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Are you considering a career as an esthetician? Estheticians are skin care professionals, usually licensed by the state in which they work, who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to perform treatments that promote skin health and beauty. If you are interested in skin care products, as well as non-invasive procedures like waxing and peels, you may be well-suited for this profession. In addition to applying a wide variety of techniques to the epidermal layer of the human body, these professionals educate their clients on cleansing, diet, and the proper applications of products at home.

After completing all necessary training and licensing requirements, estheticians are likely to find employment at salons, beauty spas, physicians’ offices, and health and personal care stores. Approximately 28% of skincare specialists are self-employed. Working conditions vary, but professionals in this field should expect full-time schedules with evening and weekend hours. Clocking more than 40 hours a week is common, as is the need to stand for extended periods of time. Many must also wear protective clothing and ensure proper air ventilation, as there is some risk associated with the use of chemicals. This is a customer service profession, so interacting closely with other people is normal.

Outlook for this profession is well above average. According to data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for skincare specialists is projected to grow 29% from 2020 to 2030. This equates to approximately 10,100 job openings added each year. This increase reflects a high demand for skincare services among both women and men in order to reduce the effects of aging and to look good on social media platforms. The average base hourly rate for estheticians is $14.58, which is $38,916 a year.

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What Programs are Available for Estheticians?

Those interested in this field will need to complete a state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program. Additionally, prospective professionals are required to pass licensure exams in every state except Connecticut. Acceptable training and education is generally offered by community colleges, cosmetology schools, esthetician schools, and technical institutes. Prospective professionals can choose between completing certificate programs and earning associate degrees in cosmetology with an emphasis in esthetics.

Associate degree programs in cosmetology typically consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. In addition to general education classes, students will receive instruction pertaining to cosmetology-specific topics. Subjects covered often include dermatology, color chemistry, haircutting, and styling. Degrees that offer concentrations in esthetics will also include coursework related to skin disorders, hair removal, and nutrition. It’s important to realize that most programs will also require students to complete internships so they can practice under the supervision of licensed professionals.

While associate degree programs typically necessitate two years of study, some cosmetology certificates can be earned in as few as one to two semesters. Sometimes referred to as a diploma, these programs introduce students to the fundamentals of hair, skin, and nail care. In most cases, coursework is integrated with practical training. Many require at least 1,500 supervised training hours to ensure students qualify for licensure afterward. Graduates typically work as nail technicians, hair stylists, and skincare specialists.

Additionally, it’s possible to earn bachelor’s degrees in cosmetology. These are typically offered by private beauty schools and technical colleges. Bachelor’s degree programs consist of 120 credit hours of coursework, which generally takes full-time students four years to complete. Those with associate degrees from properly accredited institutions can, however, transfer course credits earned to four-year schools, effectively cutting graduation timeframes in half.

Prospective students may also benefit from earning undergraduate degrees in business or hospitality management. These majors will likely be most useful to graduates who plan to open their own salons or expect to apply for management positions at large resorts and spas. There are also business management degrees available that focus on cosmetology.

Those interested in this field should strive to identify their ultimate career goals early, as these will directly impact the type of training and education required.

What Will You Learn in an Esthetician Program?

The training to become an esthetician is much more in-depth than simply learning basic skincare. Students are also expected to master a wide variety of important concepts, such as sanitation and human physiology. Additionally, they must be prepared to follow all state and county laws. This is particularly important for those who plan to establish and manage their own private businesses.

In most cases, esthetician programs combine both theoretical knowledge and practical training. While a significant portion of time is spent in classrooms receiving instruction and watching demonstrations, all students are expected to practice their skills prior to graduation. The majority of schools start practical training with mannequins before allowing participants to work with human volunteers. Students are often awarded more freedom to work and experiment as they become comfortable with the various tools and products available.

It's also worth noting that esthetician programs typically take place during the day. There are, however, some that offer more flexible scheduling with evening and/or weekend classes. Prospective students should anticipate spending about 30 hours a week completing coursework and practicing their skills.

Every program is different and courses will vary even more between certificates and degrees, but some of the most common topics covered include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Ingredient Analysis
  • Facials and Cleansing
  • Toning
  • Message
  • Makeup Application
  • Hair Removal and Waxing
  • Marketing, Sales, and Salon Management
  • Safety, Sanitation, and Sterilization

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Skills Needed

Estheticians tend to be skilled in a wide variety of areas. As a large portion of these professionals in this field are self-employed, possessing strong initiative is essential. This is particularly true for business owners, as they are responsible for generating their own opportunities. Estheticians also tend to have good time-management, as well as physical stamina enough to spend most of their days standing. The three most important qualities, however, are likely business savvy, customer service, and tidiness.

Skincare specialists who own and/or manage their own salons benefit greatly from understanding general business principles. The most successful professionals will be skilled at completing administrative tasks, such as accounting and personnel management.

Customer service skills are also paramount. As their success often depends upon the satisfaction of their clients, estheticians must be friendly and courteous. Building strong relationships often leads to repeat business, which is particularly important for self-employed professionals.

Additionally, estheticians must be able to keep a neat personal appearance. This includes managing their work areas and ensuring the space is clean and sanitary. Not only does this create a more appealing atmosphere, but it ensures the health and safety of their clients.

Financing and Scholarships

Paying for an esthetician certificate or associate degree can be expensive. Fortunately, students can apply for field-specific scholarships. While loans must be paid back over time, scholarships are essentially free aid that can be used to pay for tuition, fees, room, board, and educational materials.

There are numerous scholarships available for esthetician students, but some of the best options include the following.

  • Beauty Changes Lives Scholarships
    Beauty Changes Lives scholarships are managed by Beauty Changes Lives, a non-profit organization funded by leading beauty brands. Each year, the organization provides financial aid to aspiring hairstylists, nail professionals, estheticians, makeup artists, massage therapists, and barbers. Beauty Changes Lives also offers advanced scholarships for licensed professionals, including beauty educators.
  • Elite Beauty Society Scholarship
    The Elite Beauty Society Scholarships are managed by the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). Each year, PBA awards three $250 scholarships to association members for industry-related continuing education. Funds are provided by the Elite Beauty Society and must be used within one year of being awarded.
  • Milady Rise Scholarship
    The Milady Rise Scholarships are managed by the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). Each year, PBA awards ten $500 scholarships to students currently enrolled in licensed school programs for cosmetology, nail tech, barbering, esthetics, or massage. Five additional scholarships are provided to active licensed professionals. Funds are provided by Milady and must be used within six years of being awarded.
  • Rosy Salon Software Scholarship
    The Rosy Salon Software Scholarships are managed by the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). Each year, PBA awards two $250 scholarships to students currently enrolled in licensed school programs for cosmetology, barbering, or esthetics. Funds are provided by Rosy Salon Software and must be used within a year of being awarded.

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Choosing an Esthetician Program

Online vs. On-Campus

While most esthetician students enroll in traditional, on-campus education programs, daytime course schedules are not convenient for everyone. Fortunately, some training institutions offer more flexible evening and weekend options. Additionally, there may be online educational opportunities available.

Prior to enrolling in any online courses, it’s imperative for prospective estheticians to check local licensing requirements with their state department. Some states do not accept online education hours, which will make earning licensure difficult. In some cases, only a portion of training can be obtained online.

Benefits of taking esthetician courses online include the ability to learn from any location with reliable internet access. These classes are also optimal for individuals who would find it difficult to attend in-person, whether due to personal reasons or scheduling conflicts. Some potential drawbacks, however, include less access to instructors, limited hands-on-training, and fewer opportunities to network with professionals in the field.

Job Placement Assistance

In some cases, job placement assistance may be available. These placements are typically defined as a period of supervised work, where participants have opportunities to experience the position requirements first hand. This is particularly helpful for recent graduates who may lack work experience and relevant qualifications. These programs also allow prospective professionals time to further develop practical skills that will be necessary for future success. Additionally, this is a fantastic time to meet influential people in the field and possibly obtain a job offer after completing a program.

While it’s impossible for training institutions to guarantee employment for graduates, most do offer assistance in finding suitable employment. Services vary, but it’s common for schools to post known career opportunities on bulletin boards. Many also provide training in professionalism, resume writing, and interview etiquette, as well as organizing expo job fairs each year. Some even invite local and national employers to visit volunteer salons when scouting for potential hires.


How long does it take to complete these programs?

Training lengths differ for estheticians depending on the type of program chosen. While associate degrees in cosmetology with an emphasis in esthetics can take two years to complete, some certificate programs may be finished in as little as a few months. It’s important to consider training options carefully before selecting the one that suits your timeframe, budget, and career aspirations best.

How much will these programs cost?

Again, the cost of esthetician training will depend largely upon the type of program chosen. Basic certificates may cost as little as $4,000 to $6,000 in tuition and fees when earned at a local community college. It’s important to keep in mind that private schools often charge higher rates. Some institutions charge per credit hour when working toward associate degrees, with rates typically ranging between a couple hundred dollars to nearly $1,000. Prospective students should also budget an additional $750 to $2,000 for books and other necessary supplies.

Is there specific accreditation for this field?

The best community, technical, and vocational institutions will hold regional or national accreditation. Credits earned from colleges that are regionally accredited are easier to transfer and may be preferred by some employers and state licensing boards. Choosing to attend a school without any accreditation is generally discouraged, as they are seen as less reputable. Individual programs may also be accredited. For the field of cosmetology, the optimal accrediting agency to look for is the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS).

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