Beauty School Directory Blog

There is No Such Thing as a “Medical Esthetician License”

Posted on: September 10th, 2009 by Heather 19 Comments

Susanne Warfield - National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & AssociationsSusanne S. Warfield is the leading expert on the business, legal and liability issues that affect physician and esthetician relationships working in a medical or spa setting. Warfield is a 27-year Licensed Esthetician and is NCEA Certified. Her career started as an Esthetics Instructor at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, where she taught the 2nd year of a two-year degree Esthetics Program. When she moved to the United States, her advanced training was put into use and she spent almost 14 years working with a dermatologist in New York City. See Susanne S. Warfield’s profile on the Beauty School Lounge.

As you do your research looking at the field of medical esthetics, you are probably seeing ads for medical esthetic, paramedical and become a medical esthetician. Esthetician training and esthetician licensing varies from state to state, and at the time of this article there was no such license for any of the aforementioned terms. The average number of hours of esthetician licensing training on a national basis is 600. The separation of the esthetician license from the standard cosmetology or hairdressing license has allowed some schools to become licensed to teach only skin care, thereby raising their hours and standards. There currently are only two states – Utah and Virginia – that offer a two-tier Esthetician Masters program for 1200 hours. There are several more states that are in the process of updating their statutes – which is sorely needed – but more on that in another article.

From the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations, Use of Esthetician Titles. It is the position of the NCEA that estheticians represent themselves according to their licensed title, as designated by their state licensing board or regulatory agency, and that estheticians must not promote themselves or allow any employer to market them otherwise.

Esthetician Medical Training Certifications

There are several companies, schools, and associations that offer “certifications” to estheticians upon completion of a course. These courses may have required participation time ranging from minutes to hours to days.

Some courses are teaching advanced procedures using machines and products that are well beyond what the esthetician license and scope of practice allows. Therefore, obtaining liability coverage would then become a major priority for the esthetician practicing. However, in a dermatology setting, it would be up to the physician and their risk manager if the esthetician should be permitted to perform these advanced procedures, under the direct supervision of the physician of course.

This Isn’t General Hospital – It’s the Real Thing

One of the most important factors in deciding whether to work in a medical setting is: Do you like medicine? Specifically, are you comfortable dealing with illness and medical problems on a daily basis? Not that the fields you’re likely to choose will bring you into contact with a great deal of sick people, but your clients will all be patients and all of them will have a medical or aesthetic concern.

While dermatology and plastic surgery, the esthetics areas you will most likely fill in the medical setting, generally involve less serious medical problems, they’re still not for the squeamish. Plastic surgery, after all, is still surgery. And some plastic surgeons perform reconstructive surgery to repair the trauma of accidents or the disfigurement of diseases such as cancer, burn survivors or genetic defects. And dermatologists treat skin cancer various, sometimes disfiguring rashes and infections as well as various diseases that affect the skin.

Esthetician Jobs in the Medical FieldIf you cannot stand the sight of blood or if you find illness or disfigurement  overwhelming, then you probably should consider esthetician career paths other than a clinical setting. On the other hand, most of us can get used to the sights and the situations that are likely to come up in dermatology or plastic surgery, and if you enjoy helping others and if you appreciate the privilege of working intimately with people who depend on you, the rewards of working as an esthetician in a medical setting can be tremendous.

One area that I haven’t touched on at all is the medical spa environment. If I had 10 people in the room and asked them what their perception of a medical esthetician is, I would probably get 10 different answers. For purposes of this article, the NCEA position on a medical spa is:

A medical spa is a facility that during all hours of business shall operate under the on-site supervision of a licensed health care professional operating within their scope of practice, with a staff that operates within their scope of practice as defined by their individual licensing board, if licensure is required. The facility may offer traditional, complementary, and alternative health practices and treatments in a spa-like setting.

Working in this type of facility may take you in several different directions depending on the philosophy of the owner, supervising physician and the corporate vision of what a medical spa is.

In conclusion, try to talk to other estheticians who may already be in the medical field, ask your school guidance counselor for advice, or several website such as PCI Journal offer newsletters and other books that may help you decide which of the career tracts is right for you.

Find esthetician schools near you to get started on an esthetics career path, or check out Susanne S. Warfield’s last blog article, “Esthetician Career Options in the Medical Esthetics Setting.”

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19 Responses

  1. She’s right – no such thing! It really bothers me when people don’t use their true title. In FL, there is no such thing as a licensed esthetician. You’re either a cosmetologist, a full specialist or a registered facial specialist. There are all kinds of certifications and diplomas you can get after you’re licensed, but, you are what your license says you are.

  2. Val says:

    This is the one thing that bothers me the most….if words make us “look” or sound better then how are we to know what classes to take to advance our careers and it not be just a BUZ word?

  3. Connie says:

    why did you not refer to the good associations who are doing certification to help those wanting the medical direction?
    Why not network?

  4. cosmoestoed says:

    Susanne did mention an association that does indeed certify estheticians on a national level to go above and beyond the basic requirements needed to get most state licenses for Esthetics.

    That association is the NCEA, and you can go to their webiste: and find out all you need to know to join the grass-roots movement to raise the standards for skin care professionals and to certify the ones who are willing to take that step!

    Good luck! And if you need any questions answered, email them or go to the list of those already certified and we’ll be happy to encourage and help!

  5. Angela aliano says:

    I am a licenced Florida Full specialist and legal Resident of the U.S.A . I am originally from Australia and earned my Diploma of Beauty Therapy (1200 hrs) there. When I came to Florida and wanted to continue my career as a “Beauty Therapist” I was shocked and confused when I was unable to be accredited for my full qualification, which is nationally accredited and recognised in every State in Australia, and I believe ,Internationally in most countries. I came to the realisation that most states in the U.S have their own licencing and do not always recognise other states qualifications.
    I still find this hard to believe, and I feel they really do need to bring the training/licencing to at least National accreditation, if not International. I applaud the NCEA for making steps in that direction. I hope to look into NCEA accreditation for myself in the future. If the Profession of Esthetics is to be taken seriously in this country, A universally accepted policy needs to be made.

  6. Wow! It’s an extraordinary article to value and care ones own beauty. Nowadays, there is an elevating graph for the select of esthetics, dermatology, cosmetology, massage therapy and more as a career line. So, with the proper selection, guidance and training process, one should study these programs in correspondence to medical field, counselors, or many available references which would be prove more beneficial in their career line.

  7. Donna says:

    Alabama offers a separate Esthetician License under the Alabama Bd. of Cosmetology and 1200 hours are required to be a Licensed Esthetician. We do not study “hair” at all. So, Alabama needs to be recognized as one of “3″ states that offers a 1200-hour Esthetician license.

  8. marc edward says:

    yes for many years i would call myself a medical esthetician because i had worked for 10 docters performing facials, peels and microdermabrasion, hydrafacial ,silkpeel, dermasweep, microcurrent, led light therapy, oxygen infusion and microcurrent. and had taken several classes at UCLA on skincare ingredients and the reason i was calling myself a medical esthetician because i learned alot about injectables and lasers and plastic surgery and felt comfortable referring the patients to the nurses or the docters for those procedures in the office which are the ones i cant perform and of course never said i was a docter but that i work with them and refer people out for those advanced procedures. in any case i just let my clients know im a very educated and experienced esthetician with over 12 year of esthetics under me.

  9. Dona says:

    I am a licensed Esthetician in florida , I attended Esthetician school, not Cosmotology School. In Florida my title is a Licensed and Ceritified Skin Care Specialist.
    I am also licensed in the State of Georgia were I have the title
    Licensed Esthetician, When moving here I did not have to attend further
    schooling because of my experience but did have to take the State Boards over.

  10. Julie A. Gulbrandsen says:

    Thank you for the great article! As a Licensed Esthetician in Illinois who received her Full Specialist training in Florida over 20 years ago and has worked for both a plastic surgeon & dermatologist I have never referred to myself a “medical esthetican”. The term is for certain schools & skin care companies to make money off of clueless students.

  11. Kendall says:

    I agree that higher standards should be inforced throughout the country. However, I find it funny that we can call ourselves NCEA cerified after taking a couse online and testing at a chosen testing center and were all of a sudden top notch estheticians. There are several advanced training centers out there that are accredible. I.E. Institute Dermed in Atlanta, GA. That is of course a highly recognized training center by Susanne herself. I’m not against NCEA or any other training facility that’s trying to improve the standards for estheticians. I am an educator myself and try to teach my students the most advanced training that I can. I think people get confused when they see Medical Esthetics Training. It’s not saying you can go out and do everything you learn in a spa. It’s to help you decide if the medical field is for you and if so, then prepare you for what’s to come. NCEA is not a license either, it’s just recognized by more people because they market well and have a good pitch. I guess I can claim to be an NCEA Esthetician just not a Medical Esthetician… Even though they are both just certificates. Just remember, research the school first and compare! One important thing is to find out how much hands on training they offer. After all estheticians are called kinesthetic learners (hands-on) for a reason!

  12. Jamie says:

    For Donna,

    What board in Florida are you licensed under? I have never heard of that state license title? Also, how many hours did you complete to get that title as opposed to ‘Facial Specialist?’

  13. Tequisha Jones says:

    You are absolutely correct Kendall, It’s a Good Pitch! Seriously though folks, getting caught up in “titles” is ridiculous. I have posted here and there that I was a “Master Esthetician” “Medical Esthetician” “Master Skincare Technologist” “Licensed Master Esthetician” etc. etc. etc, It is just plain humor on My part. I don’t take any of it seriously, neither should any real professional. The only thing I am serious about is being the best Esthetician I can be. Truth be told, this field is WAY OVERSATURATED But, the Schools would argue otherwise (yeah, Ri-i-i-ight, *wink*) Anyone, can say anything it seems to get the leg up on the competition. That is where the problem really exists. there are just too many Estheticians competing from an evaporating pool of clients. No additional certification or glamourously framed “I’m Extra Special” peice of paper with an impressively “official looking” seal on the wall is going to fix that! I understand that there should be rules and codes Governing Our field, so let’s fix it by making the field of Esthetics a minimum 4-Year Bachelor’s Degree’d Profession. One catch…NO GRANDFATHERING IN!- Everyone (self- Included) would be MANDATED to Cease and Desist any activity in regards to the Esthetic Profession and MUST go back to a State Approved College for Obtaining the 4-Year DEGREE required to obtain employment in this field. THAT would stop the problem DEAD in it’s tracks!…Of course everyone who currently has a License would Complain till’ the Cows came home for “I’m Extra Special” (eh,hem~NCEA certified folks)” Privileges to be Grandfathered in, while EVERYONE ELSE would have to take the 4 Years @ College.
    I call that HIPOCRISY at it’s Worst. ONE RULE OF LAW FOR EVERYONE, NO EXCEPTIONS (and no “i’m extra specials” either!) Got that Phaedra Connolly? here is the solution to that bothersome dilemma You have been so bogged down with…

  14. Tequisha Jones says:

    TO: Paedra Connolly, You are such a Hypocryte, I just clicked on Your Name and You state in Your blog that You are a “Medical Esthetician”…I get it No one can claim to be one except YOU, Right?… Your License says: “FACE SPECIALIST” Or didn’t You read it?..What a Flake!

  15. I am brand-new to blogging and actually enjoyed your website. I am going to bookmark your blog and keep checking you out. Thanks for sharing your site.

  16. Medical Cosmetology Courses says:

    There are some institutes which provide board certification for Medical Cosmetology Courses. This certification has great importance in career of a plastic surgeon. So one should go for the institutes which provide board certified training to all students.

  17. Kathy says:

    Please advise whats the best school in Miami to study skin care. Florida College of Natural Health is about $6000 for 300 hrs compared to $549 260 hrs at Robert Morgan Educational Center (public school). Supposedly FCNH is a well known school, a Steiner Education Group member, If I study the advanced paramedical then the total would be $19,500.

  18. MB says:

    In Europe, in South Africa, in Australia and others like England, the ESTHETICIAN, LE, FS, FS, and Cosmetologists can perform laser like IPL, laser hair reduction, skin needling, mesotherapy and even facial injections. THE doctors in this country has a strong lobbying in WA D.C and in the FDA to limit estheticians so we don’t compete with them.

    MOST of us are doomed in this country. We need to pay a lobbyist to defend our rights if we still have any.

  19. Morgan says:

    How does an RN in the state of FL obtain esth. privledges/license?