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Becoming a massage therapist in Florida: Education & salary data

woman working as massage therapist in spa

If you want to practice massage therapy in Florida, you must get licensed by the state as a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) through the Florida Board of Massage Therapy. The requirements to do so are fairly similar to most other states.

According to Crystal Howard, Executive President of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA), Florida is bustling with opportunities for massage therapists. “We are one of the largest states with regards to massage therapists. We have approximately 40,000 massage therapists in the state of Florida.”

With the right combination of education and massage therapy experience, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an LMT in Florida.

In This Article

How to become a massage therapist in Florida

The essential components of applying to become an LMT in Florida are the following:

  • Be 18 years of age or older, or have received a high school diploma or equivalent education
  • Complete required massage education and training
  • Pass a licensing examination, if necessary
  • Complete a background screening with an approved Livescan provider
  • Submit your application and fees

Education and training requirements

Massage license by examination

If you do not have an active massage license in another state, you must apply for a massage license by examination. Exam applicants must complete a massage program at a school approved by the Florida Board of Massage Therapy consisting of 500 or more clock hours.

CE for massage therapists in Florida

In addition, you must complete a 10-hour Florida Laws and Rules course from an approved continuing education provider. If you attend a school approved by the Board, you may complete the Laws and Rules course automatically as part of the curriculum. 

“Their first step is definitely researching the school they want to attend,” Howard said. “We really recommend they visit the school. Some might feel more institutional, or they might feel a little cozier. The big thing is taking a look at the school, connecting with the school, seeing what they offer, and making sure that school is approved by the Florida Board of Massage.”

Out-of-state license review & transferability

If you are applying for a license in Florida but were educated outside of the state, the Board will review your transcripts like normal and will determine if your program meets their standards.

If you do have a license in another state but getting that license did not require you to graduate from a course of study of 500 or more hours, you will need to go through the same process as the exam applicants.

Exam and licensing requirements

Once you’ve completed an approved massage therapy program, you must pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). Several other exams are eligible for licensure if you took them before they were retired, but since these tests no longer exist, all new massage therapists must take the MBLEx.

Assuming you already completed the other steps in the licensure process (applying for a license online, paying the appropriate fee, and completing a background screening) then you will be issued your massage license by the Board once they process your passing score on the MBLEx.

“Once they’ve completed [their education] they do their background check, then they take their MBLEx, and pending application approval, they should receive that license,” Howard said. “They are not allowed to work until they have received their license.”

If you already have a license in another state which was earned by completing a program of 500 or more hours, you can apply for a license by endorsement. This process is much simpler and doesn’t require taking an exam­—all you need to do is complete the 10-hour Florida Laws and Rules course. When you apply for a Florida license, you’ll submit evidence of your existing license(s) and completion of the course.

If the state which you are endorsing from did not require you to take an exam for licensing, you will be required to take one such as the MBLEx.
Professional conduct and ethical guidelines:
Applicants with a criminal or disciplinary history are not automatically disqualified from becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist in Florida. Applicants who fall into this category must submit all supporting documents and records relevant to their case. The Florida Statutes list exactly what kinds of offenses can disqualify you from licensure in the Massage Therapy Practice Act.
Scope of practice:
The Massage Therapy Practice Act also defines the scope of the massage profession in Florida and what actions are grounds for disciplinary action from the Board, including but not limited to license termination. It’s incredibly important that massage therapists familiarize themselves with the Massage Therapy Practice Act and the rules of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy and your individual county or municipality.  

“To be the best professional massage therapist that you can be, we definitely need people to be involved in understanding our laws and their scope,” Howard said.
Insurance and liability:
The Florida Administrative Code (64B7-26.003 “Massage Establishment Operations”) states that all massage establishments must, “carry current property damage and bodily injury liability insurance. A copy of the current insurance policy must be kept at the establishment.”

Working as a massage therapist in Florida

Massage therapist salary in Florida

How much do massage therapists make in Florida? According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean wage for massage therapists in Florida is $46,720.

While this may not be as high as states like Washington and Oregon, it should be remembered that Florida tends to have a lower cost of living compared to some of the states that pay massage therapists the most.

Massage Therapists
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Median Hourly Wage$22

Job growth20%

Total Employment7,980

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL $51,050 $31,510 $100,670
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL $49,380 $29,960 $89,280
Gainesville, FL $47,780 $33,290 $77,080
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL $47,740 $32,900 $70,310
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL $47,590 $31,660 $71,310
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL $47,480 $26,260 $74,500
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL $47,290 $29,120 $80,340
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL $47,010 $21,700 $86,410
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL $46,950 $29,070 $71,900
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL $46,750 $30,180 $74,740

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

An FYI on massage therapist jobs in Florida

It should be pointed out that salary data from the BLS may be a little skewed. The BLS says that there were only 7,070 massage therapists in Florida in 2021, but Howard said they have around 40,000 LMTs in the state in a given year. If the actual number of massage therapists in the state is much higher than the BLS has data for, then this data is only representative of a small portion of massage professionals.

If you want to increase your earning potential and overall success as a massage therapist, Howard says that networking and making connections in the business are key.

“One of the biggest things is they need to definitely not be shy about connecting with other health care providers and connecting with other massage therapists,” Howard said. “With professional associations, you have that ability to engage with other therapists in your area and that can create a fantastic referral network.

Every business benefits from word of mouth and we fall in that same area because massage is such a very personal experience. No matter whether you’re doing rehabilitative or relaxation treatments, there’s a big trust issue there. So it’s perfect for therapists to have a strong referral network of other massage therapists, as well as other health care practitioners.”

Job outlook and finding employment opportunities in Florida

Employment of massage therapists is expected to grow a whopping 20% through 2031 nationwide, much faster than the average across all occupations. Massage therapy continues to gain recognition for its medical benefits and broad applications, which may account for this relatively rapid growth.

Howard said that massage therapists in Florida work in numerous different settings with tons of other professionals, including chiropractors, at resorts and spas (which is especially popular in Orlando and Miami), hospitals, hospices, and wellness clinics—even working with dentists and mental health counselors is an option.

“The career really does not pigeonhole you. You do not have to be in an eight-to-five clinical setting if you don’t want to be,” Howard said. “There are over 350 different massage modalities, so there is something for everyone to be able to find something that they’re passionate about.”

Howard also said that massage therapy has been looked at more in recent years as a non-opioid alternative to pain management. “We do have therapists that work at addiction clinics.”

Setting up a private practice

If you want to set up a business either as an individual (sole proprietor) or as the owner of a business that employs others, you must submit an application for a Licensed Massage Establishment through the Florida Board of Massage Therapy. The owner does not have to be a licensed massage therapist but every massage establishment must have a Designated Establishment Manager. This person must have an active, unrestricted massage license through the Board.  

After that, you must heed the business laws of whatever county or municipality you are practicing in, such as zoning laws for brick-and-mortar establishments and obtaining a local business license. This process is dependent on where you are practicing—reach out to your local city and/or county to find out what you need to do to start a business there. There may be extra steps or considerations if you are practicing out of your own home or traveling to clients’ homes.

Staying up to date on industry developments and trends

The Florida Board of Massage Therapy should always be consulted to determine the most up-to-date policies for massage therapy professionals in the state. Beyond that, the FSMTA is the only association that works exclusively for massage therapists in Florida according to their website.

They are the oldest professional massage therapy association in the country and offer a range of exclusive member benefits to those who join. In addition, they are involved in legislative processes concerning the massage therapy profession and are a great resource for keeping up to date on state-level developments and trends.

Massage therapy schools in Florida

The Sunshine State has a wealth of opportunities for licensed massage therapists to have a successful and rewarding career. If this is your first time getting a massage license, your first step (and perhaps the most important) is learning the ins and outs of the trade through a massage therapy program.

In Florida, you’ll need to enroll in a program that consists of at least 500 clock hours. Start your healing career today by using our find schools widget to explore our extensive massage school database and find a program that works for you.

kendall upton

Published: February 27, 2021

Written and reported by:

Kendall Upton
Staff Writer

crystal howard

With professional insights from:

Crystal A. Howard, LMT, BCTMB

Executive President of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association; Owner of The Crystal Element