Massage therapists
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Overview
Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, help heal injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for massage therapists are expected to grow by 26%, and should have about 24,300 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
The likelihood of autmoation for ${title} is near the middle of all careers' likelihoods.
Workforce size
Massage therapists, with 160,300 workers, form a larger workforce than 76% of careers.
Education
Only 23% of massage therapists have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by massage therapists
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
This is near the middle of all careeers' percentages of bachelor's holders.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 60% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for massage therapists. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most massage therapists.
This job's median $41KAll jobs' median $39K$40K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 77% of massage therapists -- that's a larger percentage than 88% of other jobs.
Gender of massage therapists
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For massage therapists, the median men's salary was 5% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 27% of massage therapists are minority, and 21% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of massage therapists
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (21%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Massage Therapists per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 14% of massage therapists, and 24% have company-sponsored health insurance (26% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for massage therapists
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of massage therapists who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (44%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do massage therapists earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for massage therapists, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for massage therapists compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for massage therapists (BLS Salary Data)
$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all massage therapists, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for massage therapists compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for massage therapists (ACS Salary Data)
$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where massage therapists work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Massage therapists (ACS)
Private for-profit (60.1%)
Private not-for-profit (1.6%)
Local government (0.3%)
State government (0.3%)
Federal government (0.3%)
Self-employed incorporated (9.3%)
Self-employed not incorporated (27.9%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of massage therapists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$30K$34K$29K$26K$28K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of massage therapists by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$41K$42K$41K$42K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for massage therapists

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$31K$30K$32K$21K$30K$34K$31K$30K$26K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
02K4K6K8K10KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Massage therapists and gender

With 77% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 88% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
77%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Massage therapists
Men (23%)
Women (77%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is better for massage therapists, with the median salary for men only 4.9% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$29K$30K$0$20K$40K$60KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Massage therapists have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 85% of other jobs.

5%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of massage therapists

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a higher percentage of minority massage therapists than for 80% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of massage therapists
White (70% )
Asian (14% )
Black (8% )
Multiracial (3% )
Other (3% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
27%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
21%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for massage therapists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$24K$27K$29K$30K$30K$0$20K$40K$60KAsianOtherMultiracialWhiteBlack
Distribution: Salaries for massage therapists by nativity
$26K$30K$0$20K$40K$60KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by massage therapists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists typically hold a postsecondary nondegree award.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as massage therapists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for massage therapists.

Education attained by massage therapists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for massage therapists

Education requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state or locality. Education programs are typically found in private or public postsecondary institutions. Most programs require at least 500 hours of study for their completion; some programs require 1,000 or more hours.

A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for admission to a massage therapy program. Programs generally include both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Programs cover subjects such as anatomy; physiology, which is the study of organs and tissues; kinesiology, which is the study of motion and body mechanics; pathology, which is the study of disease; business management; and ethics.

Programs may concentrate on certain modalities, or specialties, of massage. Several programs also offer job placement services and continuing education. Both full-time and part-time programs are available.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for massage therapists

In 2016, 45 states and the District of Columbia regulated massage therapy. Although not all states license massage therapy, they may have regulations at the local level.

In states with massage therapy regulations, workers must get a license or certification before practicing massage therapy. State regulations typically require graduation from an approved massage therapy program and passing an exam.

The exam may be a state-specific exam or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) licensure exam, offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

Massage therapists also may need to pass a background check, have liability insurance, and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many states require massage therapists to complete continuing education credits and to renew their license periodically. Those wishing to practice massage therapy should look into legal requirements for the state and locality in which they intend to practice.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for massage therapists? Below we see the distribution of massage therapists salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as massage therapists, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$23K$26K$29K$31K$32K$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KNone (4%)High School (21%)Some College (34%)Associate's Degree (19%)Bachelor's Degree (18%)Master's Degree (4%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by massage therapists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as massage therapists. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Massage therapists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
8.6%
$0$200K$53K
4.1%
$0$200K$63K
3.9%
$0$200K$63K
2.9%
$0$200K$67K
2.9%
$0$200K$56K
2.3%
$0$200K$60K
2.2%
$0$200K$55K
2.2%
$0$200K$51K
1.9%
$0$200K$70K
1.5%
$0$200K$54K
1.4%
$0$200K$60K
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as massage therapists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by massage therapists given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
CounselorsSocial workersElementary and middle school teachersPsychologistsManagers (specialized areas)Postsecondary teachersLawyers, judges, and magistratesPhysicians and surgeonsHuman resources workersEducation administratorsAccountants and auditorsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersFinancial managersWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesChief executives and legislatorsSecretaries and administrative assistantsFirst-line supervisors of non-retail sales workersMarketing and sales managersSecondary school teachersEditorsWriters and authorsDentistsRegistered nursesPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Epidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansPharmacistsRetail salespersonsPhysical therapistsRecreation and fitness workersAthletes, coaches, umpires, and related workersDesignersArtists and related workersCustomer service representativesBookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerksFirst-line supervisors of office and administrative support workersManagement analystsFinancial analystsOccupational therapistsHealthcare practitioners and technical occupations (specialized areas)Therapists (specialized areas)Medical and health services managersPhysician assistantsPsychologyBusiness Management andAdministrationEnglish Language andLiteratureBiologyGeneral BusinessPhysical Fitness, Parks,Recreation, and LeisureFine ArtsAccountingCommunicationsTreatment TherapyProfessionsAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for massage therapists

What jobs will most massage therapists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of massage therapists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list? For massage therapists, there isn't a lot of action in this chart! This isn't a career that invites much moving around.

Massage therapistsFirst-line supervisors of personal service workersManagers (specialized areas)Physical therapists
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for massage therapists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 2 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as massage therapists as well as 1% of respondents after working as massage therapists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for massage therapists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
First-line supervisors of personal service workers
34,400
$0$200K$33K
Physical therapists
17,800
$0$200K$75K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for massage therapists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as massage therapists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of massage therapists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for massage therapists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Secretaries and administrative assistants
395,200
$0$200K$36K
1.2%
Childcare workers
202,700
$0$200K$20K
1.1%
First-line supervisors of personal service workers
34,400
$0$200K$33K
2.1%
Personal appearance workers
29,500
$0$200K$22K
1.8%
Massage therapists
24,300
$0$200K$30K
69.0%
Physical therapists
17,800
$0$200K$75K
1.0%
Therapists (specialized areas)
3,000
$0$200K$47K
1.3%
No occupation
8.8%
Read about massage therapists
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Massage therapists typically do the following:

  • Talk with clients about their symptoms, medical history, and desired results
  • Evaluate clients to locate painful or tense areas of the body
  • Manipulate muscles and other soft tissues of the body
  • Provide clients with guidance on stretching, strengthening, overall relaxation, and how to improve their posture
  • Document clients’ conditions and progress

Massage therapists use touch to treat clients’ injuries and to promote the clients’ general wellness. They use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes feet to knead muscles and soft tissues of the body.

Massage therapists may use lotions and oils, and massage tables or chairs, when treating a client. A massage can be as short as 5–10 minutes or could last more than an hour.

Massage therapists talk with clients about what they hope to achieve through massage. They may suggest personalized treatment plans for their clients, including information about additional relaxation techniques to practice between sessions.

Massage therapists can specialize in many different types of massage or modalities. Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, and sports massage are just a few of the many modalities of massage therapy. Most massage therapists specialize in several modalities, which require different techniques.

The type of massage given typically depends on the client’s needs and physical condition. For example, massage therapists may use a special technique for elderly clients that they would not use for athletes. Some forms of massage are given solely to one type of client; for example, prenatal massage is given only to pregnant women.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of massage therapists? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Communication skills
Massage therapists need to listen carefully to clients in order to understand what they want to achieve through massage sessions.
Decisionmaking skills
Massage therapists must evaluate each client’s needs and recommend the best treatment on the basis of that person’s needs.
Empathy
Massage therapists must give clients a positive experience, which requires building trust between therapist and client. Making clients feel comfortable is necessary for therapists to expand their client base.
Integrity
Massage therapists often have access to client information such as medical histories. Therefore, they must be trustworthy and protect the privacy of their clients.
Physical stamina
Massage therapists may give several treatments during a workday and have to stay on their feet throughout massage appointments.
Physical strength and dexterity
Massage therapists must be strong and able to exert pressure through a variety of movements of the arms and hands when manipulating a client’s muscles.
Time-management skills
Massage therapists must tailor an appointment to a client’s specific needs. They must use their appointment time wisely to help each client accomplish his or her goals.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for massage therapists
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 60% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for massage therapists. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $41KAll jobs' median $39K$42K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for massage therapists are anticipated to grow by 26% over the next decade; only 2% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for massage therapists is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030050,000100,000150,000200,000250,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most massage therapists? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as massage therapists. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Massage Therapists per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where massage therapists earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for massage therapists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for massage therapists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Massage Therapists to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which massage therapists earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Massage therapists (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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