Estheticians go by many names. They may be called a skin care specialist, skin care technician, aesthetician or medical esthetician. However, regardless of their title, they all perform similar duties:
- Evaluating clients' skin and recommending appropriate treatments and products.
- Removing unwanted hair through waxing, laser treatments or other methods.
- Cleaning skin and applying skin care products.
- Advising clients on makeup application and skin care regimens.
- Identifying skin care conditions that may require a referral to a specialist such as a dermatologist.
Some estheticians provide a variety of skin care services while others focus their work in a particular area such as facials or waxing. In general, most estheticians fall into one of the following two broad categories:
- Spa estheticians may be employed by salons and spas to provide beauty services such as facials, hair removal and skin treatments. These professionals may also provide complementary therapies such as aromatherapy.
- Medical estheticians often work in conjunction with doctors and other health care professionals. They may work primarily with patients who are recovering from surgery, illness or another medical event.
How to Become an Esthetician
You'll need the right training and certification to work as a skin care specialist. That means following these steps to become an esthetician.
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Complete a state-approved training program. Most states regulate the work of skin care technicians, and you'll need to attend an esthetician school that meets your state's requirements.
- Obtain state licensure. After graduating from a training program, you may have to pass an additional exam to be licensed in your state.
- Keep skills current. Attending continuing education classes, seminars and workshops are important to staying relevant in the workplace as skin care products and treatments evolve.
While studying how to become an esthetician, you will learn about the following topics:
- Sanitation and Client Safety
- Skin Care and Facial Techniques
- Hair Removal
- Makeup Application
Esthetician Certificate Programs and Degrees
Most training programs for estheticians result in either a certificate or diploma. While both teach the fundamentals of the field, some states may require a particular level of education for licensure. Associate degrees are also available at some colleges. Here's a closer look at each option.
- Certificate: An esthetician certificate program may be the fastest way to enter the field, with some only requiring a single semester of full-time study. Students learn about anatomy, skin analysis, hair removal, makeup application and more.
- Diploma: A diploma program may take longer to complete although most can still be done within a year. The additional time allows students to delve into more advanced topics such as light therapies, microdermabrasion and body treatments. Some programs also include instruction in complementary fields such as nail care.
- Associate Degree: Associate degrees in esthetics are not as common, but they are offered at some schools. Typically, you'll find them as cosmetology degrees that have an emphasis in esthetics. These two-year programs can be a good choice for those who want an education in other cosmetology services as well as skin care.
Beauty schools, community colleges and vocational schools may all offer esthetics programs. When it comes to esthetician school costs, you can expect to pay at least $5,000 or more in tuition at many schools. Training programs offered at community colleges may be less expensive than those at private institutions. Regardless of the school, look for financial aid options that can offset costs.
You can also attend esthetician school online. However, even distance education programs may have clinical courses to be completed in person. These on-campus classes may be required to meet state licensure rules.
Esthetician Licensure and Certification
After graduating from an approved program, estheticians generally need to pass a state licensure exam before they can begin working. This exam may have both written and practical portions. Check with your state's licensing board for details on what is required and how to apply for licensure.
Some organizations also offer voluntary certification programs for estheticians. For instance, the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA) offers an NCEA Certified designation that indicates a person has met advanced training standards. The training and application process takes approximately 4-6 weeks, and applicants can test for this esthetician certification online.
Career Advancement for Estheticians
Skin care technicians often advance their careers by taking continuing education classes and learning new skills. They may also specialize in a particular area, such as oncology esthetics, to open up new employment opportunities.
Skills and Qualities for Estheticians
Think you have what it takes to become an esthetician? You might if you have the following skills and abilities that are critical to the success of a skin specialist's work.
- Speaking: Estheticians need to be able to communicate clearly to clients to explain treatments, recommend products and answer questions.
- Active Listening: In addition to speaking ability, estheticians must be good listeners. They must be able to give clients their full attention to understand their concerns and requests.
- Finger Dexterity: From using makeup brushes to massaging skin, estheticians need to be able to flex and grasp easily with their fingers.
- Arm-Hand Steadiness: Just as skin care specialists need finger dexterity, they also must have steady hands, particularly when applying makeup or skin care products.
- Selective Attention: To do their job well, estheticians need to be able to avoid distractions and give their full attention to a client.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Estheticians
Before embarking on any new career, it's good to know the expected job growth and income potential of your chosen occupation. Esthetician salary figures vary depending on a person's education, experience and expertise. However, the numbers below offer a look at nationwide averages. Meanwhile, job opportunities for skin care technicians can also vary across the country. This table also shows the expected growth for the career nationwide in the years to come.
Projected Job Growth
Professional Resources for Estheticians
Several organizations provide career, education and professional resources for estheticians. They include the following:
- Associated Skin Care Professionals - As the largest professional organization for skin care specialists, ASCP represents more than 16,000 estheticians, students and educators.
- American Association of Master Estheticians - This organization serves advanced estheticians who often work in medical settings. The AAME offers workshops, seminars and online education opportunities for skin care technicians.
- American Association of Cosmetology Schools - On the AACS website, you can find a breakdown of the minimum educational hours required by each state for licensure.