Spa Industry Booming Despite Recession

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. With this demand for skills, comes great opportunities for those looking for a challenging new career.

Brian Hunter is one of the leading lights in the industry in Scotland. After thirty years managing and developing Spas across the world, in 2009 Brian became the owner and Principal of Scotland's oldest and most prestigious Spa training school, the Mary Reid International Spa Academy in Edinburgh. In August this year, Mary Reid re-launched under a new name and new premises and is now one of the UK's principal suppliers to the Spa industry.

Opportunities ahead

Brian commented, 'For students who have recently left university or school, or those looking for a challenging new career in the Spa industry, now is the time to act. Spa owners and Managers are on the look-out for expertly trained Spa Professionals to fill an increasing number of vacancies. There are excellent opportunities ahead, with potential earnings of up to £100,000 annually and the chance to work at top destinations across the world.'

There are two major career paths within the Spa sector: Spa Managers and Directors, who deal with the management and operation of Spas and Spa Therapists, who provide the one on one treatments for clients. Although it is possible to work your way up from Therapy to Spa Management, they are specialist roles that often take separate career paths, and require different skill sets and qualifications.

On the management side, many professionals enter the Spa industry from the hotel sector. Currently Derby University is the only further education establishment that runs a full time Spa Management Degree which includes a six month placement. However a degree is not essential. Experience within the hotel management sector is useful, and provides the necessary skills in business acumen, people management, as well as an understanding of sales and marketing.

To become a Spa Therapist, more defined qualifications are required. There are a number of Spa and Beauty Schools 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 

For example The Mary Reid International Spa Academy in Edinburgh offers a one year full time, or two year part time Gold Diploma course which will soon be providing comprehensive training in all aspects of Beauty Therapy, and Body Therapy. Unlike other colleges in the UK, 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.

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.

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. Finally short courses can be taken which offer an introduction to specialist subjects. These are ideal for those still considering a career in the Spa sector.

Course costs vary considerably between colleges and subject matter. For example, the Gold Diploma at Mary Reid costs £8500 with individual Diploma modules varying from £1500 up to £3000. Post graduate courses also vary considerably from as little as £125 for Body Wrap courses, up to £1500 for Aromatherapy and Reflexology. Day courses range from about £200 up to £500.

Salaries within the sector clearly vary from one role to the next. A Spa Therapist for example can start at £12.5K and then go up to £30K+ depending on where they are working in the world. A Spa Manager can start at £18k and then go up to £45k, while a Spa Director working at a large resort would start at around £35k and work up to £100k+.

So what does it take to become a success in the Spa industry?

Mr Hunter sheds some light:

'Commitment, empathy and stamina are critical to be a good Spa Manager. Good business and financial acumen, plus the ability to build and lead a good team are also important. Therapists must have good people skills. They need to be comfortable working close to people and be able to make them feel at ease. It is also important to build trusting relations with clients. Manual dexterity and attention to detail are also useful.'

For more information about training to become a Spa Professional, please call Mary Reid on 0131 225 2087 or e-mail


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