Workplace Option: Spa

Before making decisions about where you might like to work, finding out more specifics about the particular work setting you're interested in is a great idea. Following is some good information about the spa setting.

The Interview Process: What should you wear?

Business causal is a minimum for a massage therapist attending a job interview. The easy fix is to be proactive by asking the interviewer: "Would you like me to provide a hands-on demonstration of my work?" If the answer is yes, the massage therapist should dress professionally but comfortably. Present a professional image, but allow for freedom of movement to provide a demo.

Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer:
What are your strengths? What areas would you describe as things you could improve on and what are you currently doing to work on those areas?
What type of management style do you prefer? What has worked best for you in the past?
Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult client and explain how you handled it.
How many massages are you comfortable providing in a day?
Where do you see yourself professionally in a year?  Five years?
Why do you want to work at this company?

Questions to ask the Interviewer:
What services does the spa provide and what additional services will I be asked to perform?
What kind of training would be available to me?
What is the culture like at this spa? How many other massage therapists are employed here?
Will I be asked to meet a retail sales quota?

Skills and Knowledge to Have or Attain

Strong communication skills are required to be successful in the spa environment. You should be able to communicate effectively with your supervisor, fellow employees and, most importantly, your clients. Take advantage of the business and communication classes offered through AMTA, your massage therapy school, or a local community college or university.

Before you begin working in a spa or as you become oriented with the environment, you will also want to become extremely familiar with the specific policies and procedures of the spa. You should be able to describe what services the spa offers and, out of those services, which are within the scope of your practice. There is usually an expectation that you sell other products and services that the spa offers, and you may even be presented with sales goals.

Be prepared to understand the unique “philosophy” of the spa, or the culture and environment that the spa is providing its guests.

Working Environment

One benefit of being a spa employee is that there is generally a support staff to take care of all of the basics, including scheduling and other business needs. Therefore, you can focus solely on massage and your clients, and not the paperwork and other factors that come into play when you are working as a sole practitioner. The spa will generally provide all of the supplies you need. And, working with a team of staff and other massage therapists can provide a sense of community and support.

The spa environment also provides you with the unique opportunity to diversify your expertise to include wraps, scrubs, hydrotherapy and other services, rather than focusing solely on tissue-based services. Practicing and mastering different techniques is one step toward balanced self-care.

Spa Rhythm: “Spa Stamina” is one term used to describe the strategy that massage therapists working in a spa can employ to prolong their careers and ultimately get the most fulfillments. Essentially, massage therapists should learn to effectively manage time and integrate self-care practices into their work. The rhythm of work in a spa setting can be intense, and therapists may find themselves with back to back appointments with a short turn-around time. Unlike other settings, you usually aren’t able to set your own appointment times and breaks between sessions. This kind of pace requires therapists to strategize about time management and self-care in order to be successful, healthy and professionally fulfilled.

In general, spa massage therapists are expected to have a basic massage therapy skill set, along with having a professional attitude. It’s important to consider the licensing rules for the state in which you desire to practice, too.

In addition to your massage therapy skills and professional demeanor, the services offered in a spa may require you to continue your education even further. You may be required to gain additional skills or participate in training that will help you learn to better sell products or understand the spa’s procedures and philosophy. Depending on the spa’s focus, you may be asked to learn new techniques, and will probably be required to practice the spa’s signature treatments.

Personality Traits: The willingness to work as part of a team is a key quality that a spa owner looks for in a potential employee. The very nature of serving guests lends itself to a team-like atmosphere. Spa massage therapists should be prepared to assist fellow employees in every department of the business—having a “team first” philosophy is crucial to the overall guest experience.

You'll also be expected to communicate with both fellow employees and clients at a very high-level. Often times, a spa director or owner is not a massage therapist. Learning to communicate effectively with fellow employees and direct management is imperative to the operational success of the spa.

In addition to understanding the spa’s philosophy, you will also want to have a keen awareness of the spa’s specific “brand.”  Depending on the spa, you may be asked to reflect that brand in your attitude, appearance and client etiquette.

Sales Role: Expect to be trained or asked to sell products specific to the spa. It is common for spas or their vendors to provide training to new employees based on the products used in the spa. Rather than feeling like a “salesperson,” you can view this as an opportunity to educate your client on the products and techniques you are using, and the specific benefits that each product and service has to offer. This then empowers your client to make an informed decision on the recommended products or services. Your communication skills and extensive knowledge of massage therapy and the related products will help you transition smoothly into this role.

Schedule Expectations: It's common for turnover times between services to be shorter than massage therapists are accustomed to—sometimes just 10 minutes. Spas also tend to be busiest on weekends, which may or may not be a drawback for you depending on the kind of work schedule you prefer. If you are looking to supplement another income, this could be a positive for you.

Want more information on working in a spa? Try these additional resources:

The Spa Life
Spa Industry Careers

"The support I’ve received at the various levels of my career has been key
in helping me get to the place I am today."

Lee S., AMTA member since 1995