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Dream of Being a Beauty Professional? Here’s How to Become an Esthetician
Adobe Stock / puhhha
Leah Thomas
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If you haven't heard of esthetics, you're probably not alone. It's a relatively new field that's been growing over the last decade, and even if you haven't heard the term, you definitely know what an esthetician is and what she does!

So what is an esthetician exactly?

An esthetician is a beauty professional who works mainly with skincare. We’re talking facials, hair removal, makeup application — you get the picture. Basically everything you’d spend your money on at the spa if you had unlimited funds.

There are also specific types of estheticians who specialize in certain areas of skincare. Like medical estheticians, which are specialists who have gone through training to help those with skin disorders, serious burns, and post-operative surgery, that have all affected their skin. These estheticians carry out safe and effective procedures to reduce the effects of medical conditions. 

Professional opportunities in esthetics

Estheticians can work in full-service salons, spas, cruise ships, destination resorts, wellness centers among many other places. They sometimes work directly with dermatologists or plastic surgeons as well. They specialize in different areas and can work with specific customer demographics, like the bridal industry, film, TV and other media companies, with theater productions and more. Estheticians can work to one day open their own salons, spas and other facial care offices. 

As we mentioned above, there are many other areas estheticians can specialize in. These include: 

  • Hair removal, i.e. waxing, threading, “sugaring” — which is basically another way of waxing with a gel made out of sugar, lemon and hot water
  • Facials, masks, pore cleanses
  • Anti-aging treatments like chemical peels (think: Samantha at Carrie’s book launch on Sex and the City)
  • Microdermabrasion , which is a procedure that works to improve the effects of sun damage, wrinkles, age spots, acne scarring, etc.
  • Blackhead extraction
  • Moisturizing treatments for dry skin
  • Face, head and neck massages
  • Makeup application

How do I get my esthetician license?

Though the difference is subtle, licensing requirements and processes for estheticians vary across the country. All states that issue licenses to skincare specialists require candidates to qualify through formal training and the successful completion of both a practical and written exam.

The process of receiving your esthetician license varies from state to state, but in all states except Connecticut, estheticians are required to be licensed after completing a state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program. 

As with basically all cosmetology programs, estheticians must complete training courses, an apprenticeship (normally) and complete and pass their state licensing exam. 

How long does it take to become a licensed esthetician?

Because the requirements for each state are different, the length of each program is different as well. The amount of required in-school training hours and apprenticeship hours will greatly affect how long it takes you to complete the program. 

California requires those seeking to become an esthetician to complete 600 in-school training hours and 3,200 hours of an apprenticeship. But Florida only requires 250 in-school hours and zero apprenticeship hours!

So, what’s the full process?

First of all, meet the entry-level requirements.

Each person who gets accepted to an esthetician program must be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or their GED. 

Complete a state-approved cosmetology/esthetician program.

Apply and get accepted into a state-approved cosmetology program — normally these are offered at community colleges or technical colleges. They can also usually be finished in two years! These programs are typically a combination of classic lectures in classrooms and hands-on training in a lab or through an internship.

Students learn about the laws and ethics of cosmetology, as well as sales, management and other entrepreneurial skills. They are taught the proper safety and sanitation practices, such as disinfection techniques. And they learn how to give facials, massages, how to apply makeup and more, depending on their chosen specialization. 

Through these programs, students are taught how to work with clients and how to listen to a client’s needs while also communicating their own skincare recommendations. And they practice their newly learned hands-on skills on their friends and family members, as well as themselves. 

Earn your state license.

Those pursuing this field will need to complete the state-required number of hours of approved education, which includes both theoretical and practical courses. Once this minimum requirement has been met, students can take the state licensing exam. The exam will likely feature both written and practical components.

Gain entry-level experience.

Apply for positions which you are now qualified for! Gain your entry-level experience and continue to educate yourself and stay updated on esthetician practices.

Complete your state-required continuing education.

Again, each state is different, so you’ll have to check your own state’s requirements. But most have continuing education requirements that specify you renew your license every two or so years. And some require you also stay up-to-date with new techniques, laws, products, services and more. The learning never ends!

How expensive is it to become an esthetician?

According to Cost Owl, completing your basic esthetician program costs around $4,000 to $6,000 at a community college, and anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 at a private university. Other aspects come into play — like whether or not you meet the requirements for in-state tuition (which is obviously cheaper) and how long your specific program is. 

Students should also take into consideration the cost of books and other school supplies, which could add a few extra hundred dollars to the mix. 

In order to complete your schooling and receive your license, exam fees cost around $100 to $200. And to renew your license every few years, it should cost around the same amount. 

How much money does an esthetician make a year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for skin care specialists like estheticians in 2018 was $36,350, and the average hourly wage was $17.48. California, New York and Texas are the three states with the largest population of estheticians. But those estheticians in Colorado, Hawaii and Wyoming actually made the most money in their field, reportedly, from $52,020 to $51,930 to $48,870, respectively.

Job outlook

If skincare is a field you are interested in pursuing, you're in luck! The BLS also reports that from 2010 to 2020, the field is expected to grow 25 percent. This rate is 14 percent faster than the average job growth for other fields. 

Those pursuing a career as an esthetician have many specialties and places of employment to choose from. And due to the increasing number of beauty salons and spas and the larger societal obsession with skin care, the job outlook is promising. 

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