Interviews with massage therapists who own their own spas reveal that there are several important aspects to spa ownership and massage therapy licensing that must be regularly attended to. Not only does a massage therapist need to be educated and licensed, but spa owners must also take care of all business issues, stay current on human resources issues, remain up to date on all state health guidelines, and maintain a professional business atmosphere with a degree of flexibility.
Education is necessary in order to become an effective professional. Various techniques, general knowledge, and tips of the trade are all learned during the time that a student studies massage therapy at the many schools across the United States offering certificate or degree programs in massage therapy. Most schools require students to complete at least 5,000 hours of coursework, including studies in physiology, anatomy, immunology, kinesiology, professional ethics, CPR, first aid, massage theory and techniques, and business practices. Hands-on and internship experiences are also common elements of most educational programs geared toward preparing students for a career in massage therapy.
Licensing is another important issue for massage therapists, as well as for spa owners employing them. Most states within the United States require that massage therapists belicensed. Licensing ensures that all massage therapists are qualified and knowledgeable about their profession. Basic guidelines for licensing may include the following:
- The applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
- The applicant must be able to provide official transcripts providing proof of a massage therapy education.
- The applicant must pass a background check with a history that is clear of drug-related charges, violent crimes, and morally questionable offenses.
- The applicant must pass a national examination for massage therapists.
Most spa owners and massage therapists divulge that there are several perks to owning their own business. Perhaps the most significant perk is earning a higher salary. The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2010 that massage therapists who were self employed received $42 per hour, on average. Conversely, those massage therapists who were employed by someone else made roughly $17 per hour-a significant drop in income.
Another perk to owning their own spa is that those massage therapists have freedom to determine the types of therapies they provide, the times they provide services, and what they charge for sessions. However, as a spa owner, they are also responsible for keeping up all guidelines required by the state health board, maintaining all paperwork for the business, and oversight of all overhead costs.
Massage therapists who own their own businesses must also pay extra taxes, including self-employment taxes. Additionally, various business taxes, such as sales tax, must be paid by business owners.
As a spa owner, these massage therapists must also perform a human resources role for hiring and firing employees. Additionally, they must enforce various laws and rules for employees, including providing adequate breaks, benefits, and regular paychecks. All employee relations, including employee reviews, employee write-ups, and employee dismissals must be well documented.
Furthermore, because spas must adhere to state health guidelines for hygiene, cleanliness, and privacy,massage therapists who own their own spas and massage enterprises must make sure that all of these guidelines are met. For instance, special laundering of the drapes is necessary. Rooms that provide privacy are required. Fresh supplies must be used for each client or patient. Privacy issues such as confidentiality and other issues related to massage therapy must be upheld.
Additionally, all states have specific guidelines in place that apply to spas and related establishments beyond those mandates in place for massage therapy businesses. Both sets of guidelines must be adhered to in order to be in compliance with the law.
Most spa owners will tell you that one of the best things about owning their own spa and being a massage therapist is the flexibility it provides them with to enhance and grow their business and services. Some massage therapists become certified in alternative therapies and other methods of massage and include these new services as part of their spa offerings. Plus, as the spa owner, the massage therapist can pick and choose which times and clients to take on personally. Hours of operation are entirely up to the spa owner, too. A spa owner may choose to open later in the day, so that the business is able to remain open later in the evening to accommodate customers who work throughout the normal day and wish to book appointments after work.