Expect More, with Les: Massage Therapist Population Still Growing … Very Slowly

There are 328,799 massage therapists in the United States as of June 2016. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.

ABMP prepares a massage therapist population estimate every two years. In its first incarnation in 1998, the population estimate was more like a S.W.A.G. (look it up), but as regulation of the massage field became more widespread throughout the 90s and 00s, more concrete data appeared. With 45 states now regulating the practice of massage, the fact-gathering has become easier and more reliable. Here is a look at our estimates since 1998:

 

Based on our data, the size of the massage field has increased nearly 140 percent since 1998. While valuable to examine the long view to see how the field has grown, the most pertinent information taken from this year’s estimate is that the number of massage therapists is still actually growing. From what is heard in the field—and in particular through franchise massage retail establishments—there is a considerable dearth of massage therapists available for hire. The growth of the field has slowed considerably—as evidenced by the reduction in the number of graduates from massage programs each year (see The Shrinking Pie series, www.abmp.com/shrinking-pie2015.pdf). However, the number of therapists has continued to rise. But, as the chart displays, the rate of growth has practically disappeared—just a hair over 2.1 percent from our 2014 estimate, which in turn only grew 1.9 percent over 2012.

Building an estimate like this takes some time, primarily because the way it is built is through contacting each regulated state and finding out a current active licensee count, then ideally learning how many of those reside in the state in question (we try to avoid double-counting snowbirds and other dual-licensed folk); surprisingly, that reduces the total by nearly 8 percent.

We sum those totals to come up with our national estimate. Here’s a look at the state-by-state totals:

 

State

State Population (000's)

2016 Practitioner Final Estimate

2016 Per Capita Estimate

AK

738

642

1149.3

AL

4,858

1,743

2787.5

AR

2,978

1,997

1491.6

AZ

6,828

9,213

741.1

CA

39,144

52,534

745.1

CO

5,456

12,630

432.0

CT

3,590

4,627

775.9

DC

672

546

1229.7

DE

945

1,143

827.0

FL

20,271

30,661

661.1

GA

10,214

6,273

1628.1

HI

1,431

6,436

222.3

IA

3,123

2,721

1147.6

ID

1,654

1,983

834.2

IL

12,859

10,772

1193.7

IN

6,619

4,204

1574.3

KS

2,911

1,573

1850.6

KY

4,425

2,378

1860.7

LA

4,670

2,171

2150.7

MA

6,794

7,844

866.1

MD

6,006

3,919

1532.6

ME

1,329

2,195

605.4

MI

9,922

8,339

1189.9

MN

5,489

5,350

1026.0

MO

6,083

4,640

1311.0

MS

2,992

804

3722.8

MT

1,032

1,523

677.5

NC

10,042

8,022

1251.8

ND

757

682

1109.3

NE

1,896

1,296

1462.7

NH

1,330

1,943

684.5

NJ

8,958

7,994

1120.6

NM

2,085

3,023

689.8

NV

2,890

3,881

744.6

NY

19,796

14,085

1405.5

OH

11,613

11,007

1055.1

OK

3,911

1,150

3400.9

OR

4,029

6,750

596.9

PA

12,803

9,800

1306.4

RI

1,056

1,050

1006.0

SC

4,896

3,625

1350.4

SD

858

743

1155.6

TN

6,600

4,019

1642.4

TX

27,469

28,176

974.9

UT

2,996

5,919

506.2

VA

8,382

6,269

1337.0

VT

626

920

680.4

WA

7,170

12,968

552.9

WI

5,771

4,959

1163.7

WV

1,844

966

1908.9

WY

586

690

849.3

 

321,397

328,799

977.5

 

The bolded states do not have statewide massage regulation. The Per Capita column shows how many state residents there are for each massage therapist; nationally there is one massage therapist for every 978 or so people. Where is the largest concentration of massage therapists? Hawaii—why not? Might as well provide bliss in paradise. The smallest concentration? Mississippi. Opportunity knocks! Those nearly 3 million Mississippians need their massage.

Is this an exact total, accurate to the penny? Absolutely not. Is it a decent number that has been determined through a reasonable process? You bet.

And in two years, it might get a little bit better. And we’ll see if it continues to go up.

—Les Sweeney, BCMTB, is president of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.