Careers

Learn About Being an Esthetician

What does an esthetician do?

An esthetician is a skincare expert who focuses on the health and beautification of the skin. Estheticians work in salons, spas and medical offices providing facials, skin analysis, pore cleansing, face and body exfoliation treatments, waxing and other luxury treatments such as aromatherapy and body wraps. Estheticians who work in plastic surgery offices also assist surgeons by cleaning and sterilizing tools and equipment and providing pre- and post-operative care instructions to patients. Other duties may include:

  • Guiding customers through the types of products and services
  • Selling retail products such as lotions, creams and other skincare products
  • Taking part in continuing education and safety training meetings
  • Providing consultations to help clients choose the best treatments for their skin

Average salary

Total earning potential for estheticians often depends on tips, bonuses, commissions and more. Other variables include location and pricing of services.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $20.36 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $55.80 per hour.

Esthetician requirements

Working as an esthetician involves certain requirements depending on the level of expertise involved, including:

Education

Most states require estheticians to have a high school diploma or GED, complete an approved cosmetology program and take part in internships and lab courses. Community colleges and trade schools offer two-year cosmetology programs that typically blend traditional classroom learning with hands-on practice and training. Some required classroom instruction includes learning about cosmetology laws, ethics, management and sales.

Professional techniques such as proper disinfection and sanitation of tools, performing facials and massage, hair removal techniques and applying makeup are among the skills taught in a hands-on setting. To ensure that estheticians meet their state’s most current competency standards, maintaining licensure requires these professionals to receive continuing education throughout their careers.

Training

Most employers require a combined minimum number of years of work experience and technical training before allowing an esthetician to work on clients. Internships and supporting roles, such as shop assistant, can provide some experience while an individual is attending vocational training from an accredited school. Esthetician training at state-approved school takes six to 12 months to complete and requires 600-750 hours of hands-on training to become sufficiently skilled as an entry-level professional.

Certifications

Though most states require at least a basic esthetician license to qualify for an entry-level position, additional licensing can be procured to advance your career and work in higher-level positions. Some certifications available in this profession include:

Basic licensing

To earn this required credential, individuals must complete a program covering essential skincare topics like skin analysis and facial massage techniques, followed by earning a passing grade on the basic licensing exam. This license is valid in all 50 states, provided that the state’s courses-hour requirements are met. Biennial license renewals typically involve paying a small fee and completing esthetician continuing education courses.

Master licensing

Individuals wishing to work in medical spas or clinics must earn a master esthetician license. This certification involves the same extensive skin therapy training as a basic license, with added advanced coursework and training in microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, laser skin therapy and other medical esthetician skills. Master estheticians work alongside dermatologists and plastic surgeons helping to treat patients’ skin conditions, injuries or surgeries. This credential typically requires a minimum of 1,200 to 1,500 hours of coursework and passing a master licensing exam. Master license renewal follows the same process as the basic-level license.

National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors and Associations (NCEA) Esthetician Certification

As the highest skincare credential in the US, an individual possessing this certification has received a seal of approval and is qualified to work in salon and spa environments. The training provided by this certification provides the training hours needed to prepare aspiring estheticians for state licensing exams.

Skills

Estheticians require a range of skills to succeed in an office. Some skills include:

Sales

Being knowledgeable about salon products and services and how to promote and sell them are peripheral aspects of an esthetician’s skill set. They often need to show and strategically market products and many times earn commissions on sales they make.

Communication

Estheticians use communication skills to foster relationships with clients, ask questions, listen and understand what they want and make them feel relaxed and comfortable.

Interpersonal skills

Like many medical professionals, estheticians often choose their profession based upon their desire to improve the lives of others. Estheticians use interpersonal skills to maintain professional and respectful exchanges with clients and colleagues, observing and reading body language to help determine how a client may be feeling about their service and working together to create solutions to common and unusual skincare concerns.

Technical skills

These skills include properly using tools to perform treatments, disinfecting and sanitizing tools and equipment. Estheticians must often be able to skillfully use client databases, point-of-sale systems and other computer-related tasks. These professionals use their extensive knowledge of skin types and potential complications to make expert recommendations and perform complex skincare procedures on clients. 

Esthetician work environment

Estheticians can work in a variety of settings, ranging from sterile clinics to relaxing spas, lush resorts or even a client’s home, in the event of house calls. Some characteristics of an esthetician’s working conditions can include:

  • Working indoors for the duration of the workday
  • Working near others, having physical contact with clients to administer treatments
  • Wearing safety attire, such as nitrile gloves, eye protection and hair and foot covers
  • Performing repetitive tasks with precision and care

The skills, qualities and experience of estheticians are often transferable in the following industries:

  • Nursing 
  • Cosmetics marketing
  • Medical device sales
  • Plastic surgery
  • Dermatology

How to become an esthetician

Here are the steps to becoming a qualified licensed esthetician ready for the workplace:

1. Complete required education

Entry-level estheticians are required by law to complete a state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program, amass a required number of hours (usually 600-750, depending on which state you’re in) of hands-on training and pass a state licensing exam. 

2. Gain relevant work experience

You’ll earn work experience through training required by law for licensing. You may also gain valuable experience by completing an internship program while you complete your educational program. 

3. Earn technical certifications

Consider earning higher-level or specialized certifications in esthetics, marketing, cosmetology or basic first aid and CPR to prepare you to be an effective esthetician.

4. Prepare your resume

Your resume should include your highest level of education, including technical programs or other relevant certifications and your industry experience. Include the company name, dates and a summary of your responsibilities in your work history section. Including all relevant training and licenses on your resume can help you get the esthetician job you want.

5. Apply to positions you’re qualified for

After earning the required education, experience and licensure, send or take your resume to local salons, dermatology offices, resorts or spas, depending on which environment you want to work in. Apply to positions you are qualified for based on required certifications, knowledge and experience. Write a cover letter that highlights the skills that qualify you for the role and any special certifications or accomplishments that will make your application stand out.

Esthetician job description example

Tranquility Med Spa is expanding our team of skilled licensed estheticians to meet the rising demand for our outstanding services. Our luxurious facility is hyper-focused on providing relaxation, rejuvenation and an unmatched spa experience for our clients. Our skincare services include pore care, steam facials, eyebrow threading and microdermabrasion in addition to massage services, body wraps, waxing and laser hair removal. Our estheticians are committed to providing the most efficient and relaxing services.

Ideally, the estheticians joining our team should be highly motivated, properly licensed and customer service minded. Dedication to staying current to trends, new treatments and techniques are strongly preferred. Responsibilities include selling salon products, including gift packages, and setting appointments in addition to performing skincare services. State-approved licensure and 2+ years working in a day spa environment are required, and commitment to providing the best experience to our clients is essential.

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