As the spa industry continues to grow and consumers become increasingly knowledgeable about wellness benefits, spa career opportunities for fitness professionals—especially if you love people and have a passion for wellness—are greater than ever.
A Plethora of Opportunities
According to the International Spa Association (ISPA), the U.S. spa industry employs more than 230,000 people. About half are full-time employees, and 18% work on a contractual basis. ISPA offers a variety of spa career training tools, including a Spa Professional Career Guide and a spa management certification course (see www.experienceispa.com).
“There are many different kinds of opportunities in spas,” says David-Dorian Ross, the wellness manager for Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, California, who has consulted for a wide range of world-renowned spas. “You can work as a fitness or wellness manager. You can be a permanent full-time staff person who teaches classes, works as a personal trainer or watches the fitness center floor. Another option is to come in on an adjunct or on-call basis to teach classes, offer lifestyle coaching or personal training. There are crossover areas if you’re multitalented: you could be a massage therapist and a personal trainer, for example, and build your clientele by cross-referring your guests into both areas.”
As Ross sees it, chances for employment abound in all types of spas. “Of course there are wonderful opportunities at destination spas, because guests come with an end goal in mind and are there for a longer period of time. However, [day spas] are very unexplored territory—there are a lot of possibilities for life coaching and offering classes. Resort and hotel spas also have many areas of education and training that could be introduced by a creative fitness professional.”
Spotlight on Management
While there are spa career opportunities at all levels, managers are especially in demand, according to several experts.
To become a spa fitness or wellness manager, you need supervisory experience, says Lori Hutchinson, owner and founder of Hutchinson Consulting in Sonoma, California, which recruits for hotels, resorts and spas, but you can move up the ladder within a spa. “If you are a personal trainer who wants to become a fitness manager and perhaps ultimately a spa director, you need to work at a property that offers educational and supervisory opportunities. You may also want to get additional education in business management.”
Tips for Spa Career Success
Spa experts offer these spa career tips for successfully securing a spa position:
- Spa Career Tip #1: Do a self-inventory. Are you enough of a team player to work at a spa? Are you prepared to follow the rules of the spa, and fit into its culture? Are you strong at customer service?
- Spa Career Tip #2: Approach human resources rather than going to the spa director. (If you have a good relationship with someone at the spa, this person may be your introduction.)
- Spa Career Tip #3: Spas typically have a lot of turnover; apply even if there are no current openings, and keep trying.
- Spa Career Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to take an offer into a different position to get your foot in the door.
- Spa Career Tip #5: Get a mentor in the spa industry, someone who knows you well and understands the spa world.
- Spa Career Tip #6:Identify your dream job and work backward from there, figuring out the steps you need to take.
- Spa Career Tip #7: Get to know people in spas; relationships are important in this industry.
- Spa Career Tip #8: Consider ISPA’s certified spa supervisor course, and check out colleges that offer spa management courses.
- Spa Career Tip #9: See www.spa-addicts.com and www.spafinders.com for job openings.
- Spa Career Tip #10: Make sure that your personal values align with the mission of the spa.
- Spa Career Tip #11: Attend the ISPA conference, and don’t miss the job boards.
For more information, see the full article in the July-August issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or online in IDEA's Health and Fitness Article Library.