Author Topic: Massage therapy as a career?  (Read 4549 times)

zoltani

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Massage therapy as a career?
« on: July 13, 2016, 12:15:29 PM »
Anyone here a Licensed Massage Therapist?

I am thinking about a change for fulfillment and more flexibility and this seems like a good choice. Problem is that schools are not cheap, looks to be around $10k in my area for a 12 month program.

What has your experience been? Do you have flexibility in your position?

What is the pay like? Can you sustain yourself and still stash cash?

Any advice for someone thinking about this as a career?

rubybeth

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2016, 12:27:14 PM »
I am not a massage therapist, but I know a couple people who did the training. Note that I didn't say "who are massage therapists," because I think one of them went on to complete a bachelor's degree. The other is still a massage therapist, but has switched jobs so many times, I am not sure what she's up to beyond doing it part-time.

From what I understand, massage therapy is a very physical job--you're on your feet and working physically while doing massages, of course. Ideally, you'd be in really good physical condition, and young.

Look at job postings in your area and find out about pay (unless you're willing to move for a job). I understand that pay can vary depending on where you work, if you're independent (have your own business), and your experience.

From the couple people I know who've done it (and the therapists I've seen myself), I would not say that this is a lucrative career.

What is your job now? Maybe this would be more earning potential than what you're doing now, but if you're interested in this kind of work and already have an undergraduate degree, I've read that job outlook for physical therapists is great, and they get paid very well (over $70k per year in my area).

letired

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2016, 12:37:28 PM »
Ditto to pretty much what was said above. I'm not a massage therapist, but my good friend is. They love it. It is a very physical job. It took them about a year and a half  post licensing to get enough experience to move from the mall massage spa place to a better-paying/higher end place. It pays fine, but not great, which will probably vary with your cost of living/level of experience/number of private clients. The are a 1099 employee, so has to take care of all taxes, etc. They do a lot of continuing education, learning new massage techniques. I assume that there are specialities that can make better money, but don't know much about it.

I would find some graduate of the programs you are considering and talk to them about their experience. I'd also try to do 'informational interviews' with any massage therapists you know or massage therapists that seem to be in positions you might want about the job in general.

zoltani

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2016, 12:38:23 PM »
Right now I am a civil engineer with pay around 75k. It may be a pay cut to become a massage therapist, but if that means more flexibility I would take it. Ideally I would do this when my investments pay a large chunk of my expenses.

The school is way too expensive to just go to it and then not become a massage therapist, IMO. I may take an all day beginner course to test the waters.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 12:40:23 PM by zoltani »

letired

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2016, 12:47:31 PM »
Right now I am a civil engineer with pay around 75k. It may be a pay cut to become a massage therapist, but if that means more flexibility I would take it. Ideally I would do this when my investments pay a large chunk of my expenses.

The school is way too expensive to just go to it and then not become a massage therapist, IMO. I may take an all day beginner course to test the waters.

Based on my understanding of my friend's income, you are going to be taking ~50%+ pay cut, depending on the massage jobs available in your area.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 12:51:13 PM by letired »

rubybeth

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2016, 12:49:20 PM »
Right now I am a civil engineer with pay around 75k. It may be a pay cut to become a massage therapist, but if that means more flexibility I would take it. Ideally I would do this when my investments pay a large chunk of my expenses.

The school is way too expensive to just go to it and then not become a massage therapist, IMO. I may take an all day beginner course to test the waters.

I would suggest looking for ways to cut back in your current position or look for a position that offers that. Massage therapy isn't going to pay anywhere near $75k/year, might make an okay retirement sort of gig (able to work part-time or just take appointments as-needed, going to people's homes with a table) if you want to keep busy and are healthy/physically able to do it.

Also, from reading your posts--are you male or female? As a woman, I am much more comfortable with female massage therapists. I would specifically request one if I had a choice between male/female. Something to consider if you're a guy.

There are many other jobs that would offer flexibility and mediocre pay without $10k of schooling. ;)

mskyle

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2016, 12:55:03 PM »
Right now I am a civil engineer with pay around 75k. It may be a pay cut to become a massage therapist, but if that means more flexibility I would take it. Ideally I would do this when my investments pay a large chunk of my expenses.

The school is way too expensive to just go to it and then not become a massage therapist, IMO. I may take an all day beginner course to test the waters.

I know several people who have been to massage therapy school who do not work as massage therapists, or who do very little work as massage therapists. You may like *doing massage* but a lot of being a massage therapist is hustling for clients and tracking down treatment spaces and stuff like that. I don't know if that appeals to you at all.

It is also very physical.

Bicycle_B

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2016, 01:02:20 PM »
Like the other commenters, am not a massage therapist but know a several people who studied it.  None of the ones I know personally make a living at it.

I also went through a streak in which I get regular massages and interviewed the massage therapists periodically about their careers.  My conclusions:

-Pay is low compared to engineers, accountants, and so on.
-Therapists who work for companies/spas/etc make something like $12-20/hr, not $25-50.
-Independent therapists want to get $50 or $60 for an hour, but most have trouble finding and scheduling customers.  Those who have customers at all usually have a patchwork of appointments that is part time and interrupts other activities.  Pay after time spent marketing, scheduling, prepping, transporting is only better than the companies/spas in rare cases.
-Many people get the training, but peter out instead of successfully establishing a practice.
-In my opinion, many of those who peter out had unrealistic expectations and are not very "practical" people.  But even a skilled determined Mustachian practical person will likely make a lot less per hour than the OP seems to be making now.

There are exceptions.   But I think massage is a path to pursue more for the satisfaction than the money.  (Feel free to prove me wrong!!) 

Honestly, I suggest reaching FI first, unless you want to do it as a hobby.  For which of course you don't need to spend $10k anyway. 
« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 01:05:45 PM by Bicycle_B »

Kapiira

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2016, 02:20:31 PM »
Again, I have no experience in this field, but have a close friend who just switched careers.  Her complaints were in line with what people have mentioned above.  Low pay and unpredictable schedules seemed to be her biggest problems with it.  She went back to school to be a speech therapist and generally doesn't have anything good to say about her years as a message therapist.

wenchsenior

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2016, 02:23:41 PM »
I know two people who got licensed, which required a year or two of fairly intensive schooling. Neither of them work at it except as a side gig to pick up an extra few thousand bucks  per year.  The most stable way of doing it close to full time, in my limited experience, is to get picked up by a spa/resort as one of their contractors. That way the contacts/advertising is handled for you, and you have space, equipment provided. The spa takes a cut of your pay, so as other posted noted, your  take home will be cut in half.

If you just want an occasional gig, and you are willing to do it more on the fly, you can charge more. Of course, then, you have to eat the cost of the equipment and the ad/hustle.  The two people I know do it that way as a side gig. They enjoy it, and aren't as physically taxed by it, but they also don't make as much money as their hourly wage indicates because the work is very sporadic.

Cassie

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2016, 05:08:08 PM »
The people that I know that are massage therapists are unable to support themselves so they work another job and do this p.t. at night. When we were helping people get back to work we would pay for training if there were jobs and our state agency would not pay for anyone to be a MT. 

whodidntante

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2016, 10:41:56 PM »
I'm not a therapist myself, but I visit LMTs.  My impression is most are not very good at running a business so they don't make their fair share.  You should approach it like a business, in my opinion.  You might be better off owning the spa where such people work. 

Catbert

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2016, 10:42:18 AM »
I would guess that my MT earns a decent living.  She works 4 days a week on around 5 customers a day.  As a regular it costs me $90 including tip.  $15 more for more casual customers.  She stays completely booked with her customers and specializes in working out muscular kinks.  (She keeps my shoulder working.)  She works at a small independent business (massage, facials, acupuncture) and everyone rents space.  That said, she is very good at her job and teaches sport massage at a local school.

Most MTs are not as good or lucky as she is.  Working at chain spas or others which provide you with clientele in exchange for commision for sales I think is a pretty crappy job.  They work you long days (or make you sit around waiting for walk in customers) for low pay.

As others have mentioned it's a physically demanding job that limits the hours/customers you can work on in a week while keeping yourself healthy.

centwise

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2016, 10:57:46 AM »
Chiming in to agree with many posters above. I don't have personal experience, but I do have several acquaintances who have worked as massage therapists. It is a tough job. It's not a career UNLESS you are planning to start a business and employ others.

Might be ok as a part-time gig, but the training is pretty intensive for that so it may not be worth it.

Looks like you are thinking of waiting until you are nearly FI; that's a good idea. How about this: save furiously to become FI, and once you are FI, take up MT part-time for extra income.

snogirl

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2016, 11:52:49 AM »
Like the other commenters, am not a massage therapist but know a several people who studied it.  None of the ones I know personally make a living at it.

I also went through a streak in which I get regular massages and interviewed the massage therapists periodically about their careers.  My conclusions:

-Pay is low compared to engineers, accountants, and so on.
-Therapists who work for companies/spas/etc make something like $12-20/hr, not $25-50.
-Independent therapists want to get $50 or $60 for an hour, but most have trouble finding and scheduling customers.  Those who have customers at all usually have a patchwork of appointments that is part time and interrupts other activities.  Pay after time spent marketing, scheduling, prepping, transporting is only better than the companies/spas in rare cases.
-Many people get the training, but peter out instead of successfully establishing a practice.
-In my opinion, many of those who peter out had unrealistic expectations and are not very "practical" people.  But even a skilled determined Mustachian practical person will likely make a lot less per hour than the OP seems to be making now.

There are exceptions.   But I think massage is a path to pursue more for the satisfaction than the money.  (Feel free to prove me wrong!!) 

Honestly, I suggest reaching FI first, unless you want to do it as a hobby.  For which of course you don't need to spend $10k anyway.

This was my best friend's experience. 
She lived on Long Island, had her own shop and made decent money but the physical aspect of the job caused many repetitive issues for her.
Alas, she gave it up and is now an RN and does it as a side hustle.

Saving in Austin

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2016, 08:48:50 PM »
My wife has been a massage therapist since 1992.

Her best earning years have probably been 35K - 40K.

Her schedule is flexible but she works hard for her money.

It is a great career with certain benefits, early retirement is not one of them.

cacaoheart

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2016, 03:27:12 PM »
If flexibility is what you're looking for, maybe there's some way you could use your current experience to mold a different career, whether as a consultant or something part time/remote. I'm not personally experienced in your field so I'm not sure of the possibilities, just that you could likely work much less in your current field and still make more than someone working much more as a massage therapist.

I considered massage as a career but it seemed that in order to have much chance of doing well I'd need to build a practice over time and I preferred having the option of moving around. Now a registered nurse, I still sometimes think of taking the year long massage program at the community college I got my RN training from. Tuition is ~$3 grand and I could continue working as a nurse throughout the program. It would mostly be for personal enrichment, and maybe a part time thing if/when I want to go part time with nursing. I'm looking forward to being at a point in ~10 years where most expenses could be covered by a mix of investments, circus performance/training, and maybe massage.

As others have suggested, physical therapy makes a lot more sense as a full time long term gig, though admission is competitive and training is ~3 years not counting prereqs vs 6-24 months. If I were looking to retrain in something to do for potentially another 20+ years this would be one of the top options on my list.

ChicagoGirl

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2016, 10:16:05 AM »
Hello-
Massage Therapist chiming in here.  I have been an MT for 20 years and have always done the gig part-time. 
I work as an independent contractor and operate as my own business. I average around $80/hour and have a solid group of regular clients that see me. 

I know $80/hr looks appealing, but there are several things you should know before looking into this career.  I have to deduct taxes, health insurance, retirement, supplies, rent, continuing education, license fees and so on from this hourly amount.

Here is the one thing I tell anyone looking into this career:  You need to do it because you love working one-on-one with people, you have a desire to heal people and make them feel better and enjoy learning about the human body, anatomy and physiology.   You will not get rich from massage therapy, you do enjoy some flexibility but be prepared for "no-show" or canceled appts (which is lost income) and your income will vary from week to week. 

I believe the AMTA research states full-time therapists burn-out in 3-5 years, it is a physical job and sometimes means working through your own physical aches/pains to help others (no work, means no pay for yourself...there are no paid sick days as an MT, neither is there paid vacation).  These are all things you need to account for in your hourly wage.

I have known MTs that work for the retail outlets:  low pay, not as much flexibility. Many of the retail outlets try to entice new MTs with health insurance, etc. but you will receive low wages.
 
Physically: you will never be able to do 8 massages a day....realistically 4 is ideal, in my opinion anything over that amount you as a therapist will not be able to churn out quality to your client...we're human too. 

I have several massage therapists as close friends and all of us agree...the most successful therapists are go-getters with a solid head for business combined with solid massage therapy skills and a positive, pleasant personality.

Honesetly, I think being an MT is a GREAT side-gig. You can make good money in a short-span of time if you are a good therapist. As a side-gig you can make your own hours and weather the storm of varying income because you will still have your day job in whatever field you are in.
 
A full-time MT will have many challenges and keep in mind building up a clientele takes a while...sometimes years to do. If you are a male pursuing this career...it's even MORE challenging (doable...but challenging). 

Feel free to PM me any questions you have, I have been in the field for a long time and know MTs who work in a variety of different venues.


JoJo

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2016, 01:54:25 PM »
As an alternative to $10K school, check out the schools in Chaing Mai, Thailand.  There are 4+ week intensive courses there for a fraction of that cost. 

cacaoheart

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2016, 03:35:41 PM »
As an alternative to $10K school, check out the schools in Chaing Mai, Thailand.  There are 4+ week intensive courses there for a fraction of that cost.

That sounds like an excellent vacation idea. I've seen very few programs that last more than a day or two for people that are simply curious about learning massage. I'm hosting someone in November that will be teaching a 2 day Thai massage course in Raleigh, NC. If having trouble finding something in your area, maybe see if anyone that does what interests you would be open to having a workshop. Or take a vacation trip to Thailand ;-)

mm1970

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2016, 05:01:46 PM »
I am not a massage therapist, but I know a couple people who did the training. Note that I didn't say "who are massage therapists," because I think one of them went on to complete a bachelor's degree. The other is still a massage therapist, but has switched jobs so many times, I am not sure what she's up to beyond doing it part-time.

From what I understand, massage therapy is a very physical job--you're on your feet and working physically while doing massages, of course. Ideally, you'd be in really good physical condition, and young.

Look at job postings in your area and find out about pay (unless you're willing to move for a job). I understand that pay can vary depending on where you work, if you're independent (have your own business), and your experience.

From the couple people I know who've done it (and the therapists I've seen myself), I would not say that this is a lucrative career.

What is your job now? Maybe this would be more earning potential than what you're doing now, but if you're interested in this kind of work and already have an undergraduate degree, I've read that job outlook for physical therapists is great, and they get paid very well (over $70k per year in my area).
My neighbor up the street is one (and also does other things like waxing). She's very busy.  But it comes and goes.  She's also in her 60s.  As she ages, it gets harder and harder on your body to do these physical things.  So as time goes on she's going to have to cut back on the massage part and do more "other things" (sorry I do not know what they are called, but there are other things she can do that are less physical.  She told me once.)

happyfaced

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Re: Massage therapy as a career?
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2016, 11:43:42 AM »

I believe the AMTA research states full-time therapists burn-out in 3-5 years, it is a physical job and sometimes means working through your own physical aches/pains to help others (no work, means no pay for yourself...there are no paid sick days as an MT, neither is there paid vacation).  These are all things you need to account for in your hourly wage.
 
Physically: you will never be able to do 8 massages a day....realistically 4 is ideal, in my opinion anything over that amount you as a therapist will not be able to churn out quality to your client...we're human too. 

i used to be a certified massage therapist and burned myself out in under two years. i worked for a local spa (receiving 55% commission on each massage) which annually brought in about $32,000/year (that included tips). some days i had 6-8 clients and some i had none. it's true, there are no paid sick days, no paid vacation, and working full time (for me) resulted in injury quickly (i started noticing this just 2 weeks into working full time). 2 years later i still have carpal tunnel in my right arm and neck area and it's not fun. daily i experience pain and numbness. although it was soooo much worse when years ago, but it's never totally healed and is frustrating.

that being said, i do think it's something you could do part time or as a side job. just be careful, practice proper body techniques and be gentle on yourself.