Learn About Being An Aesthetician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does an aesthetician do?

Aestheticians, also known as skin care specialists or estheticians, are people who specialize in cosmetic skin treatments. They work with cosmetic tools and products. Facial treatments are the most common part of an aesthetician’s job, but they can also perform massages, waxings and scrubs. Aestheticians generally have the following responsibilities: 

  • Administer cosmetic treatment methods, such as facials and chemical peels

  • Recommend cosmetics or skin care products

  • Provide advice and information based on skin types

  • Offer advice for at-home skin care routines

Average salary

Aestheticians typically hold full-time positions, though some may work part time or be self-employed. Salaries may range depending on the size, type and location of their place of employment. Experience and education may also affect an aesthetician’s salary. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Average salary in the U.S.: $18.59 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $51.65 per hour.

Aesthetician requirements

Aestheticians should have a combination of education, training, licensing and skills to excel in this industry: 

Education

A cosmetology degree is a requirement for practicing as an aesthetician. To enroll in a cosmetology program, you need a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Most states offer training programs via the state board of cosmetology. These programs usually take nine months to complete, after which you will receive a diploma or an associate’s degree in cosmetology. In cosmetology programs, students learn how to perform skin care treatments, apply products and work with customers.

In some states, aestheticians can complete additional education to become a master or medical aesthetician. These aestheticians can perform advanced treatments in healthcare settings. To become a master aesthetician, students need to complete a 600-hour training program in which they learn specialized treatments for skin disorders, pre- and post-operative skin care and more.

Training

Skin care specialists undergo 260 to 700 hours of training at an accredited school, depending on the requirements of the state where they intend to practice. They may also undergo apprenticeship training in place of formal education. Working with established aestheticians will enable them to learn many of the skills and concepts that they would typically learn in cosmetology school. Apprenticeship programs offer the advantage of practical learning and hands-on experience. Keep in mind, however, that some states will require a temporary license before working as an aesthetician’s apprentice.

Certifications

In the U.S., a license is a prerequisite to practicing aesthetic skin care. Each state has a Board of Cosmetology and a Department of Health primarily responsible for granting aesthetician licenses. In most states, candidates complete a cosmetology program and pass a written examination. Some states administer a licensing exam that includes a practical test. Aestheticians need to renew their licenses according to their state’s guidelines. 

Aestheticians can also earn a National Esthetician Certification from the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA). This certification is equivalent to earning a master aesthetician license and requires students to complete a training course and pass an exam. Aestheticians who hold this certification need to renew every three years.

Skills

To be successful, aestheticians need certain skills and qualities, including: 

Attention to detail

Aestheticians should know whether a particular product or procedure is best for their client. They should be aware of the needs of the customers and provide them with the highest quality of service possible. Aestheticians should also be aware of potential reactions to certain products and be able to manage these situations if they occur. 

Time management

Aestheticians often handle several different tasks and treat more than one client at a time. Time-management skills will enable them to perform their duties and still maintain the high quality of service that the customer expects. 

Customer service

Aestheticians should help clients feel at ease in the salon or spa by presenting a professional and confident manner. They should be able to communicate new procedures to their clients and answer any questions they may have about any proposed treatments or procedures.

Knowledge of skin care products

Aestheticians should be familiar with a variety of skin care products to ensure their ability to offer the safest and most effective skin care solutions to their clients. They should be aware of upcoming product releases and be able to recommend appropriate products to their clients.

Aesthetician work environment

Aestheticians typically work in salons or spas. They may also work in a dermatologist’s office or on referral by a dermatologist on a case-to-case basis. Some dermatologists may even have an aesthetician working full time as part of their clinical staff. In such cases, aestheticians perform some procedures under the direct supervision of the dermatologist or assist in pre- and post-operation care.

Aestheticians differ in areas of specialization depending on their roles and the work setting. Most aestheticians provide the following services:

  • Facials: Most aestheticians perform facials as part of their basic service. Facials may include deep cleanse treatment, exfoliation and serum application.

  • Acne treatment: Aestheticians may provide exfoliation and cleaning as part of a more comprehensive acne treatment program. They may also recommend over-the-counter products that could help relieve minor cases of acne.

  • Microdermabrasion: This procedure involves the removal of cells from the skin with a specialized tool.

  • Superficial peels: This procedure involves applying alpha hydroxy acid to the skin, which exfoliates the outer layer and improves its appearance. Alternatively, aestheticians may use lactic, glycolic or salicylic acid. 

  • Body scrub, mask or wrap: Aestheticians may also treat skin on other parts of the body. Body scrubs involve salt glows or sugar scrubs to exfoliate skin. Aestheticians may also apply clay body masks and seaweed body wraps to smoothen and soften skin.

  • Hair removal: Most aestheticians provide hair removal services over most of the body. Among the methods commonly employed are waxing, threading and laser treatment. 

  • Makeup: Some aestheticians offer makeup application services, especially for special events, such as proms or weddings. Most aestheticians who provide this service will use their own cosmetic products.

How to become an aesthetician

You should follow these steps to become an aesthetician:

1. Complete a cosmetology course.

Before you can become a licensed aesthetician, you will need formal cosmetology training. A degree program will give you the necessary education in skin analysis, facials, waxing, chemical treatments and makeup application. You will also learn how to identify skin conditions and skin diseases. Cosmetology programs are usually available from community colleges and vocational training schools. You may also complete your course at an accredited cosmetology school. Course requirements vary from state to state. 

2. Get a license.

You will need to apply for a license from your state cosmetology board before practicing as an aesthetician. The licensing exam consists of a written portion and sometimes a practical test. Even if you have not yet earned a cosmetology degree, some states allow you to take the exam if you have completed at least a year of apprenticeship training. You may also pursue a master aesthetician license by undergoing 600 hours of advanced training. Master aesthetician programs focus on physiology, anatomy, exfoliation, microdermabrasion and anti-aging techniques.

3. Pursue continuing education.

In most states, aestheticians undergo continuing education to renew their licenses. It is often beneficial to take advanced courses in chemical peel and laser treatments and attend relevant workshops and conferences to learn about new techniques and skills in the industry.

Aesthetician job description example

We are looking for a licensed esthetician to join our company. Successful applicants will be part of a team of dedicated cosmetology professionals and play an essential role in our spa staff. This position is open to all committed and passionate individuals who are self-motivated and can work with minimal supervision. 

Responsibilities include:

  • Interacting with clients and explaining our products and services

  • Performing skin care services

  • Making recommendations on skin care products and procedures 

  • Introducing spa promotions

  • Training and orienting new personnel 

Applicants should have a high school diploma. An associate’s degree in cosmetology or a related course is preferred. 

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  • Cosmetologist

  • Hairstylist

  • Medical Assistant


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