Inside Scoop From a Massage Therapist at a Resort Spa

Have you ever thought about getting a job as a massage therapist at a resort or spa? We wondered what it’s like working at an exclusive resort, so we interviewed a massage therapist on the inside! Our contact wished to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her Brenda. She works at a posh golf resort that caters to the rich and famous, and was willing to give us this inside scoop.


Massamio: What kind of bodywork do you do, and what are your hours like?

Brenda: At the resort spa where I work, we mostly do a lot of deep tissue and Swedish, along with some aromatherapy (pre-formulated blends), prenatal, reflexology, and lots of couples massages. The spa also offers hot stones, but on the menu it is called [something else] and only a few therapists are trained for that. So, even though I can do stone massages, I don’t do them there. We also do a few scrubs, etc.

We do 50-minute or 75-minute sessions, and generally our shifts are 8 hours (sometimes 9). Official policy is to give us a 30-minute lunch, but we do not always get a full 30 minutes to sit down. Sometimes you get more than 30 minutes, but it depends on a lot of things out of our control.

The schedule “rules”… even if you feel like a client could benefit from an extra 5 minutes of neck work, you may not have that flexibility to give it to them, because you only have a few minutes (sometimes 2 or 3 min) to get the room cleaned up and ready for the next appointment. I guess that’s not unique to a resort environment, but I think new MTs need to realize how time-focused this environment can be.

Even if there’s no massage client coming into your room for the next hour, your client may have a facial or nails scheduled next, and you can’t give them extra massage time because if they are late, the estheticians and nail techs will get behind schedule. Maybe this should be obvious, but after working in a resort spa for several years with a whole bunch of massage therapist co-workers, I can tell ya….. it isn’t obvious.

I work part-time, generally 2 or 3 days a week. The full-time employees sometimes work 7 or 8 days at a stretch. The spa is open on holidays.

Massamio: How did you find your position at a resort?

Brenda: I had heard of the resort, but didn’t know anyone who worked there. So I just went online and applied through their website, and was called in for an interview with HR. They, in turn, had me go in to the spa and meet with a manager. Then, of course, they scheduled me to give a massage to one of my potential co-workers, who then gave the manager their opinion of my work. Then it was probably two or three weeks before I actually started working, since the spa was owned by a big corporation and they had to go through their red tape to hire someone.

Massamio: Have you worked as an independent massage therapists or at a shared practice before? What are the differences between resort work and a more traditional office setting?

Brenda: Well, I’ve been a massage therapist for almost 11 years, and I’ve probably had more than my share of jobs…mostly 2 or 3 at a time. I’ve got my own little office now, and I’ve also started working at a little spa down the road (independent contractor for their clients, very sporadic part-time). So I’m back up to 3 jobs. (Even most of my full-time coworkers at the resort have 2nd jobs.)

I’ve had a couple of full-time-employee gigs: one was in a hair salon/dayspa and one was in a medi-spa environment. And I’ve been an IC (part time) at some multi-therapist practices.

Offhand, some differences: the resort provides uniform shirts and there is a dress code for what pants we wear, etc, although it varies on how much it’s enforced. One office where I worked, we wore scrubs, but it didn’t matter what color.

At the resort, they have people to do the laundry and order our oils, etc., (though sometimes we run out of things and have to scrounge for supplies). At most of the other places I’ve worked, we had to do the laundry and some places we provided our own oils. And of course, they offer many other services besides massage: hair, nails, facials, etc., and many massage clinics don’t have that.

Other offices where I worked, we had to handle the checkin-checkout-payment transactions. At the resort, they have receptionists to take care of that, which is nice.

It’s nice to be able to tell the clients about the amenities that are available, and to encourage them to try them out. We don’t have as much time as I would like for transitioning them out of our massage room and on to their next service, though. The schedule is “king.”

Massamio: What are the advantages of working at a resort?

Brenda: The resort is meant to be a fancy, high-end, exclusive environment. Where I work, they are famous for their golf, and you occasionally work on well-known people: golfers, people from TV sports programs, other athletes, and the occasional celebrity. Some of them expect special treatment and some of them are just like anyone else.

Although the resort may have a lot of nice amenities, we as employees are not allowed to use some of them. There are restaurants where we are not allowed to eat, and we are not allowed to use the workout facilities or the running trails. We can use the golf course on a limited basis, but I am not a golfer so I’ve never done that. I don’t know if other resorts have limitations like that, or if they are more open to their employees using the facility.

When there is severe weather, sometimes the resort will offer employees a place to stay so that they will be able to be there for work the next day. The resort runs 24/7, 365 days a year, through rain/snow/gloom of night, like they used to say about the post office. Last winter, we had an unexpected snowstorm and I spent the night. It was the off season, so I had a condo all to myself… bigger than my apartment. Then I was right there for work the next day.

Sometimes at a resort you may have a chance to take classes that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to take. My co-workers took Elaine Stillerman’s prenatal class and a few years ago, they brought in Tom Cochran to teach us LomiLomi. We didn’t have to pay.

Massamio: What advice would you give an MT who wants to work at a resort and is willing to pick up and move anywhere? How should they get started?

Well, with the resources we have now with Facebook, Google and company websites, not to mention MT discussion groups, I’d say they could ask around online and see if they can find someone who has worked at the resort they are considering. Contact them and see what they might be willing to share with you.

In general, I’d suggest that they research it a lot, and also talk to some other massage therapists and holistic practitioners in that town or that part of the state. Find out whether the general climate is open to massage, health, healing, wellness.

Generally, I would tell them to keep in mind that a resort can be a nice environment where other people handle the reservations/checkin/checkout, and the resort may offer some nice options like workout facilities and restaurants (if you are allowed to take advantage of them). But also keep in mind that you may be working 50-minute sessions for hours on end. They should find out whether the work is seasonal… summer is our crunch time, fall is iffy, and the winter is super slow.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot about the tourists! You work on a lot of clients who are just passing through. Sometimes they will return next year on their vacation, and request you for their massage, and sometimes I’ve had an opportunity to refer them to a therapist I know in another state.

Thanks to our friend who shared her story! Have you ever thought about working at a spa or resort? Does it sound like a good fit for you, or not? Share your experiences and questions in the comments below!

Comments from original Massamio post:

No thanks. I am pretty independent. Although I would like to have my own table set up on a beach somewhere.
Thanks for the helpful article.   :-} Ruth  — Posted @ Tuesday, December 10, 2013 9:10 AM by Ruth Armstrong

I work at a golf resort as well, and it it quite different than this! We have excellent management. I have 30 min. between clients (at my request) full 60 or 90 minute sessions.Love my job! — Posted @ Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:22 PM by Gael Wood

I did some moonlighting at a spa for several years, and one thing that Brenda sees as a limitation, I see as an important lesson: you can NEVER allow your session to run late. MT’s have a habit of keeping clients late and offering extra work on problem spots, which I have always seen as a problematic behavior. There is only so much we can do in a a given time frame, and we need to make treatment plans and manage our time accordingly. I see this as an important ethical boundary, but one that is hard to maintain in this kind of caretaking profession. Working at a spa, even with all of the other professional challenges like those Brenda brings up, made me better at holding this line. — Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 1:15 PM by Emily Bilodeau