How Many Massage Therapists Are There in the US?

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Massage Therapist Population Growth Curve Flattens in ABMP’s Recent Census

By Les Sweeney

Every few years ABMP undertakes a process to query state massage therapy boards in order to prepare a massage therapist population estimate. Our 2019 effort puts the number of massage therapists in the United States at approximately 334,219, a 1.6 percent growth rate from 2016’s estimate of 328,799. (The 2016 estimate is available at www.abmp.com/updates/blog-posts/expect-more-les-massage-therapist-population-still-growing-very-slowly.)

From 1998 to 2012 our estimates show the massage therapist population growing 130 percent (from 137,390 to 316,056), but that steep growth curve has continued to flatten since then. This trend lines up with ABMP research into massage schools and graduates, which have declined from a peak in 2008.

The overall population estimate number does not exclude the estimated thousands of massage therapists that remain licensed but not in practice, so the number of practicing massage therapists is certainly lower than our overall number of licensed therapists, but it is very difficult to find a statistically meaningful measure to estimate that difference. One man’s guess? Perhaps as many as 20 percent of the 334,219 aren’t actively practicing; that would result in somewhere around 267,000 active practitioners.

A natural follow-up question: If the number of massage therapists is relatively flat, what about demand for massage? ABMP’s biennial consumer research survey into massage consumer behavior suggests that 18 percent of adults in the US received a massage in 2018. Compared to 12 percent in the 2005 survey, and a median of 15 percent from 2007 to 2015, it seems safe to deduce that demand for massage therapy has increased over the past decade. Our research partners at Harstad Strategic Research would tell us that looking at that trendline, and given the sample sizes used to collect the data, in essence massage usage has grown since 2005, but more slightly when looking at the past five editions of the survey (a range of 16–18 percent).

If there are more massage consumers to go around for the same number of massage therapists, then supply and demand would tell us that the value of a massage is increasing. The consumer survey bears this out; average price for massage rose to $70 in 2017 and has remained there. (Though all of us in the massage community know that the true value of a massage is priceless!)

Methodology:

ABMP requests the number of active licensees from each state massage therapy board, and accesses official records where available. We then use the data from those lists to produce a final number for each state that excludes dual-licensed therapists who practice in multiple states, which reduces the overall number by about 7 percent. In unregulated states we estimate based on similar states and information about ABMP membership and other available profession data.

State 2019 State Population (000's) 2019 Massage Therapist Population Estimate 2019 Per Capita Estimate
AK 737 1240 591.6
AL 4888 2008 2408.5
AR 3014 1801 1655.8
AZ 7172 9472 757.1
CA 39557 52931 732.1
CO 5696 12418 453.8
CT 3573 4898 729.4
DC 702 521 1147.9
DE 967 1360 703.8
FL 21299 36586 575.8
GA 10519 5840 1763.7
HI 1420 6144 228.6
IA 3156 3017 1040.4
ID 1754 1172 1489.4
IL 12741 9955 1253.3
IN 6692 3831 1690.3
KS 2912 1601 1856.1
KY 4468 2302 1921.0
LA 4660 2328 1981.3
MA 6902 7299 935.6
MD 6043 3669 1647.0
ME 1338 2451 546.1
MI 9996 8991 1100.2
MN 5611 5402 1060.4
MO 6126 4451 1368.8
MS 2987 723 4088.0
MT 1062 1657 637.8
NC 10384 8782 1163.9
ND 760 714 1052.9
NE 1929 1498 1274.4
NH 1356 1746 768.8
NJ 8909 7775 1145.8
NM 2095 2795 737.9
NV 3034 4624 649.4
NY 19542 11876 1664.4
OH 11689 10733 1089.1
OK 3943 2781 1447.3
OR 4191 7138 581.0
PA 12807 7995 1593.5
RI 1057 1138 919.0
SC 5084 3544 1371.3
SD 882 810 1055.1
TN 6770 4221 1587.2
TX 28702 28110 1010.4
UT 3161 6208 503.9
VA 8518 7123 1140.8
VT 626 907 712.6
WA 7536 13113 568.7
WI 5814 4760 1215.0
WV 1806 1027 1648.6
WY 578 735 802.4
Sum/Average 327167 334219 1177.8

 

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