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THE STEREOTYPES OF THE SPA INDUSTRY

Hannah

By Hannah Charlesworth

Being a final year student at The University of Derby on the International Spa Management degree, it  has allowed me to reflect on the perceptions the spa industry has, from those on the outside looking in. The stereotypes surrounding the job ‘spa therapist’ still leaves me at my wits end three years later when I’m left explaining what I do to relatives or friends. 

Many assume I’m still at college, or that I decided to go to college even after completing three A-levels at school and that all I do is paint nails every day. For a while, I even stopped telling people the full extent of my degree, simply stating I just did Business Management. Not entirely a lie, but never something I should have felt like I needed to do by way of avoiding questions, I both had answered no fewer than ten times previously, or that I rolled my eyes at each time I got asked. And it did work - no more was I asked; “How’s college?” or “Do you work at a nail place?”. 

However, the older I got, and the more immersed I became with such a diverse industry, the less I wanted to hide it. So, I began to do my research, and I hope this article can shed some light on how our industry can help to break down these stereotypes and educate those around us. 

Firstly, where do these stereotypes originate? 

There are numerous accounts online of how some of the less savoury stereotypes began in the mid 1900’s, Reddit being a particular hot spot for opinions and accounts from both therapists and consumers. However, whilst the neon lit massage parlours are still a stereotype among certain demographics, I believe that from the mid noughties to now (2004-6 onwards) the predominant issue for a spa therapist was the belief that we are not intellectually gifted. 

Inspired by characters such as ‘Phoebe’ from ‘Friends’ (a show I never saw myself picking fault with until I began my degree!) whose ditzy, stereotypical ‘blonde’ persona (an issue in itself) popularised the massage therapist as someone who turned to the industry if they were not particularly gifted educationally. Low entry levels into colleges may be partially at fault too for the idea that all a spa therapist has in the way of education is an NVQ Level 2 or equivalent. Only requiring GCSE grades D-G to gain access to an NVQ Level 1 Beauty Therapist course, has perhaps led to a rise in those outside the industry believing we have only entered this profession because we couldn’t do any better and not taking into consideration our own desires and passions to be in such an exciting industry. 

Whilst I fully support everyone having the chance of a good education, regardless of the outcome of your GCSE’s, more needs to be implemented to encourage those who are passionate about the industry to step forward, and it not be down to those who believe it to be an easy way out. Single day courses in manicures, pedicures, deep tissue massage, and cupping (just to name a few) have also led to a rise in ill-qualified practitioners who are sold the belief that they can learn something in a daythat others will spend months trying to perfect. It is no wonder there is the image that spa therapy is not a difficult job, if we can seemingly learn a skill in a single day and become qualified! 

So, what can our industry do to change this?

From a college level, more needs to be done to ensure that massage therapy, beauty therapy, or spa therapy, are not considered to be the easy options. Being a therapist in any business requires passion, dedication, as well as physical and mental strength. How can we inspire and care for our guests if we cannot inspire and care for ourselves? As I mentioned, everybody deserves a chance to receive the best education possible, regardless of exam results. However, better advertising as to what these courses entail may deter students who have gained low grades as a result of little effort,  rather than those who have simply struggled within the traditional education system. 

Unfortunately, from a higher educational perspective, the International Spa Management degree was announced in October 2019 to be ceasing this September. No new students are being taken on from colleges to be trained to a Level 6 standard in the degree, which encompasses more than just the treatment aspect of a spa. Being the only Level 6 course to incorporate Business Management in a spa setting will surely result in fewer qualified managers who understand the breadth of what it takes to run a business. Business management to a Level 6 is a skill in which many college students will not be encouraged to train beyond, even if they choose to progress to NVQ Level 3. 

Although I can understand why the course is ceasing, at least for the time being, our industry is crying out for therapists and many students are choosing to go straight into work at aged eighteen rather than start a three-year University course. I believe it will come back to some extent one day, however in the meantime it is now up to colleges to provide business management training within their NVQ’s. Level 3 advanced courses should be encouraged and it is up to us as an industry to ensure the right information is out there for the future generations of spa therapists, so that they are equipped with the right knowledge and are not led by the stereotypes. 

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Comments 2

Guest - emma on Tuesday, 19 May 2020 15:27

Interesting post - I didn't even realise this was a degree option. Makes me wish I'd had the option when I was studying.

PS - perhaps you mean the 1990s rather than the 1900s?

Interesting post - I didn't even realise this was a degree option. Makes me wish I'd had the option when I was studying. PS - perhaps you mean the 1990s rather than the 1900s? :)
Guest - Hannah Charlesworth on Wednesday, 20 May 2020 10:21

Yes there is a degree, but unfortunately it is now closed. In my research I did find some accounts of these unsavoury rumours beginning in the 1950s But the 90s did see an increase; apologies if there was confusion

Yes there is a degree, but unfortunately it is now closed. :( In my research I did find some accounts of these unsavoury rumours beginning in the 1950s :) But the 90s did see an increase; apologies if there was confusion
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Thursday, 01 October 2020