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Features Education Leadership
State of the Industry: Spring 2010

Studying the comparative earnings of massage therapists provides a number of benefits. Practitioners can compare employment opportunities against local and national averages, determine if their current work model is viable, and set fee schedules competitively in the marketplace.


Studying the comparative earnings of massage therapists provides a number of benefits. Practitioners can compare employment opportunities against local and national averages, determine if their current work model is viable, and set fee schedules competitively in the marketplace. Professional associations and other lobby groups can inform and position their members in consideration of insurance and government funding levels, and schools can accurately announce earning potential to candidates considering massage therapy as a vocation.

In Report on the Massage Therapy Census 2003 – Membership Survey Report, survey company Collis & Reed cited that almost 43 per cent of massage therapists polled stated their income did not meet their expectations.  When asked what they expected to earn compared to their actual earnings, the deficit was $20,000.

This was not just a problem for therapists new to the field as a third of seasoned therapists seven-plus years in practice reported they were not happy with their income levels. According to the survey a full 55 per cent or more of therapists need to work at more than one operation to make ends meet. Greater than half of therapists earn less than $30,000 annually. Collis & Reed estimated a 5 per cent increase in utilization of massage therapy per year over the next two decades. Collis & Reed further observed the utilization “is likely affected by economics, public knowledge, health insurance coverage and recommendations from health care providers.”

An updated 2009 earnings survey coordinated by the CMTO (College of Massage Therapists of Ontario), the OMTA (Ontario Massage Therapist Association) the OCPMTC (Ontario Council of Private Massage Therapy Colleges) and the HMT (Heads of Massage Therapy, Ontario’s Community Colleges) estimated average gross earnings of $43,106. Eighty-seven percent of earnings were from direct care, 18 per cent from massage related services (instruction, tutoring, selling books, etc.) and 23 per cent of income came from non-massage related work. Of the non-related work, 50 per cent of respondents “did so because they needed (as opposed to wanted) the extra income.

Work settings most popular were a multi-disciplinary clinic (43 per cent), home-based setting (34 per cent), a clinic with more than one RMT (29 per cent) and outcalls (27 per cent), with institutional settings (5 per cent) and fitness centre/sports club (4 per cent) much less often. The survey results outlined differences by Ontario region, and number of years in practice. The stakeholders cautioned the survey was not intended to present hard conclusions, but to establish benchmarks that can be re-established every few years.

Service Canada classifies Massage Therapy under Other Technical Occupations in Therapy and Assessment and lists a wage range of $18.07 – 18.94 per hour.  This figure is slightly higher in the United States with a mean hourly wage of $19.16 and mean annual wage of $39,850.

In the 2007 Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals survey, respondents worked on average 14 contact hours/week and supplemented with 25 hours/week by working in an office, massage instruction, other health care (e.g., nursing), education or sales/retail and skin care.  Average income from providing massage was $17,750, with an average first year in practice income of $10,053.

In a survey of the same year by Florida Board of Massage Therapy and Florida State Massage Therapy Association, one half of all respondents reported some type of injury related to performing massage therapy.  “As for tenure and length of career for massage therapists, high turnover rate remains a lasting, albeit unfortunate, trend in this profession…. In addition to injury, burnout, poor business planning and possibly and overestimation of earning potential are other factors contributing to the approximate forty-five thousand therapists who leave the profession every year, fifteen thousand permanently.”

In determining earnings potential, practitioners should take into account one’s physical capacity and workplace model, large city centres versus rural or smaller community differences, the benefits and costs of specialization and entrepreneurship, working in rehabilitation versus the spa industry, employed or contracted as opposed to business ownership which requires higher risk and capital investment.

Practitioners must understand gross versus net income (what you earn versus what you keep after expenses), hourly fee versus hourly wage (massage is time and labour intensive, therefore many practitioners only work part-time hours) and the risks and costs of being self employed versus contracting or being employed.

For article with notes, visit www.massagetherapycanada.com .


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