What Is an Esthetician?

Updated June 29, 2023

An esthetician administers a facial treatment to a patient.

If you have a passion for the beauty industry and love working one-on-one with people, a job as an esthetician may be for you. Estheticians work closely with their clients to create and execute a skincare treatment plan to enhance the appearance of their client's skin. Learning about what an esthetician does and the steps you need to take to pursue this career can help you decide if it's for you.

In this article, we discuss what an esthetician is, what training and certifications are necessary for estheticians and other frequently asked questions people have about this career.

Related: 100 Most Interesting Jobs

What is an esthetician?

An esthetician is a skincare specialist who evaluates the treatment of a client's skin, determines which treatments are best for enhancing their appearance and administers the treatments. They give facials, do microdermabrasion, perform hair removal treatments, apply chemical peels and sell skincare products. Some of their primary responsibilities include:

  • Providing facial treatments to address skincare concerns the client is having

  • Performing massages on the face and scalp to for relaxation or therapeutic reasons

  • Performing hair removal treatments, including exfoliation, threading, waxing or chemical peels

  • Making recommendations for clients about the best treatment to meet their needs

  • Performing makeovers and applying makeup for special events

  • Applying face and body masks, compression wraps and sugar and salt scrubs

  • Referring clients to physicians and other healthcare professionals for more advanced treatments

  • Working closely with other healthcare professionals for involved, long-term treatments as necessary

  • Educating clients about different cosmetic products and proper skin care routine

Here is a sample esthetician services list to help you get a full scope of the services they offer:

  • Light therapy

  • Laser skin treatments

  • Aromatherapy

  • Makeup application

  • Acne treatments

  • Body scrubs

  • Scalp massage

  • Thermage

How to get into an esthetician school

Before taking the steps to get into esthetician school, search for a program that suits your lifestyle and educational goals. These programs are available at esthetics schools, cosmetology schools and community colleges. Most schools require students to meet the following criteria:

  1. Hold a high school diploma or GED.

  2. Provide a photo ID for identification purposes.

  3. Prove citizenship by providing a Social Security card.

  4. Take an aptitude test or preliminary exam.

  5. Pass a drug screening.

What esthetician school is like

In esthetician school, aspiring estheticians learn the basics of skincare and also master concepts like human physiology, sanitation, state laws relevant to their profession and how to develop business skills to grow their own business. Students in esthetician school learn through a combination of classroom instruction and live demonstrations. When they get to the hands-on portion of their training, they start by practicing their skills on mannequins before they move on to real people who volunteer to receive the treatments at a low rate.

Estheticians are required to complete a certain number of hours of hands-on training while in esthetician school. While the requirements can vary from one state to the next, the average program requires 600 hours of hands-on training, in which students will learn how to set up their workstations, how to make clients feel comfortable prior to treatments, how to clean and sanitize a work station and how to perform the actual treatments.

Some of the courses that estheticians take in school include:

  • Facials, massaging, cleaning and toning

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Makeup application

  • Hair removal

  • Ingredient analysis

  • Sanitation, sterilization and safety

  • Marketing and salon management

Related: Learn About Being a Cosmetologist

Esthetician certifications and training

To get started as an esthetician, you need to be able to meet certain training and certification requirements, including:

Completion of an esthetician program

Before you can pursue work as an esthetician, you must first complete a state-approved esthetician program. Students can expect to spend between 300 and 1,500 hours in the classroom, much of which will include practical training.


Most states require estheticians to have a license, although this can vary from one state to the next. To obtain a license, you must pass written and practical exams.


There are a number of certifications that designated a student has taken courses or has advanced knowledge in a specialty. Some of the types of certificates that they can pursue include:

  • Medical esthetician

  • Electrolysis and laser technician

  • Makeup artist

  • Skincare

Frequently asked questions about becoming an esthetician

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming an esthetician:

What is the average salary for estheticians?

The average salary for an esthetician is $21.45 per hour. Some of the key factors that impact salary are experience level, specialization and geographic location. The cities that pay the highest salaries for estheticians are Atlanta, Georgia, New York City and Los Angeles, California.

Related: Average Makeup Artist Salary by State

What skills do you need to be an esthetician?

Some of the skills you need to be successful in this career are:

  • Communication skills: This includes verbal skills, which are necessary to explain treatment recommendations to clients, and active listening skills, which allow you to fully understand each clients' needs.

  • Custom service: Estheticians need strong customer service skills to ensure their clients are satisfied and increase the likelihood of referrals and future visits.

  • Time management: In order to ensure clients are seen in a timely manner and wait times are minimized, estheticians must have strong time management skills.

  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking skills are essential for estheticians in order to weight the benefits of different treatment options and determine which will best meet the client's needs.

What is the job outlook for estheticians?

Employment for skincare specialists is expected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is substantially faster than the 5% estimated average for all occupations. The desire among both men and women to reduce the effects of aging and have a healthier lifestyle are two of the primary factors driving employment growth in this industry.

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