Paired with massage, professionals exponentially expand their opportunities for career growth by being able to dabble—or go full time—in a popular service field. Learn how getting your cosmetology license or estheticians license as a massage therapist is extremely beneficial.

LaTasha Cotton loves being dually licensed in the spa industry. ​

In fact, she has multiple licenses for two states—a cosmetology license and massage licenses for Texas and Louisiana.

As the owner of Pamper Palace Spa in Monroe, Louisiana, Cotton says knowing all the skills necessary to run an entire spa opened a whole new world. Her first experience in the spa world stemmed from her cosmetology license.

Under a cosmetology license, practitioners can offer hair, skin and nail services. Cotton’s business is a full-service massage studio and salon.

“I was able to use every single part of my license in a spa; (as I moved on), I felt like I would love to do that in my own business,” said Cotton, who has worked for chiropractors, massage franchises and luxury hotels. “The opportunities are endless when you’re dually licensed.”

Even from the start, Cotton says her dream career included being a spa owner. Five years into her work, she wanted a massage license too.

She believed an added license padded her knowledge as a practitioner and would only benefit her later as an owner. Years later, massage is her favorite spa offering to provide to clients.

“I get to really, really see results every day,” she said of massage.

And while she loves massage, esthetics comes in at a close second.

Cotton remarked the only reason she found a new love in esthetics is because she was able to practice it under the cosmetology umbrella. One day on the job, an esthetician co-worker called out and Cotton stepped from her massage room into the facial room with ease.

​If she’d only been a massage therapist, the spa would have lost a client that day due to a lack of service providers.

For her, she’s found only upsides to having an extra license including savings on her liability insurance. (Massage Magazine Insurance Plus allows massage therapists, bodyworkers, cosmetologists and estheticians be covered for 350+ services as well as dual licensed professionals for only $159 a year.)

“It afforded me a lot of different opportunities,” she said. “When I wake up every day, I can’t think of doing anything better.”

Offering multiple services allows Cotton to assist clients in multiple ways that she couldn’t with just a massage license. It also gave her a surprising confidence boost as well as being able to do the jobs of multiple people, she admitted.

An extra license has also allowed her bubbly personality to shine, she said.

“My favorite part of being dually licensed is have having the flexibility in my day that it brings and being able to let all aspects of my personality shine through my work as a therapist, nail tech and esthetician,” said Cotton.

“As a therapist, I get to be calm and in my place of zen. As a nail tech, I get to talk and be more personable and creative with clients,” she said.

“As an esthetician, I can be a little spicy and laid back at the same time. In all of the things I do, I get to educate people.”

Cosmetology Vs. Esthetics

No matter the extra credential, one goal of additional licensing in the spa industry is to open new revenue streams. Whether in esthetics or cosmetology, the chance to step outside of the massage room is an outlet for growth.

Between now and 2026, the job outlook for skincare specialists is expected to grow by 14 percent while the cosmetology field will grow by 13 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Paired with massage, professionals exponentially expand their opportunities for career growth by being able to dabble—or go full time—in a popular service field.

A majority of cosmetologists work in the personal care services field, where creativity reigns. Cosmetologists can cut and color hair, do nails, apply makeup and more. Cosmetologists, who often work in salons, may also go freelance, working as wedding stylists, salon owners or image consultants.

Unique job opportunities beyond salons include fashion show stylist, platform artist, instructor, artistic director and more. Cosmetology licenses encompass skin care as well, allowing cosmetologists to perform all the same duties as an esthetician.

Estheticians, on the other hand, focus solely on the largest organ of the body: the skin. Job duties include facial work, but the body as well, including body wraps, sugaring and waxing. Paired with massage, it allows therapists to focus on the skin and any issues a client may not have considered.

Beyond a basic license, estheticians with a master esthetician license allows professionals to gain work in dermatology and plastic surgeons’ offices as well as salons and spas.

Under esthetics specifically, students can receive a basic or master’s license within their state. For cosmetology, a state license is required. Both fields also have a national component that is not required, but it makes it easier for those who move out-of-state frequently, like military spouses.

Each state requires a different number of hours fulfilled prior to passing a final exam.

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Growth and Opportunity

The spa industry is booming. In 2016, a study released by the International SPA Association (ISPA) U.S. Spa Industry reported a record number—184 million—of spa visits.

The high number of spa guests means a need for more employees who are experienced and, ideally, cross-trained for various spa treatments, including massage, skin care and more.

Branching into skin care or cosmetology opens a variety of paths on the spa career path. Estheticians may work in settings like schools, medical spas, private spas, resorts and beyond. Cosmetologists have the same wide-open opportunities as well.

“Having double licenses is very important in our present society,” said Elena Zabala, owner and founder of EZ Wellness Institute Esthetics & Massage School.

“The benefit of having more than one license is a necessity these days ... not only will your customer trust your judgment more, but you will be able to offer a plethora of treatments, which will increase your financial freedom.”

Zabala said most of her students seek training that later allows them to open their own business. Just as important as passing the licensure exam is finding a professional environment to gain experience right after graduation, she said.

An extra licensure has only helped students beyond her school, Zabala adds. While it may seem arduous to add extra coursework, most students don’t regret having more education to fall back on.

“I encourage my students to take a leap of faith and further their education,” she explains. “Since they are already dedicated to becoming a professional in the art of healing, they should think strongly about adding massage therapy to their esthetics courses or visa-versa.”

Beyond the Norm  

Dual licenses in the spa industry increases a therapist’s marketability factor, no matter where one works. 

Additionally, as a dually licensed professional, practitioners don’t have to worry if a body wrap or similar services fall outside their scope of practice. Moving from facial to massage to waxing allows for a cohesive treatment session for both the client and the professional.

While adding esthetics or cosmetology licenses atop of a massage license can be useful, it’s only as useful as the end application.

Adding any type of formal education to one’s massage license is a smart idea only if it’s used, advises Kamillya Hunter, owner of Spa Analytics, which advises massage practices and spas on topcis including marketing and business.

Hunter, a former massage therapist, guides spa owners in finding and developing their brand.

“It doesn’t have to be so black and white where you only do work inside the treatment room and not outside,” said Hunter, who believes in thinking outside the box.

She’s a firm believer in using natural gifts as well.

“People working in the spa, they need to diversify their opportunities," she said. "Chances are people have more talents beyond their hands.”

Some spa professionals may have their goals set higher, and that doesn’t necessarily call for additional hands-on skills. To move into management, having a strong business acumen is often mandatory, Hunter said.

“Don't limit yourself just to learning the hands-on skills, expand beyond that. Maybe take a marketing course—something you could get certified in,” she explained. “If you get certified in graphic design, that could be [a lot of] help [at] a spa.”

Above all, even if someone has extra certifications and every spa license, it’s not a guarantee that the money will follow.

“The only thing that’s going to earn people more money is if they ask for it,” said Hunter. “You have to explain why you’re worth it.”

Find Your License

No matter the industry, proper licensure is a must for professionals. It also serves as protection for the client and professional. After earning a license, renewing it and continuing education allows spa professionals to keep up with new and emerging trends in the industry.

For esthetics, students can receive a basic or master’s license. For cosmetology, a state license is required. Both fields also have a national component that is not required, but it makes it easier for those who move out-of-state frequently, like military spouses.

Each state requires a different number of hours fulfilled prior to passing a final exam.

Learn about your state’s requirements through MASSAGE Magazine’s sister company, Elite Beauty Society.

Back to School

After earning a license, renewing it and continuing education allows spa professionals to keep up with an ever-changing industry. It also serves as protection for the client and professional. (A Massage Magazine Insurance Plus policy includes 200+ hours of free online continuing education courses that are National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork-approved.)

Under esthetics specifically, students can receive a basic or master’s license within their state. For cosmetology, a state license is required. Both fields also have a national component that is not required, but it makes it easier for those who move out-of-state frequently, like military spouses.

Each state requires a different number of hours fulfilled prior to passing a final exam; and it’s recommended to check the accreditation of beauty and esthetician schools before applying.

High Standards

As with most industries, staying on top of education will set your career up for success.

“It’s so important, because things change so rapidly in our fields [and] if you don't keep up you will be left behind,” said Cotton.

“As a business owner it's my responsibility to be current on what's new and trending and what works and doesn't,” Cotton said. “You should never stop learning in the spa industry; there is so much knowledge left to gain.”

The quality of work should also satisfy the employer and client. No matter how many skills a professional may have, if the work is subpar, staying employed can be difficult.

“Anyone will tell you in business there’s no such thing as an indispensable employee,” said Susanne Warfield, executive director of the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA).

She agrees that dual licenses can be helpful, but advised that quality always matters: “The more you know, the more services you can offer. Not that you want to have 20 services [performed poorly] as opposed to having 10 services and doing them well.”

Warfield, who has worked nearly 40 years in the esthetics industry, is a huge proponent of further education for those in the spa world.

Estheticians who study for national certification offered through NCEA take the equivalent of a 1,200-hour licensing program. She encourages a national license for all estheticians, no matter how much experience they have, because of NCEA’s extended and thorough curriculum.

“You’re a better trained esthetician," she said of national certification. “It also increases mobility state to state [and] the more you know, the better off you are.”

About the Author

Seraine Page is an award-winning journalist based out of Southwest Florida. She enjoys writing about health, wellness and travel. Her work has been published in Discover Kitsap, AAA Journey Magazine, DAYSPA Magazine, SANDBOXX and others. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including, “Pain Relief for Palliative Care: You Can Become Certified in this Speciality.”

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