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Becoming a massage therapist in Texas: Education & salary data

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In Texas, massage therapist licenses are issued by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR). In 2023, the examination requirements for massage therapists changed with the addition of a new, state-specific exam.

Katherine Brady, the program coordinator of Austin Community College’s Massage Therapy and Somatic Movement Education program, said that a lot has changed since she first became a massage therapist. As people continue to recognize the diverse benefits and applications of massage, there’s seldom been a better time to be a massage therapist.

“I’ve been a [massage] therapist for 18 years. When I first started, there wasn’t as much opportunity. As massage therapists, we knew that we could be effective in all these different modalities and locations, but it just didn’t seem like the market was open to it. And now we have people calling us all the time saying we need therapists, we need them now.”

In This Article

How to become a massage therapist in Texas

For new massage therapists that don’t already possess a license elsewhere, they must satisfy the following requirements to be eligible for a massage therapy license in Texas:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Complete an approved massage therapy education program
  • Pass an examination
  • Submit a completed application to the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR) which includes fingerprinting and other documents
  • Not possess any disqualifying factors as stated in the massage therapy chapter of the Texas Occupations Code

Education and training requirements

New massage therapists in Texas must complete a massage therapy education program approved by the TDLR of at least 500 hours of instruction.

Of these 500 hours, the program must include:

  • 200 hours that are taught by a licensed massage therapy instructor and cover massage therapy techniques and theory, with at least 125 hours dedicated to Swedish massage therapy techniques
  • 50 hours of anatomy
  • 25 hours of physiology
  • 50 hours of kinesiology
  • 40 hours of pathology
  • 20 hours of hydrotherapy
  • 45 hours of massage therapy laws and rules, business practices and ethical standards
  • 20 hours of health, hygiene, first aid, universal precautions and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • 50 hours in an internship program

The internship requirement must provide the student with at least 40 hours of hands-on practice and be conducted on the school grounds or in a clinic or classroom setting provided by the massage school or instructor.

Exam and licensing requirements

Brady said that the examination requirements for massage therapists in Texas changed in 2023. Prior to this change, massage therapists needed to take and pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) as well as the Texas jurisprudence exam for massage therapists.

However, massage therapists now have two examination choices: they can still take the MBLEx and jurisprudence exam or just the new State of Texas Massage Therapist Exam.

Regardless of which exam(s) you choose to take, you need to submit a licensure application to the TDLR first in order to get approval to sit for the exam(s).

Brady said that choosing which examination route comes down to a few differences to take into consideration. First is a monetary difference: the MLBEx route costs more money ($265 for the MBLEx plus $34 for the jurisprudence exam, versus $60). The second major difference, however, is that the MBLEx is used for licensure in numerous states across the country. If you plan to relocate, the MBLEx may give you a little more long-term flexibility and make it easier to acquire a massage therapy license in another state.

CE for massage therapists in Texas

Licensed massage therapists in Texas must renew their license every two years. Within that timeframe, they must complete at least 12 hours of continuing education (CE) approved or recognized by the TDLR.

Massage therapists do not need to submit evidence of their continuing education unless they are specifically selected for an audit by the TDLR, which is done randomly. Instead, they should maintain records of their continuing education so that they are available should they be audited.

“Continue learning. There’s always a new technique, there’s always a new way of doing things. And what’s really cool about CE classes is that you have a room full of massage therapists from all different backgrounds. And you don’t get that anymore when you work on your own,” Brady said.

Brady said that as convenient as online CE classes are, she suggested that massage therapists take as many in-person classes as you can. “Not only to get that community feel, but then you’re also getting some attention from an instructor.”

Transferability: Out-of-state applicants and massage therapists

You may eligible for a massage therapy license in Texas if you hold or have held a massage therapist license in another state.

The first step is to determine how your education and experience compare to Texas’ requirements. The TDLR has a handy online tool which allows you to select your state or territory and it will tell you whether or not your state’s license is similar enough to Texas’ standards to not require additional education or experience.

Applicants then must take and pass both the Texas Massage Therapist Jurisprudence Exam and the MBLEx. If you’ve already passed the MBLEx, you just need to fill out a transfer form and send it to the TDLR.

After passing both exams, applicants need to submit an application for a license and include:

  • Official transcripts and catalog course descriptions from your massage therapy education
  • Copies of any out-of-state licenses and a license verification letter
  • Proof of successfully passing the MBLEx and jurisprudence exam

Once they’ve submitted an application, applicants must get fingerprinted as part of a national criminal history review.

Professional conduct and ethical guidelines

The Texas Occupations Code’s massage therapy chapter extensively outlines guidelines for professional practice and violations of said practice which may be grounds for disciplinary action. It also lists what kind of criminal history does or does not disqualify applicants from obtaining a massage therapy license.

Scope of practice

The TDLR defines massage therapy as, “the manipulation of soft tissue by hand or through a mechanical or electrical apparatus for the purpose of body massage and includes effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (percussion), compression, vibration, friction, nerve strokes and Swedish gymnastics. The terms ‘massage,’ ‘therapeutic massage,’ ‘massage technology,’ ‘myotherapy,’ ‘body massage,’ ‘body rub,’ or any derivation of those terms are synonyms for ‘massage therapy.’”

More information about what massage therapists can and cannot practice in Texas can be found in the massage therapy chapter of the Occupations Code, as well as the TDLR’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Insurance and liability

Massage establishment owners should check with the regulatory body that issues local business licenses to see if there are any requirements about insurance and liability. Getting liability insurance is still a good idea even if it’s not required. Massage establishment owners can get liability insurance from numerous organizations such as the American Massage Association (AMTA) or the Associated Massage & Bodywork Professionals (AMBP).

Working as a massage therapist in Texas

Massage therapist salary in Texas

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for massage therapists in the state of Texas in 2022 was $48,100. The Austin metropolitan area has the highest median annual wage in the state at $49,410, followed by the metro areas surrounding Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

“Really be very cognizant of what the market looks like and how much you’re making to create a really good budget. Then it’s all about word of mouth, making sure people know about you and they can find you easily,” Brady said.

Massage Therapists
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Median Hourly Wage$23

Job growth18.3%

Total Employment6,580

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Austin-Round Rock, TX $49,410 $21,960 $70,100
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX $48,940 $27,550 $66,870
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX $48,450 $27,610 $76,280
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX $46,870 $26,400 $74,580
Killeen-Temple, TX $44,360 $33,310 $55,590
Tyler, TX $42,240 $25,050 $51,520
Lubbock, TX $42,080 $20,580 $59,520
El Paso, TX $40,050 $23,090 $55,620
Longview, TX $39,790 $24,250 $97,140
Corpus Christi, TX $37,560 $19,910 $52,070

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. 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.

“You want to be realistic—most massage therapists are going to have two or three jobs, but that doesn’t mean you’re working 120 hours a week. It means that you might be working at, say, a franchise. What’s great about franchises is their businesses volume. If you go and you work a four or five-hour shift, you’re probably going to give four or five massages. And that’s a great way to anchor your income,” Brady said.

Job outlook and finding employment opportunities in Texas

There were 6,580 massage therapists in Texas in 2022 according to the BLS, although the actual figure may be much higher since the BLS does not have data for all regions of the state and does not always include data on self-employed workers. Even so, that makes Texas the state with the third-most massage therapists behind California and Florida, and the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area has the most in the state.

“Right now, it’s definitely a therapist’s market. There are jobs,” Brady said. In fact, part of her job is to network with business owners and advise them to come in and receive massages from her students. As a result of that, most of her students have job offers before they even graduate.

“And what’s really cool about what’s happening right now with massage is that there’s a job for each type of therapist. So if I’m sports-minded and want to practice sports massage, I can find a rehabilitative clinic that works with athletes or I can work with professional athletic associations. Even youth sports is a huge thing in Texas as well. If I want to work in resorts and relaxation services, there are so many resorts and big hotels around town, especially here in Austin.”

Brady said she personally fell in love with pregnancy massage, and that there are opportunities for massage therapists that do pregnancy massage to work with doulas and midwives, too.

Setting up a private massage practice in Texas

If you’re going to start your own massage business in The Lone Star state, the best place to start would be to check with your county or municipality—whichever issues local business licenses—to see what their requirements are, but you’ll also need to apply for a massage establishment license through TDLR.

“If you are going to have a practice at a brick-and-mortar place, there are laws surrounding becoming a massage establishment and those are all through TDLR,” Brady said. “There are some exemptions—not many, but there are some. You would want to make sure that the candidate looks through those laws and made sure that those exemptions applied to them and if not, they would have to get that establishment license as well.”

Staying up to date on industry developments and trends

Massage therapists should consult the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) for any questions on massage practice law, licensure and more. Brady also suggests joining local massage organizations to take advantage of their benefits like local events, discounts,

“Look at associations like AMTA or AMBP. I’m a co-coordinator for AMTA for the Austin region and we try to have monthly meetings for the [massage] community. We go to different places and this is a great time to network, find jobs, hear different talks. We did one in April and it was on taxes for example, so we brought in an accountant for people to talk about taxes. So look at those meetup groups, and most of the time they’re free.”

Find massage therapy schools in Texas

Getting a massage therapist license in Texas begins with graduating from an approved massage therapy program of at least 500 hours. From there you now have two choices: to take and pass the State of Texas Massage Therapist Exam, or the MBLEx and the jurisprudence exam for massage therapists. With so many job opportunities out there in Texas, it could be the perfect place for your massage career to flourish.

kendall upton

Published: April 26, 2023

Written and reported by:

Kendall Upton
Staff Writer