Spa Therapist

The Job and What's Involved

Spa therapists use a range of treatments designed to enhance their clients' appearance, reduce their stress levels or improve their well-being.

Spa therapists offer therapies and treatments such as:

  • Hydrotherapy, flotation, whirlpool and steam baths, salt or sea-water based pools, specialist showers, mud chambers, vapour caves and saunas.
  • Massages, including Swedish, Thai and hot stone massages, Indian head massage and aromatherapy.
  • Body treatments - wraps using ingredients such as mud or seaweed, exfoliation using salt crystals or other grains, hydration using rich creams and oils.
  • Facials - skin analysis, cleansing, massaging, toning and moisturising.
  • Manicures and pedicures.
  • Specialised treatments such as light therapy, lymphatic drainage and other non-invasive treatments designed to diminish the signs of ageing or skin damage.

Before starting any treatments, therapists talk to their clients to get an understanding of their needs and expectations and to complete a health questionnaire with them. They may also produce an individual treatment plan.

Many Spa Therapists work as a team with other specialists such as nutritionists to create a treatment plan for individual clients.

During treatments, therapists make sure their clients are kept informed and are comfortable at all times. After treatments, they discuss aftercare and suggest suitable spa products.

Spa therapists may also:

  • Prepare, clean and help maintain the treatment rooms, wet areas and relaxation areas.
  • Set up, monitor and shut down water, temperature and spa facilities.
  • Maintain a stock of products such as creams, oils and lotions in their treatment areas.
  • Give talks and demonstrations to groups of clients.

Full-time spa therapists work between 37 and 40 hours a week, often including weekend and evening work. There are opportunities for part-time work and flexible hours.

Individual therapies take place in treatment rooms or cubicles that are warm, clean and private. Some spa therapies take place in wet rooms.

Giving treatments can involve long periods of standing and bending. Therapists, especially those with allergies or sensitive skin, may find some products irritate their hands.

Spa therapists usually wear a uniform and are expected to have a clean, smart appearance with short nails, tied-back hair and sensible shoes.

Newly qualified spa therapists may earn around £12,000 to £14,000 a year. A spa manager may start at around £18,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The Spa and Wellness sector is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth. A boom in the development of hotel and inner city spas and salons across major cities from Dubai to New York and London, has brought with it a renewed demand for skilled Spa Professionals, from Therapists and Beauticians up to Spa Managers, Operators and Developers.

Spas can be part of the facilities on offer at holiday resorts, hotels, fitness centres and health farms. Day spas, medical spas and residential spas can be found throughout the UK. There are also opportunities for spa therapists to work overseas in destination or resort spas, in luxury hotels, or on cruise ships.

Vacancies are advertised in the local or national press, on the websites of large spa, fitness and health, and leisure groups and in specialist magazines such as Health & Beauty Salon, Spa Secrets and Guild Gazette. The Guild of Professional Beauty Therapists carries vacancies on its website, and jobs are listed on: www.spaopportunities.com.

You should also visit the ITEC and CIDESCO websites, the spa industry’s principal governing bodies. Both ITEC and CIDESCO regularly publish spa vacancies. You can find further information at www.itecworld.co.uk and www.cidesco.com.

Education and Training

Spa therapists need qualifications in the treatments or therapies they intend to offer, and usually in a combination of therapies. There is a wide range of courses available at colleges throughout the UK and at fee paying training institutions. Entry requirements vary, so it is important to check with the individual college or training provider.

Many young people enter the career by first working in a salon, gaining experience and adding to the therapies they are qualified to offer.

Most spa therapists will have a BTEC National Diploma in beauty therapy sciences, an NVQ Level 3 in spa therapy, or an equivalent health or beauty qualification. Entry to these courses is usually with three or four GCSE's (A*-C), or an NVQ Level 2 in beauty therapy. English, maths and science are useful GCSE subjects.

Higher level courses are not necessary for entry to this work, but can be useful for those wishing to progress into management. They include:

Foundation degrees in beauty and spa services, or salon and spa management. Entry is usually with one A level, a BTEC National Diploma in beauty therapy sciences, or an NVQ Level 3 in spa therapy, plus at least three GCSE's (A*-C), including a science subject.

Degree in spa management. Entry to degree courses is usually with a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications.

There are a number of privately run Spa and Beauty Schools across the UK that offer Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in Spa Therapy as well as shorter day courses to top up skills and knowledge.

The Mary Reid International Spa Academy in Edinburgh offers a one year full time, or two year part time Gold Diploma course which provides comprehensive training in all aspects of Beauty Therapy, and Body Therapy. The Gold Diploma also provides additional modules in Spa Management, giving students the necessary qualifications to work in all areas of the spa sector, from therapy to operations.

Mary Reid also offers all of its students work placements, which often lead to employment at the end of the course. For information about this Diploma course visit the Mary Reid website at www.maryreidspaacademy.com.

The Gold Diploma can lead to both ITEC and CIDESCO qualifications, two of the principle industry standards. The CIDESCO qualification Diploma is awarded to students who have passed specific CIDESCO exams as well as have at least 600 hours experience working in a spa or salon.

Advanced Apprenticeships with a pathway in spa therapy lead to an NVQ Level 3 in spa therapy.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Customer service and people skills are important in this job, so experience of working with people can be an asset.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New therapies, techniques and products are being introduced all the time, so spa therapists need to keep their skills up-to-date. They can follow the hairdressing and beauty industry authority (Habia) continuing professional development (CPD) programme. Suppliers of spa therapy preparations and equipment may also offer short courses in the use of their products.

The Guild of Professional Beauty Therapists has an online directory of training courses.

Spa therapists can extend their skills by gaining additional qualifications in areas such as complementary and holistic therapies, nutrition, individual and group exercise, and first aid.

Students holding a Diploma or other equivalent degree can go on to take specialist Postgraduate courses to top up their skill set, qualifying them for specialist positions within the industry. These vary from Aromatherapy and Calgel Nail System to Eyelash Perming and Indian Head Massage.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A spa therapist should:

  • Have a caring attitude and an ability to put people at ease.
  • Be able to work as part of a team.
  • Be an excellent communicator but also a good listener.
  • Be tactful and aware of the need for confidentiality.
  • Have a smart appearance and good personal hygiene.
  • Be aware of health and safety requirements.
  • Have time management skills to ensure appointments run to schedule.
  • Have good dexterity.
  • Pay attention to detail.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are good prospects for spa therapists and numerous career paths to follow.

They may choose to move into supervisory and management posts or combine therapy work with administrative work. They could also become a trainer or lecturer, or move into a wide range of beauty related occupations.

There are many opportunities for overseas work.

Get Further Information

British International Spa Association,
Spa House, Winchet Hill, Goudhurst,
Kent TN17 IJY
Tel: 01580 212954
Website www.cidesco.com

Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT),
18 Shakespeare Business Centre,
Hathaway Close, Eastleigh S050 4SR
Tel: 0844 875 2022
Website: www.fht.org.uk

The Guild of Professional Beauty Therapists,
Guild House, 320 Burton Road,
Derby DE23 6AF
Tel: 0845 2177 383
Website: www.beautyguild.com

Habia, Oxford House,
Sixth Avenue, Sky Business Park,
Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster DN9 3GG
Tel: 0845 230 6080
Website: www.habia.org

International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC),
2nd Floor, Chiswick Gate,
598-608 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5RT
Tel: 020 8994 4141
Website: www.itecworld.co.uk

Spa Business Association Ltd,
Suite 5-6, Philpot House,
Station Road, Rayleigh SS6 7HH
Tel: 08707 800787
Website: www.britishspas.co.uk

Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT),
3rd Floor, Eastleigh House,
Upper Market Street, Eastleigh SO50 9FD
Tel: 02380 684500
Website: www.vtct.org.uk

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