Aesthetician Certification & Technical Schools Guide

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Aestheticians are in a profession that is at once fun, challenging, and growing. Those who pursue this as a career path will find that they have many options available for them. Some may take a more therapeutic, clinical, and medical route while others may choose to work in a beachfront, spa setting. That is to say that aestheticians are a rather common profession found all over the nation.

In fact, the position is ever-growing. The BLS shows that the profession is slated for a growth rate characterized as much faster than average. Aestheticians also earn a good salary which they can grow as large as they like when they become independent entrepreneurs. This is but one of many viable professions available in the marketplace. If you are just starting out or are thinking of starting over, consider this fun, challenging, and worthwhile profession.

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What is the difference between an aesthetician and an esthetician?

These two terms, aesthetician and esthetician, may sound alike and have other meaningful similarities, but they are quite distinct. While both professions seek to help people look their best, aestheticians work in a medical environment. Estheticians, on the other hand, work in spas and salons to help people express their beauty. While both professions are attained by way of certifications, medical aestheticians have their own special training that enables them to work in a clinical environment, such as a doctor's office or hospital. While both professions are engaged with skin care, hair removal, and a range of helpful techniques, medical aestheticians can also work with patients whose skin may have been damaged by surgery or injury.

What Does an Aesthetician Do?


A medical aesthetician works in a clinical environment and helps patients with their various skin issues. The added training required to become a medical aesthetician allows these professionals to provide body treatments such as laser therapies, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, acid treatments, and various injections. There are few barriers to entry for a medical aesthetician.

In fact, most aestheticians don't have any background in dermatology or any other medical field. They may not have even worked in a salon or spa. Thus, to become an aesthetician all you need to do is have the willingness to work in very close proximity with patients, a desire to help them achieve their skin-care goals, and the determination to complete a certification program. Since aestheticians perform delicate treatments that involve harsh chemicals and injections, anyone considering the field should be confident in their level of comfort regarding these procedures.

Salon and spa aestheticians need similar training and comfort levels to provide their services. However, they are not as likely to encounter delicate cases such as people recovering from plastic surgery or who suffer some dramatic dermatological ailment. Non-medical aestheticians will probably need to have deeper knowledge of cosmetics and beautifying, skin care products.

Where Do Aestheticians Work?


Aestheticians can work in a variety of environments. Medical aestheticians in particular can work in a wide range of venue. That is, if they are licensed to practice as an aesthetician, they can work in a doctor's office, dermatological clinic, or even a relaxing resort spa. Many work as subcontractors under doctors who wish to expand their practice with a non-insurance, cash-based revenue stream. Others can bring their special skills and legally endorsed scope of practice to a spa, where clients may desire intensive treatments such as a chemical peel or Botox injections.

This field is ripe for entrepreneurial professionals. Some enjoy working as rather nomadic professionals who can work on tropical resorts, cruise ships, or medical offices in their Midwestern hometowns. With this in mind, this practice is perfect for younger people who wish to travel and explore at the same time that they develop a career.

Why Become an Aesthetician?


There are many reasons to become an aesthetician. One of the first reasons is that you wish to engage in a helping profession. You should also want to make your living by being in close, intimate contact with virtual strangers. After all, this practice can involve hair removal from delicate areas, applying chemicals to a person's face, and massaging skin. We mention this because not everyone is comfortable providing such services. Others are comfortable with this level of intimacy and seek the fantastic outcomes that result from the treatments.

Another reason to become an aesthetician is that you desire a career path that allows a great deal of creativity if you wish. Aestheticians can work in environments such as a doctor's office, fancy spas in elegant resorts, or even cruise ships. If you are a licensed aesthetician, you might even open your own business. If you like, you can team with a physician who needs to expand their practice, or you can start a spa of your own.

If you have a few friends who can offer services such as pedicures, manicures, massage, and hair styling you may have the beginnings of a terrific day spa. You might also be able to bring these services to clients where they work. The only limit to the possibilities is your imagination.

In fact, some aestheticians have created their own products that they market to other aestheticians or even to the retail market. This sort of entrepreneurial possibility can vastly increase your revenue stream and may even result in a skin care empire.

How to Become an Aesthetician


GED or High School Diploma


The baseline educational level you'll need to become an aesthetician is a high school diploma or a GED (general equivalency degree.) You'll need one of these diplomas in order to get an entry level job and community colleges and vocational institutes require them, too. If you wish to some day open your own business, you might want to combine your aesthetician training with an associate degree in business. You may especially want to study accounting so that you can manage your business expenses, including taxes.

If the GED option is unfamiliar, you may wish to explore that as a choice. Essentially, the GED is an exam that serves to test your knowledge and affirms that you have the knowledge that a typical high school graduate should have. If you are no longer in school and have neither a formal diploma nor a GED, you can take a course that will brush up your knowledge so that you can pass the test.

Salary and Job Outlook


Aestheticians are in a unique position. While many are regular employees who are hired to complete specific duties, others are independent entrepreneurs who make their own way. This makes measuring their salary and employment outlook a little difficult. However, Payscale.com reports that the average base salary for an aesthetician/esthetician is $15/hour, or around $34,000 per year. The pay range goes up to around $20, according to their statistics. The top yearly salary is shown to be $56,000 per year, which may come in the later part of one's career.

Payscale.com also tracks data for medical aestheticians, who are reported to earn an average annual salary of $39,000 and their total pay is in a range that goes as high as $58k/year. Their research also indicates that many aestheticians go on to become spa managers, medical assistants, or move into non-medical work as an aesthetician. Keep in mind that Payscale does not track information for aestheticians who work on an independent, entrepreneurial basis. Those who work for themselves may make more, or less. However, they will all be more able to make their own schedule and create an aesthetics practice that best suits them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for skincare specialists is just under $35,000. This figure is only bested by massage therapists, whom the BLS reports make a median salary of around $43,000. The BLS also projects that the long-term employment picture for skincare specialists is rather rosy. The predicted growth for that employment sector is 17% through the year 2029. Such high demand should also result in higher pay, especially for those with top credentials and experience. Massage therapists are also projected to enjoy a terrific growth rate of 21% through 2029.

Similar Careers


  • Massage Therapist:
    Depending on your state's regulations, you will probably need to earn a certificate to practice as a massage therapist. Most massage therapists work as independent business owners, but some work in a salon-style work environment. Others may work as employees of hotels, resorts, or cruise lines.
  • Manicurist / Pedicurist:
    You'll need a certificate to practice as a manicurist or pedicure specialist, also known as nail technicians. These professionals typically work in salons, but some do work as independent entrepreneurs. Some aestheticians and skin care technicians who open their own businesses will earn this added credential in case their nail technician is out or on vacation.
  • Physical Therapist:
    This profession requires a doctoral degree, but many practice as physical therapist assistants with a bachelor's degree, or less. This profession aims to help people recover from injuries, surgeries, or to regain mobility lost from any other malady.
  • Athletic Trainer:
    For those who love sports this is a terrific position. You may be part masseuse, part sports medicine practitioner, and part coach as you help athletes perform to their top potential. Athletic trainers are found working for teams that span from Little League through to the Big Leagues.

Education Requirements


To become an aesthetician, you must first earn a high school diploma or have a general equivalency degree (GED). If you are fresh out of high school, it may be a good idea to work for a year or two in a doctor's office or for a spa. This way you'll have experience in your industry and can make a more informed decision as to your career path.

When you're ready you will need to complete a certificate program. There are 600-hour programs available through local community colleges, trade school programs, school of cosmetology, and online institutes. Find a program that has the best reputation and is recognized by your state's Board of Cosmetology. To help make up your mind, take a look at what each program's graduates are doing with their diplomas.

You'll also need to be physically up to the job. That is, this job often entails long hours spent standing, bending over patients, and sometimes kneeling. You probably won't need to do much heavy lifting as part of the job, but these other tasks can be hard on one's knees, hips, and feet.

Necessary Skills


  • Friendly Demeanor:
    Since you'll work in such close proximity to people, it’s vital that you express a calm, friendly demeanor. Your clients may feel anxious so if you can put them at ease the session will be a success.
  • Organization:
    Not only will you need to have all of your tools handy when a client is in a session, but you'll have to organize your schedule. If you are invoicing people or an institution it is imperative that you remain on top of your billing schedule. Double billing can look unprofessional and if you miss an invoice you will lose money.
  • Medical Knowledge:
    Your specialty is the skin so it will be vital that you have a deep and professional level understanding of that huge organ.
  • Interpersonal Communication:
    You will need to have very good listening and speaking skills so that you can accurately interpret what people want from a skin treatment. You'll also need to be able to communicate details of the treatment you are about to provide. It will also be helpful if you can interpret body language in case someone is reticent to vocalize their discomfort.
  • Administrative Skills:
    If you choose to venture into your own business you will need to be able to perform duties involving accounting, invoicing, and scheduling. If your practice grows you may need to hire employees and thus manage their payroll, benefits, and maintain a comfortable working environment.

Aestheticians Training and Other Certification


To become an aesthetician, you will need to pass a training course that will satisfy the requirements of your state Board of Cosmetology. At the end of your aesthetician certificate course, you will need to pass written and practical examinations. Your course should be tailored towards that test so that if you have completed all of your assignments and projects that you should pass with flying colors. When you have finally met your state Board's requirements, they will license you to practice your profession in their state. First, however, you need to find a certification course.

These courses are commonly found through your local community college. You might also find courses available through a vocational school or an online institution. These certificate courses typically take around 600 hours. These hours are divided into classroom training in esthetics and then time spent in practical, hands-on training where you demonstrate the best application(s) of your knowledge. Though each state will have its own requirements, a general rule is that you'll spend 2/3 of your time in classroom instruction and the remaining 1/3 practicing what you've learned.

Once you have your license you may need to maintain that license by taking continuing education units (CEUs) or at least renewing your license. CEU courses may be provided by a national association for aestheticians or some other board-approved outlet. Make sure that if you take a course with the intention of renewing your license that it is approved by your state's Cosmetology Board.

Though not every state requires CEUs, they are sure to require renewal. This might involve little more than completing a form and paying a licensure fee. Regardless of your state's renewal requirements you should be sure to submit all of your paperwork in a timely fashion. Often if your renewal forms are late you may be fined or find that your license is suspended for a short time. Please consult with your state's Board of Cosmetology so that you are current with any changes to their regulations.

Finally, you might want to enhance your credentials with national certification. The National Coalition of Estheticians Association, for instance, offers a 4–6-week course that culminates in enhanced credentials. You will still need to maintain your state-level licensure wherever you live

Continuing Education


Continuing education is always a good idea, even if it's not a requirement of your state licensing board. You might decide to return for training in related areas such as massage therapy, cosmetology, or hair styling. If you can receive an additional license in a related area you can expand your services. When your practice is diversified, you'll have more options. For instance, if you open your own spa you might be able to fill in when someone is away on vacation. If you operate a one-person operation you can fill your schedule with a variety of clients.

If you practice in a physician's office, you might be interested in joining the medical community as a medical assistant or a nurse. In this case, you'll need to return to school for a new certificate or a degree. It's always a good idea to consider what your next career move will be and discover what additional education you'll need to accomplish your goals.

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