By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun
More than 3.2 million Canadians visited spas last year, according to industry group Premier Spas of Ontario. So it's small wonder the demand for estheticians is booming.
"I have more jobs than I have graduates," says Dale Peers, co-ordinator of the two-year esthetician program at Toronto's Seneca College. "The spa industry seems to be growing exponentially."
Dale Peers, right, co-ordinator of the two-year esthetician program at Seneca College, says every student has to work in Evolutions, the on-campus spa that's open to the public and students.
Seneca's is just one of many programs offered around the GTA, including the public Sheridan College in Oakville and the private Elmcrest College in Toronto.
Seneca has two full-time intakes, says Peers, one in September and another in January. September enrollees complete their diploma in two academic years; those who enrol in January study without a break for 16 months, graduating along with those who began their studies four months earlier.
In total, Seneca takes 90 students and the program is oversubscribed. Peers says there were more than 400 applicants for the 60 places available last September. Everyone has to write an English test, and a valid standard first-aid certificate with CPR endorsement is required. Tuition fees are about $2,200 a year.
Not only do students learn about anatomy -- hands, feet, skin -- and the various esthetician's skills such as waxing, but they also have to study nutrition and health and computer applications. They also learn how to write a business plan, how to sell and how to market themselves, among other subjects.
Would-be estheticians at Seneca also have to learn to be comfortable touching other people or being touched themselves, Peers cautions. She says information about physical proximity and the various states of undress clients are in while receiving treatments are covered during the college's orientation nights.
Perhaps it need not be said that 99% of Peers' students are female, although she recalls this year she had a male graduate who has since returned to Korea and gotten married. The range of Seneca's students runs from high school graduate to career changer.
There aren't any field placements for trainee esthetician students at Seneca, although Peers says every student has to work in Evolutions, the on-campus spa that's open to the public, students and faculty.
Holly Sherrard, a 2001 graduate of the Seneca program, developed her interest in working as an esthetician while going to a spa in her native New Brunswick.
Estheticians are in high demand at independent spas and salons and at resorts in cottage country.
More than 3.2 million Canadians visited a spa last year.
Many colleges in the GTA, public and private, offer programs for estheticians.
Estheticians are not regulated in Ontario, although more and more employers require college diplomas.
Pay starts around $30,000 a year plus commission and tips.
After moving to Toronto, Sherrard -- who attended the University of New Brunswick -- says she looked at a number of schools.
"I really wanted a well-rounded program," says Sherrard, who graduated first in her class and who points out she found the Seneca program put her "so much farther ahead than my colleagues" in her first jobs.
Sherrard has moved on from being an esthetician and now teaches others at The International Dermal Institute in Toronto, a post-graduate career school. "I couldn't have wished for a better career," she says.
It's difficult to say how much estheticians earn. Peers says $12 to $14 is about the hourly rate but there's also commissions on sales and services, say 10%. And then there are tips, which of course, can vary widely.
Strangely, not all the best jobs for estheticians are in Toronto, either. Peers points out there are excellent opportunities in
independent spas out of the city and still more in spas attached to the more prominent resorts in cottage country.
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