuring themselves. As in other service industries, tips or gratuities from satisfied client---15 per cent is standard---can supplement a therapist's base income.

Spa Practice

A spa charges a client a set rate for a treatment session, and the therapist will get a portion of this for administering the massage. According to the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) trade group, typical rates range from £9 to £26 an hour, with more experienced therapists or those with expertise in a speciality area such as Thai massage earning more. While the income potential may not be as great as private practice, the work is steady. A massage therapist at a successful spa, working full time, can make upwards of £26,000 a year.

Private Practice

In private practice, a therapist gets to set her own schedule and find her own clients. The best part about working independently is that you get the entire massage fee. If you charge £65 for an hour session, you keep every penny. The downside is that you have to pay for your own supplies and marketing materials, and you have to find a space to host clients. A successful private practitioner can make more than £32,500 a year, according to the ABMP. The earning potential can be even higher for a well-managed practice with affluent clients.

Hidden Costs

In spas and in private practice, a massage therapist is usually treated as an independent contractor for tax purposes. This means that you have to set aside a portion of your take-home pay, because it is not automatically withheld from your check. In private practice, consider the cost of rent, utilities, insurance and advertising when setting prices. Be sure to get all the appropriate tax details or consult with an accountant before accepting a job or starting your own practice.

Part Time

Many spas employ part-time massage therapists. If you're not looking to launch a full-time career in the field, part-time work can net you a few hundred dollars a week. Working clients typically schedule massages on nights and weekends, which is ideal if you're looking to boost your income while keeping your day job.

To Start a Career

Massage therapy is a skilled trade, and you must have specific training to work in the field. Many states also require you to pass a licensing exam. To sit for this exam, you need massage therapy education credits as determined by your state. If you're interested in a massage therapy career, check with your state's licensing board or call a massage school in your area.

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About the Author

James Mulcahy is a New York City-based licensed massage therapist with more than 1,500 hours of training in anatomy, myology and pathology. He currently works as a freelance writer and has contributed to Huffington Post, New York Press, British Airway’s High Life, Metromix and many other publications.