How to Become an Esthetician in 5 Steps

An esthetician is a beauty professional who works in the skincare field. Estheticians offer various beauty services, including facials, makeup applications, waxing and hair removal. Read about five steps to entering this career, including completing a training program and becoming state licensed. Schools offering Esthetics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Esthetician?

An esthetician is a beauty professional who focuses on skin and skincare. They consult with clients about their skincare needs, recommend beauty procedures, examine a patient's skin condition, apply lotion and makeup, perform skin treatments, offer post-treatment skincare advice, and make referrals to medical professionals. The treatments they provide include microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, waxing, chemical peels, body wraps and eyebrow tinting. Maintenance duties include sterilizing equipment, cleaning a work area, and keeping client records.

Education Required certificate or diploma
Education Field of Study Esthetics, skincare technology
Key Skills Analyzing and cleaning skin, applying skin treatments, discussing skincare options with clients
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12%*
Median Salary (2015) $30,090*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step One: Earn a High School Diploma

Most states require you to have at least a high school diploma or GED to work as an esthetician. Although they aren't a replacement for a postsecondary education, courses in cosmetology or beauty can get you started in the field. Biology or other life science courses can help you understand the physical properties of skin, and art courses can assist in the development of your aesthetic abilities.

Step Two: Earn an Esthetician or Cosmetology Certificate

Private beauty schools and community colleges offer esthetician certificate programs. Some are cosmetology programs with an esthetician emphasis. In addition to skin treatments and massage techniques, you can expect to take courses involving skin health. This might include anatomy and physiology, skin diseases, reflexology, and health and nutrition. Some programs might also touch on business topics, such as marketing, bookkeeping and management. Certificate programs may be completed in a year or less.

Step Three: Work an Apprenticeship

Many states give you the option to apply for an apprenticeship with an esthetician. Under this arrangement, you learn by observing your mentor as they care for clients and perform esthetician procedures. As of 2015, most states required esthetician apprenticeships to last 600 hours; the longest was 1,200 hours and the shortest was 300 hours.

Step Four: Obtain an Esthetician License

Each state has slightly different licensing standards, but they typically stipulate that you must be a high school graduate and have completed an approved training program or apprenticeship. You must then pass a licensing exam for skincare specialists. Some states may require you to renew your license every few years. License applications usually require payment of a fee.

Step Five: Build a Clientele

You can find clients through word of mouth by performing treatments on friends and relatives, through relationships, or by working in a beauty salon, spa or resort. Other employment possibilities include working in nursing homes, and the offices of plastic surgeons and dermatologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 55,000 people worked as skincare specialists in 2014 (www.bls.gov). By 2024, employment was projected to increase 12% to 61,600.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

For individuals interested in beauty treatments beyond skin care, they may want to look into becoming barbers or hairdressers - two jobs that primarily involve cutting and styling men's and women's hair. Another option is becoming a manicurist or pedicurist, a job that involves working on people's hands and feet. Massage therapy is another alternative route. Massage therapists provide relief to clients who have muscle pain or need relaxation. All of these positions require formal training and state licensure or certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Steiner Education Group

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    • Maryland: Linthicum
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  • Westside Tech

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  • West Georgia Technical College

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    • Georgia: Waco
  • W Academy of Salon and Spa

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    • California: Danville
  • Victoria's Academy of Cosmetology

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    • Washington: Kennewick
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

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    • Georgia: Valdosta
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    • Wisconsin: Greenfield