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Should there be a difference in an hourly rate of pay between Massage and Beauty Therapists?

Written by Sally Doubleday on May 5th, 2016.      0 comments


For many years now, I have had the pleasure of working with incredible Massage and Beauty Therapists throughout NZ and Internationally.

I hear myself saying more than ever, “that was one of the best massage/facial ever, thank you so much, you’re amazing”

In thinking of the pleasures of MASSAGE THERAPY I ASK THE QUESTION WHY is there this continual debate around what our specialized Massage therapists are worth?

Being trained as a professional MASSAGE THERAPIST as well as a Beauty Therapist, I have understood both parties argument when it comes to pay structure. 

As an owner of a Spa and a Business Mentor to the industry I struggle with there being blurred lines to Massage Therapist pay structure vs Beauty Therapist.

Many years ago, before Massage schools become a professional school, most Massage Therapists were self-taught and seeked International education to grow their wealth of experience in theory as well as practical education.

These days we have Excellent Educational facilities for Massage training as well as Beauty Therapy training.

We also have  youtube-logo-empresa-videos-532-693, which I’m not even going to discuss in detail, but I will mention it is making it very easy for unqualified therapists of both trades to operate a self-employed business.

So why does on average a Beauty Therapist earn $18-20/hour vs a Massage Therapist who earns from $30/hr in a Spa environment. I can share with you that during my many years of mentoring that I have come across Massage therapists earning well over double this rate, and additional to this they receive excellent tips, and petrol money for driving to work!
A debate that I believe has many sides, below are some points that should  be identified and considered when negotiating rates for a Massage Therapist? (There are many more)
  • Industry stats hourly rates
  • Industry standards
  • Training Investments
  • Cost of Treatments and existing treatment service rates
  • Pre requisites to training
  • Skill Required
  • Post graduate training investments and experience
  • Self-employed set up and operating costs
  • Spa Business set up and operating costs
  • Health and Safety, Insurance
  • Physical fitness attributes
  • Additional tips a revenue base
When looking at Massage in general an insight for me was a recent trip to Thailand, where I experienced some phenomenal and average massages in sublime environments and some not so divine locations.
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There was one thing in common in Koh Samui, in order for you to become a Massage therapist you have to be qualified. Now I am not sure to what standard, but I do know that all staff had to be certified.

As you would expect, each facility was unique, unless they were an established chain of Spas, if so there unique difference was obvious at each location. I will never forget one chain of Spas which had bright orange everything!!

Now we all know that Eastern Massage is fantastic, and it is so enjoyable, we also know that it is very cheap to receive a massage at most of the street locations, however the Hotel Spas have a significant increase in their charges.

The differences between each location we accept and pay the additional charges, very much like NZ when we have a massage at a Spa, vs a massage via mobile or at a home clinic.


So we’ve established based on locations and the environment provided that the charge for a massage is going to be higher within a Day/Resort/Spa Business.
Question, should staff working at these locations earn more because they Resort charges more? Are their overheads higher?

Answer, yes the overheads are higher, so they need to charge more, and normally there are additional perks for the staff who work within such resort spas, such as meals provided, additional income with tips etc. There is also additional expectations on their staff around rosters.

We could dive deeper and look at the staff at each of these locations and whether the experience, and the future opportunities etc. out way each other, but let’s just agree to acknowledge that this maybe the case.

Let’s continue to look at what a Massage therapist is worth and why statistics show that they earn more than a Beauty therapist when it comes to an hourly rate.

A self-employed Massage therapist can work from home or mobile and on average charge $60/hr, with very little overheads compared to a Spa Business.

An average charge for a Massage within the spa business for 1 hour is around the $80 price tag, you give a Massage therapist 40-50% of this, and then you add Kiwi saver, employers share of taxes, and the suppliers/laundry it takes to provide a service then ownership is left with an insignificant 25 cents on each revenue dollar to then pay front desk wages, rent, insurance, debt repayment etc. and hope to make something for themselves. The overheads on even the smallest spa are huge.

When the economy was good less than 50% of spas made a profit, now the economy has gone south many business are closing their doors.
Is it time as owners that we stay true to our business plans, and budgets and as much as we want to raise the average rate for Beauty therapists, to match the Massage Therapists we can’t?

Why are we matching the Massage therapist rate, surely we are all equal in a Spa?

Remember running a business involves many skills, empathy included but the bottom line will keep your doors open. Not trying to take away, “that great staff are worth it”, as they have mouths to feed too, but we need to look at other ways of creating loyalty in staff and not just based on an hourly rate of pay.


Can we afford to take the attitude of I’m willing to pay $20/hr? Introducing the same hourly rate for Beauty therapists and Massage therapists, if you want to work for me, I have plenty of work for you at this rate, and you will earn consistently this wage.

Unlike a massage therapist who works from home, she may feel that she earns that $60/hr., but chooses to only work a few hours a week. In a spa you will make less per hour, but you will make far more each week.

I suppose, I conclude this internal debate that I don’t believe Massage Therapists should be paid more than the average Beauty therapist rate when working in a Spa environment.

I strongly believe that any therapist whether it be in beauty or massage, that if they are a specialist within their trade and have invested in additional courses and perform within all KPI within the establishment then they should be recognized and awarded accordingly.

To summarize, my future recommendations as a mentor will be, same pay for Massage and Beauty Therapists when working within a Spa environment, always reflective of qualifications and performance. Stay strong, and be clear and reward when appropriate.

For additional reward ideas see our Spa Beauty Wish List in our Business Tools on our Spa Beauty website.

Written By

Sally Doubleday

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