Shaping a Career Out of Making People Feel Beautiful: VIU Esthetics Grads Speak Out

The days fly by for Lindsay Jacobson and Melissa Saxby, estheticians at Breze Salon and Day Spa, who both love meeting new people and learning new things. They both found work right after finishing VIU’s Professional Esthetics program.

June 28, 2017 - 4:15pm

Employment prospects look good for graduates of the eight-month Professional Esthetics program, held at VIU’s Parksville-Qualicum campus

After spending her 20s working as a bartender, Lindsay Jacobson was tired of the late nights and ready to find her forever career.

The 34-year-old had taken a makeup course when she was 19 and loved the creativity and freedom of the profession, so she decided to pursue a career in the beauty industry with the help of Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Professional Esthetics certificate program. Estheticians perform a number of beauty-related services, from relaxation massages and skin care treatments, to manicures and pedicures. Students leave VIU’s eight-month program fully qualified and licensed to work as an esthetician.  

“I graduated in April 2014 and was hired at Breze Salon and Day Spa that week,” says Jacobson. “I’ve been working in the industry for more than two years now and I love it! Every day is different. You’re constantly learning to keep up with the latest industry trends, and I really enjoy making people feel good about themselves. It’s such a positive industry to work in!”

Melissa Saxby, 26, also a VIU Esthetics program alum and esthetician at Breze Salon, agrees that helping people is the best part of the job. She loves watching people transform after they enter the spa – if their shoulders relax and they stop checking their phones every few minutes, she feels like she’s done her job.

“The biggest compliment is if they fall asleep,” says Saxby. “I love that you get to meet people from all walks of life and no day is ever the same. You have to think on your feet and improvise, so you don’t get bored.”

Saxby and Jacobson graduated two years apart, but both of their graduating classes experienced 100% employment upon graduation, a trend that Lesley Osborne, Chair of the Esthetics program, says has been going strong in recent years.

“People in the industry know we are here and I’m getting emails all the time about job openings,” she says. “They are coming to us before students have a chance to go to them.”

Osborne believes a large part of the program’s success lies in how professional and well-trained students are when they finish. Students get more than 500 hours of real-life, hands-on, practical experience in the school’s spa at VIU’s Parksville Centre, which is open to the public, so students have the opportunity to work with real clients.

Amanda Lohman, Spa Manager at Courtenay’s Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa, says not only do VIU graduates have the basics needed to do the job, but they are also adaptable – a necessary trait in a constantly changing industry.

“We’ve hired quite a few VIU students and I have nothing but great things to say about the program. Because they have that strong foundation, they are successful,” she says. “I also appreciate that VIU is responsive to feedback from industry members.”

Lohman says there is a major shortage of qualified estheticians on the Island, and many spas are looking to programs like VIU’s to fill the need.

“I’ve spoken with other spa managers as well, and we are just not seeing as many resumes as we have in the past,” says Lohman.

Paulina Alexander, Spa Director for the Grotta Spa at Parksville’s Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre, is also struggling to fill her ranks and constantly looking to VIU for future employees.

“We are seeing a decline in resumes, and with summer upon us, our team isn’t as large as we had anticipated it would be,” says Alexander, whose daughter attended the VIU Esthetics program and now works at the Grotto Spa. “A career in esthetics should be considered for so many reasons! Supporting others to look and feel their best is an extremely rewarding path. It also offers a lot of flexibility to allow for family balance, generous wages and opportunities for continued growth and development.”

Alexander’s daughter, Stephanie, says the VIU program gave her the confidence to apply at a top spa and feel like she would be a real asset to the team.

“Working as an esthetician doesn’t feel like a job; it feels like a gift!” she says. “Every day I see new faces and hear new stories. I am taking care of people and adding to their personal well-being in a meaningful way, which brings me joy and job satisfaction, too.”

Osborne says the program is a good foundation for lots of different careers – many students go on to take further education that allow them to branch out in other areas such as the medical esthetics industry. The program is still accepting applicants for the August intake. To learn more, visit the Professional Esthetics homepage.



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Our Alumni