Esthetician Training & Education, Program Cost and Licensing

How to Become an Esthetician or Skin Care Specialist

Thinking about enrolling in esthetics school?

If you are considering enrolling in skin care training, you are probably curious about how much the program costs, how long it will take to complete, what you will learn in the program, and more. Beauty Schools Directory has answered many of the most common questions about the education that helps you become a licensed esthetician, so you can decide whether taking the next step in your career is the right decision for you. If you think training to become a professional skin care specialist sounds like the right fit for you, just enter your zip code in the box to the right. Choose "Esthetics/Skin Care" as your program to find schools near you that offer this program.

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What exactly is esthetics and skin care, and what is an esthetician?

Esthetics Student Learning FacialsEsthetics is the field of the beauty business that focuses almost exclusively on skin care. The field of esthetics (sometimes spelled aesthetics) has been growing quickly over the last 10 years, right along with the rest of the cosmetics industry. Esthetics involves beautifying the skin in a variety of ways, including analyzing the skin closely, performing facials, doing microdermabrasion, waxing facial hair, doing extractions and exfoliation, giving facial massages, and recommending skin care regimes to clientele. The esthetics field also often includes luxury spa elements for the rest of the body, including body wraps and polishes, aromatherapy, foot reflexology, eyebrow shaping and eyelash tinting.

There are several specialties under the esthetics and skin care umbrella. For example, some estheticians choose to pursue careers in dermatologists’ offices or burn clinics to work in a near-medical setting, and often take on the title “medical esthetician.” Other estheticians may choose to specialize in a specific skin condition that could benefit from their treatments, such as acne/rosacea, waxing and hair removal, or spa services like wraps and polishes.

In addition to application of topical remedies, aesthetics sometimes also encompasses more intensive treatments like microdermabrasion and permanent makeup, and alternative areas like aromatherapy and reflexology. It's a highly specialized field, and that's what attracts many to it. For those people who are disciples of beauty but don't want to be hairstylists, nail technicians or makeup artists, aesthetics is often a natural fit.

A relatively new field, the field of esthetics has developed in accordance with new skin products that are more effective than ever in promoting long-term skin health. Only in the last few decades have we started to really understand how the skin ages, elements that affect skin health and beauty, what affects this process, and what can be done to slow the effects of aging. It's a very exciting time for the beauty business as we continue to define what an esthetician is, does and will do in the future.

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How do I become an esthetician?

Each state’s training and licensure requirements to be allowed to perform skin care services professionally are different. Nearly every state in the U.S. has an esthetics specific license, and almost all of the state boards require a minimum amount of in-school training hours. However, the amount of hours required may vary from state to state. Also, a small handful of states allow you to apprentice in a salon or spa to get some or all of your training hours. All states that have esthetician licenses require you to sit for a written and practical board exam to show that you have the knowledge and skills to safely practice esthetics and skin care on clients.

There is a very wide range of the requirements states have. Some states, like Oregon, require as few as 250 training hours to be able to sit for your board exams. Other states, like Alabama, require up to 1500 training hours to get licensed – the same as are required for that state’s comprehensive cosmetology program that teaches hair, nails, makeup and skin care. Some states have shorter licenses for specific esthetics services – like New York has a 75-hour waxing license you can get if you want to specialize. The national average is about 600 hours, though.

Because these licensing requirements vary so widely from state to state, we highly recommend checking your state’s esthetician license requirements on our list, and contacting your local board directly if you have any additional questions. In the meantime, don't hesitate to find skin care training programs near you so you can start comparing your options. Click the "Find Schools" button below to get started.

What knowledge and skills are required to become an esthetician?

Esthetician Applying Facial MaskFirst and foremost, to get licensed as an esthetician you must have the education and training required to pass your state’s written and practical licensing exams for this field. This means learning everything your state requires you to know about analyzing, treating and beautifying skin. You should also learn to recognize skin problems that may need to be referred to a dermatologist or other medical professional. To get all this training, the first thing you need to do is find and compare schools near you to get started.

Other than the education, a good esthetician should themselves be well-groomed, put-together and comfortable working with clients. You should be extremely attentive to cleanliness, sanitation and safety. You should be good at keeping a clean and tidy station, as well as sterile tools. You should be comfortable consulting with a client about their current skin care regimen, poised and respectful about potentially personal or uncomfortable questions about sensitive skin-related issues, and willing to offer your recommendations and good judgment for how a client should manage their unique skin care needs.

Skills every esthetician should be strong in are customer service, adherence to processes and legal requirements, knowing how to promote specific product lines and market oneself to get new business, and active listening to truly understand client needs. You should be able to see tiny details at close range (you’re going to be right up next to clients’ faces), be very steady with your hands and have good hand-eye coordination, and be comfortable using your hands at long stretches for services like facial massages.

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What courses will I take to become a skin care specialist?

Many beauty schools and esthetics schools offer courses in skin care, where students learn through in-class lectures and courses, as well as through hands-on training in student salon or spa environments. The actual curriculum your future school will have may vary, but some of the courses you may take to train to become an esthetician include, but are not limited to:

  • Esthetician Student Pull Quote 2Facials, Cleansing, Toning & Massaging
  • Makeup Application
  • Hair Removal & Waxing
  • Body Treatments, Wraps, Aromatherapy
  • Reflexology
  • Cosmetic Sciences, Chemistry & Structure
  • Skin Conditions & Disorders
  • Marketing, Sales & Salon Management
  • Safety, Sanitation & Sterilization
  • Human Physiology & Anatomy
  • Hair & Hair Growth Cycles
  • Elements That Affect Skin
  • Exfoliation Methods & Best Practices
  • Creating & Applying Facial Masks
  • Safe Extraction Performance
  • Facial Massage, Detoxification & Lymphatic Drainage

What are the requirements to enroll in an esthetics program?

In most (but not all) states, students must usually be at least 16 years old and have either a high school diploma or GED to enroll in esthetician schools. But check with the state or school in which you plan to enroll to make sure of their enrollment requirements. These requirements typically apply to basic esthetician training. Some states also offer master esthetician licenses, and for those more advanced certifications, you may be required to already have your basic esthetician license to enroll.

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How much do esthetics programs cost?

The cost of tuition for esthetics schools can range depending on courses, hours of instruction needed, as well as location, facilities, and equipment. The cost of esthetics school depends on several factors like the school and its location. Skin care schools inside or close to major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles or Chicago will likely cost a little more, whereas smaller, more rural areas or suburbs may be cheaper. For each esthetics school you're interested in, be sure to ask admissions reps what their tuition costs are and what exactly this costs includes. Our survey of beauty schools found that the national average for the cost of esthetics training is between $3,000 and $5,000 including the tuition, supplies, student kits and textbooks.

Can I take advanced or master esthetician classes?

First let’s distinguish between “advanced” and “master” esthetician classes. Usually the term “advanced” refers to highly specialized continuing education courses. These advanced classes are usually very detailed trainings that cover highly specialized esthetics topics. This may include something like a super-focused class on microdermabrasion services, medical/paramedical skin care classes, or a specific skin care product line, for example. Students who wish to take advanced classes usually are required to have first successfully completed the basic classes in esthetician training. Oftentimes these advanced or continuing education courses are required in many states to renew your license when it is due to expire.

”Master” esthetician classes, on the other hand, could mean something entirely different. Some states, such as Vermont and Virginia, offer Master Esthetician Licenses. Both of those states offer that license for 1200 hours of training instead of their basic license’s 600 minimum hours. If you are looking for this type of course, you first need to make sure your state’s board of cosmetology or esthetics even offers a Master Esthetician license. This is not an option in all states.

What are is the job outlook for estheticians?

Esthetician Student Pull Quote 1The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in April 2012 that they anticipate a 25% growth in esthetics jobs through the year 2020, faster than the average for all careers. Also, the International Spa Association (ISPA) recently released a study stating that spa industry revenue grew 4.5%, faster than the U.S. economy overall, so we anticipate continued growth for skin care professions.

There are a number of different career options licensed estheticians may pursue, including but not limited to: esthetician/skin care specialist, medical/paramedical esthetician, clinical esthetician, master esthetician, medical spa manager, wax/hair removal specialist, permanent cosmetician, esthetics school instructor, or product line developer/salesperson. As the spa and esthetics industry continues to expand, hopefully there will be new and more job options than ever before for these highly specialized beauty professionals.

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