That depends on where you live and who you want to work for!
There are several different pathways one can take in order to become a spa therapist, and in order to start on most of them, all you’ll typically need is your high school diploma, GED or an equivalent qualification.
One popular route is to get your certificate in Spa Therapy, Massage Therapy or both by attending cosmetology school and gaining a formal education from a state-approved provider – be sure to check out a school’s credentials and accreditations before you apply!
Another method is to study for your associate’s degree in Massage Therapy or Spa Therapy generally, at a community college or university: these vocational courses vary in cost and course content, so it’s up to you to do the research and figure out which school would be the best fit for you. In general, a course that involves proof of 600 practical hours, enables you to work according to globally standardized quality requirements.
Again, desired traits for a spa therapist will differ across the US, but the majority of students will need to have a good few hundred hours of massage therapy under their belt in order to successfully apply to a school in most states.
Prefer to simply learn on your feet, as part of the job? You might want to consider an apprenticeship program: though not all states allow for spa therapists to become licensed just from experience alone, others will accommodate formal apprenticeships to take place with a licensed spa therapist or esthetician.
The right mentor can both supervise your learning and provide training where required, provided the salon is licensed and meets all regulations, so if you learn best by doing and can work well as a team, the apprenticeship route might be for you.
However, as an apprentice, you will be required to complete more training hours and study harder than an aspiring spa therapist who trained in a formal education setting, for instance.
As long as you are eligible to apply for your state’s licensing exam as an apprentice, you’ll be good to go.
Spa Therapist Licensing
It’s important to note that the majority of states require those practicing as a massage therapist (either as a standalone position or in their wider role as a spa therapist generally) to have a license to practice, the guidelines for which are different on a state-by-state basis.
It’s difficult to say exactly what you’ll need to do, but the majority of license applications will need you to demonstrate you have been trained at an approved or accredited program, as well as undergone a certain number of hours of practical training and work experience.
On average, this is around six hundred hours in total, but it can be more or less depending on where you are.
In order to receive the license, you’ll have to pass an examination, which will test you in a variety of different spa therapy skills to ensure you have what it takes to work with the public.
Some states may instead require you to complete the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination or MBLEx, which is carried out through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).
The MBLEx consists of a test with one hundred questions, for which you have two hours to complete.
Topics that are on the exam include not just questions about the physical treatments, but also client assessments and ethical understandings of spa therapy.
What is a spa manager certificate?
If you’re looking to skip through being a spa therapist and head straight to the management of a spa, you’re going to want to participate in a spa management program to get your certificate or associate’s degree in the subject.
These two things are slightly different, but both require a high school diploma or GED in order to apply.
A certificate will teach you how to operate your spa and give you significant business skills, so you know how to manage your new operation in a profitable and efficient way, without ever compromising on customer experience or the quality of your treatments.
You might cover such subjects as:
- Accounting, particularly geared toward small businesses
- A wider introduction to the world of business generally
- How to manage stress appropriately
- Therapeutic massage and its benefits
- Spa management and daily running
- Spa cuisine and customer service
If you want a more competitive and comprehensive qualification, then you should consider getting your associate’s degree in Spa Management, as this will not only cover finance, marketing, and business administration more broadly, but it also offers plenty of spa-specific advice.
From how to layout your spa, to tips on retail management and customer relations, you will be prepared to enter the world of spa therapy as a professional who can successfully run their business, keeping their customers and staff happy as well as themselves.
Costs will vary from institution to institution and you can choose to study online if you would prefer the convenience, as there are several schools offering virtual courses that can be worked through at your own pace in a set period of time, usually between six and twelve months.
The major benefit of taking a Spa Management course, whether that’s a certificate, an associate’s degree, or another pathway, is developing your skills in business and strategic thinking, day-to-day operations, and event planning growth for your spa in the future.
An example of Spa Management certification would be the one offered by Wynne Business, the Spa Director’s Management Intensive.
Fully online and on-demand, consisting of twelve modules, this takes their existing live seminar on the subject and expands it significantly, so you have the best chance of learning.
It should take between 30–40 hours to complete and the curriculum includes the following topics:
- World Class Customer Service
- Quality Management and Customer Satisfaction
- Building Your Spa Team
- Training and Appraisal
- Essentials of Spa Leadership
- Spa Accounting Essentials
- Financial Savvy
- Compensation for Spa Employees
- Marketing the Spa Today
- Sales: Selling Through Service
- Successful Retail Programs
- Managing Spa Treatment Programs
This is just one example of the hundreds of courses that are available, some in person with physical attendance required and others to be fulfilled in your own time during your existing busy schedule, outside of regular educational hours.
If you’re looking to enter the world of spa management, this is absolutely the way to do it!
It’s interesting to note that establishing your own spa as a manager does not require you to have any formal training or education – unless you’re also going to be offering treatments, in which case you’re also going to need a license and will have to have accrued enough hours of practice to do so.
However, just because you can does not mean you should, as is the case with a lot of things in life. Running a business is difficult at the best of times, never mind without any of the knowledge, skills, and experience required to succeed.
Just because you feel like you would be great at owning and operating a spa business does not mean you’ll automatically be successful.
In the age of technology, everybody is vying to be the best and most successful advertisement and client gathering is about far more than handing out flyers and word of mouth.
You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to get educated!