According to The International SPA Association Foundation, today’s spas are looking to hire more massage therapists. Indeed, in SPA: a Comprehensive Introduction, the association states that spas currently have 24,000 positions open for those with a massage certificate or license. This labor shortage bodes well for those looking into careers in massage therapy. Overall, Massage Bodywork tells us, the spa industry is the fastest growing work environment in the massage sector.

An education from our massage school in Portland enables graduates to work in a wide range of fields, from literal playing fields (in sports massage therapy) to hospitals (as medical massage therapists.) Today, we’re taking a look at massage career opportunities in spa environments, and how massage therapists can vet which spas provide supportive, positive work environments.

First, it’s important to recognize that there are different types of spas around the world:

Day Spas offer a range of wellness, aesthetic, and prevention services that do not require medical supervision. Four out of five spas in the U.S. are day spas. Day spas are great workplaces for LMTs who wish to build their own client base, and for those who prefer to work with a limited range of services.

Medical Spas offer the spa services described above, along with inclusive medical care and additional complementary therapies. There are about 1,700 medical spas in the United States. A licensed healthcare professional oversees inclusive wellness and healthcare services at each medical spa. If you enjoy working in the traditional medical model, a medical spa could be a great workplace for you.

Hotel & Resort Spas, sometimes referred to as Destination Spas, are generally the largest and most luxurious spas around. They make up about 10% of spas in the US. With a wide range of pampering services available, hotel, resort, and destination spas often follow strict requirements for certification and continuing education. If you’re looking for steady income in a gorgeous environment, consider applying at resort spas.

Within each of these spa environments, LMTs will have the opportunity to do different types of work. A day spa position would likely entail relaxation massage, while medical massage therapy would be more called for at a medical spa. Destination and resort spas often have special pre-designed packages to help visitors unwind. Although each of these workplaces would employ you as a massage therapist, the actual work you’d be doing in each location could vary widely, from providing foot massages, to offering prenatal massage, to troubleshooting a particular injury.

Not all resort, medical, or day spas are created equal. Some are paragons of positive work environments; others fail to support staff massage therapists. That’s why it’s so important to research potential workplaces thoroughly before accepting a position. When vetting workplaces, we recommend LMTs ask themselves the following questions:
–Would I feel proud to work here?
–If I worked here, would I have the supplies and support needed to do my job well?
–Is this an inviting, pleasant work environment?
–Do I agree with the mission of this spa?
–Would I be able to respect my coworkers and supervisors at this spa?
–What incentives are available beyond base pay?
–Would this employer encourage my personal and professional development?
A final question to ask your potential supervisors when interviewing for a spa position is “What kind of work would I be expected to do on a daily basis?” Drill down to the details of what massage therapists in this workplace actually do. If possible, speak with current employees in the position you would hold.

By carefully considering each workplace before accepting a massage therapy position, you’ll be better situated to enjoy a rewarding career in spa massage.