Everything you need to know about becoming an esthetician

An esthetician is a licensed skincare professional who specializes in applying and administering cosmetic treatments to the skin. Although they are not medical professionals, these skincare experts perform cosmetic procedures and provide services to improve and enhance the skin’s appearance.

What does an esthetician do?

Estheticians evaluate a person’s skin, their skincare routine, and sometimes their diet, in order to determine the best course of action to enhance the skin’s appearance. They administer treatments such as facials, body wraps, scrubs, microdermabrasion, hair removal, and chemical peels. 

In some states, estheticians are also licensed to perform body contouring, laser treatments, and the application of permanent makeup. While much of an esthetician’s work is focused specifically on the face, estheticians can evaluate and treat skin from head to toe. 

Another aspect of an esthetician’s job includes advising their clients about which skincare products should be used to maintain healthy skin. They often sell skincare products and work to tailor at-home skincare regimens to their client’s needs. Upon evaluation of a client’s skin, an esthetician may also refer people to a dermatologist or other physician as necessary for medical treatments.

Estheticians often work in spas, salons, and barbershops with other personal care professionals like manicurists and cosmetologists. Although they cannot diagnose medical conditions or prescribe medications, estheticians often work in a supplemental or support role alongside medical professionals like dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons in private practice.

How do you become an esthetician?

In the US, educational and licensing requirements vary by state, but all estheticians must complete a state-approved education program which may include between 300 and 1,500 hours of coursework. Many education programs for estheticians also require the completion of an apprenticeship.

Education programs for estheticians are most often completed at trade schools with beauty-specific programs such as massage therapy schools or cosmetology schools, as well as in some colleges

In most states, estheticians must pass one or more certification exams — both written and practical — in order to obtain a professional license to practice. Once licensed, many states require that continuing education courses be completed periodically in order to stay up-to-date with new and updated training for services, techniques, and products used regularly by estheticians.

What skills do you need to become an esthetician?

A thorough understanding of the biology of the skin and how it reacts to certain treatments including chemical peels, scrubs, and serums are necessary for estheticians. Physically speaking, an esthetician should be comfortable getting hands-on with their clients in order to apply treatments and perform skin care services.

As they will work directly with clients who may be experiencing issues with their skin to counsel them about proper skincare, estheticians should possess the ability to communicate clearly and with empathy. Interpersonal skills like patience, compassion, and flexibility are also key to providing high levels of customer service.

Estheticians must know how to clean, care for, and maintain all equipment and instruments necessary to perform the treatments that they provide, such as microabrasion machines, extraction instruments, and wax application tools. Estheticians should also know how to properly use the chemicals involved in the treatments they administer.

What is the average salary for an esthetician?

The average salary for an esthetician was $41,230 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

However, the earning potential for estheticians is actually higher than the reported average, as salaries can vary greatly depending on prior experience, specialization, and location. Those who work in physician’s offices, in private practice, and high-end hotel spas typically earn more than estheticians employed in salons, barbershops, or local day spas.

Estheticians who work in metropolitan areas typically earn much more than those in rural or suburban areas, with the top-earning metropolitan-based estheticians making an average of $117,330 in 2020, per the BLS.

What is the typical career path for an esthetician?

Some cosmetology programs offer concurrent enrollment for high school students who wish to start their career path to become an esthetician prior to graduation. Other programs require a high school diploma or GED be obtained prior to enrollment.

Estheticians who wish to specialize in one area of expertise, such as waxing or permanent makeup application, may require additional training outside of their state’s education requirements. Often though, an esthetician who specializes in a specific area of skincare service can achieve a higher salary than those who do not.

Once an esthetician is licensed in their state, they can work either directly for an employer or as an independent contractor. According to the BLS, 28% of skincare specialists were self-employed in 2016. Estheticians can also work in their own private practices in a dual role as both a business owner and skincare service provider.

When employed at a physician’s office, salon, or similar, additional on-the-job training may also be required for some estheticians by their employer in order to learn the specific processes and procedures used in that particular workplace. Regardless of where they work, it’s common for estheticians to work in the evenings and on weekends in order to accommodate their client’s needs. 

The BLS predicts that the job market for skincare specialists is projected to grow by 17% over the next decade, which is good news for those looking to become an esthetician.