Esthetician School

Esthetics is one of the fastest-growing jobs in America – and it is quickly gaining new respect, especially among the medical community. As more women and men focus on self-care and wellness, they are looking for professionals dedicated to helping them improve their skin.

If you’re interested in pursuing a rewarding career dedicated to skincare, read on to learn what to expect when it comes to training and getting certified. Esthetician school can help you become a knowledgeable skincare specialist in as little as six months.

Learn More About Esthetics

What Does an Esthetician Do?

An esthetician specializes in beautifying, cleaning, and identifying issues involving the skin. Typically an esthetician works with a client in a spa or salon setting. Some estheticians work in a medical setting to complement medical services, such as in a dermatologist’s office, but they are not medical professionals.

Occasionally you’ll see the term spelled “aesthetician,” which is just an alternate spelling of “esthetician.”

Most estheticians perform cosmetic skin treatments like facials, superficial chemical peels, body treatments, waxing, lash extensions, make-overs, blemish extraction, and skin conditioning. Estheticians, unlike licensed cosmetologists, are also able to provide advanced treatments like pore cleansing, extractions, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, light therapy, and hair removal. They may also educate clients on products, skincare regimens, and the benefits of esthetic procedures.

Medical estheticians in clinical settings may help people identify and recover from health issues affecting the skin, such as working with cancer patients or burn victims.

Estheticians work in a variety of business settings and facilities, such as:

  • Spas
  • Salons
  • High-end hotels
  • Luxury resorts
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing facilities
  • Movie sets
  • Dermatologist or plastic surgeon offices
  • Retail or educational environments

Estheticians are highly trained, in-demand skincare experts, which is why an esthetics program requires around 600 hours of hands-on training hours. For licensure, you need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the skin and the technology used in advanced treatments like lasers, LED lights, oxygen, or ultrasonic waves. Keep in mind that program requirements can vary by state, but most states require at least 600 hours of training to obtain a license in the field.

In addition to training, estheticians should also have a professional and friendly personality that instills confidence in their clients. A skilled esthetician must be able to listen and empathize with their clients’ needs and concerns, often personalizing treatment for them.

I have been in the industry for 25 years. I've done a lot of different things, but it always goes back to what I am most passionate about, and that is helping others.

Esthetician Pay and Job Outlook

Estheticians can earn a rewarding salary and enjoy a bright career outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), skincare specialists earned a median hourly wage of $16.39 as of May 2019, which would be equivalent to about $34,000 per year with a 40-hour work week—though working more than 40 hours in a week would be common in this job. Moreover, esthetician jobs are expected to grow 17% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than average for all jobs.

That said, esthetician pay and job prospects can vary greatly by location and level of training and experience. Learn more about esthetician careers and average pay by location.

How to Prepare for Esthetician School

Before you enroll in an esthetician school, make sure the program suits your educational goals and lifestyle. Attending esthetician school is a large commitment in terms of time, money, and effort. Make sure you understand the cost of your education before you commit.

When comparing esthetician schools, look for the following:

Accreditation
National accreditation ensures your program meets the requirements for licensure. Look for nationally accredited programs from the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS), the leading accrediting body.

Program Reviews
Online student testimonials can help you determine if a program suits your needs. See how the program’s reputation holds up over several online sources, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or discuss your concerns.

Research the School
Most school catalogs give program details, with vital information like tuition and fees, scholarships, job placement rates after graduation, and student to faculty ratios. Some schools even have relationships with nearby businesses that hire program graduates.

Talk to Graduates
No one knows whether a program is worth the price like previous students. Speak to grads for first-hand advice and ask about the specialties that pique your interest.

Take a Tour
Visit the school in-person or sign up for a counseling session before enrollment.

Esthetics programs are available at community colleges, dedicated esthetics schools, and schools of cosmetology. A list of approved programs near you may be available on your state board of cosmetology or your state’s department of education websites.

There are several prerequisites to becoming an esthetician. Education requirements vary by state, as do tuition costs, program length, training hours, exams, and other licensing requirements.

Most schools expect students to meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be at least 16 years of age or older
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Provide a valid photo ID for proof of identification
  • A social security card for proof of citizenship
  • Take preliminary exam or aptitude test
  • Pass a drug screening test

Some states may only require an 8th-grade education for enrollment in a basic program. Advanced certifications or programs may also require you to have a basic esthetician license to enroll. Check with your program before you enroll to ensure you meet all their requirements.

Tuition and Related Costs

The average tuition for an esthetics program is between $3,000 and $10,000, according to Evergreen Beauty College. The cost will vary based on the length of the program, location, and required training hours in your state.

There may also be other fees associated with attending a program, such as textbooks, registration fees, and equipment, which can vary by program.

Program Length

The program length directly relates to the required number of training hours in your state, and most schools require a certain amount of hands-on training to comply with state requirements.

On average, you can expect to spend around 600 hours over six-months for esthetician school, though some states require up to 750 training hours. You can explore specific training hour requirements based on your state board licensing requirements.

What to Expect at Esthetician School

Esthetics training is much more in-depth than simply learning basic skincare. You’ll also master concepts like sanitation, human physiology, following state laws, and building professional business skills.

Esthetician school is a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical training. Students learn through classroom instruction and demonstrations before practicing their new skills on mannequins and then moving to real volunteers as they become comfortable with the tools and products.

Although most programs take place during the day, some programs offer evening and weekend classes. The average esthetics student spends around 24 to 35 hours per week studying or practicing, both in and outside of class.

My advice to new estheticians is that there's many opportunities to use your esthetics license[….] Before you go to school, really have an understanding of where you would like to work. […] That way […] you can always be making sure that you're learning the things that you'll need to work in that kind of environment.

Esthetician School Courses

Every program comes with slightly different courses. Topics you can expect your esthetician program to cover include:

Anatomy and physiology
You’ll learn basic human anatomy and the physiology of the skin, especially how the circulatory, endocrine, respiratory, digestive, and muscular systems function. Expect to focus on skin conditions and common disorders as well.

Ingredient analysis
Gain insight into what ingredients go into skincare products and how they work together to protect, heal, and beautify the skin.

Facials, cleansing, toning, and massaging
Basic esthetics courses like these prepare you to treat your clients’ skin safely.

Makeup application
Your makeup application course will go over how to apply products to enhance your client’s natural beauty.

Hair removal and waxing
Learn to remove unwanted hair using various methods, including waxing and threading.

Marketing, sales, and salon management
You will also learn how to build a business, including skills such as marketing, client retention, health insurance requirements, and tax laws.

Safety, sanitation, and sterilization
In this course, you will learn how to protect clients and meet state requirements regarding safety and sterilization of tools and your workspace.

Hands-On Training for Esthetics

To become a licensed esthetician, you must complete a certain number of hands-on training hours. These required training hours will help you gain the hands-on skills needed to become a successful esthetician. The average program requires around 600 hours but may vary based on your state.

Expect your hands-on training to cover:

Setting up the workstation
Learn safe and sanitary best practices you will use to set up and break down your workstation for various treatments.

Preparing clients for treatments
Practice the strategies you learned to make your clients feel comfortable before treatment, clearly explain what to expect, and take the time to understand their medical history.

Sanitizing equipment properly
Learn how to clean and sanitize the entire workstation after each client to stay in line with health and safety laws.

Performing actual treatments
As you learn, you may practice treatments on mannequins before moving to live models or fellow students. You may work collaboratively in groups or follow an instructor-led lecture. Some programs host student-run spas.

Choosing a Specialty in Esthetician School

Some esthetics schools allow students to select a specialty. Specialty courses teach you how to provide specific treatments you may not learn in a basic training program, like:

  • Wraps
  • Reiki
  • Aromatherapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Body treatments
  • Innovative spa therapies
  • Advanced facial massage
  • Laser hair removal
  • Advanced acne treatment
  • Theatrical makeup
  • Permanent makeup (tattooing)
  • Other makeup artistry techniques, such as airbrush or camouflage

Featured Esthetics Schools

Catherine Hinds Institute
Woburn, MA

$15,225 tuition and fees +
$2,125 books and supplies

$17,350

American Beauty Schools
Miami, Florida

$6,400 tuition and fees +
$500 books and supplies

$6,900

Elevate Salon Institute
Chubbuck, Idaho

$7,500 tuition and fees +
$900 books and supplies

$8,100

ZMS
Los Angeles, California

$8,754 tuition and fees +
$746 books and supplies

$9,500

Additional Esthetics Certifications and Training

Estheticians never stop learning. While some states require estheticians to complete continuing education courses to renew their licenses, some choose to take classes so they can offer a wider range of services. There are also master estheticians, who are among the highest qualified professionals in the field.

Our industry is in a perpetual state of change—new ingredients, techniques, and information constantly replacing the old. Learning isn't just a good idea—it's a necessity. So go beyond the minimum requirements for license maintenance instead of taking the same continuing education from the same online providers every year.

Q&A: What’s It Like to Be an Esthetics Student?

See what it’s like to be an esthetics student from current and recent graduates.

Interview With Recent Esthetician School Grad Megan Laver Hespe

Megan Hespe

Megan Laver Hespe

Megan Laver Hespe went to B Street Design school in Overland Park, Kansas, which changed names a few years ago. She worked as an esthetician for 4-5 years in multiple settings, such as a day spa, massage business, and plastic surgeon’s office. Megan will always be a skincare junkie, but today, she works in marketing and design.

What’s your favorite thing about esthetics school?

My favorite thing about esthetics school was hands-on learning. Getting to see/feel/smell the products to learn about the differences in ingredients and how they change the product compounds was amazing. Getting to practice on classmates was also nice for feedback.

Where was your esthetics program located (or did you complete your education online)?

My program was based out of Overland Park at B Street Design school. I think they renamed it a few years ago.

Did you feel prepared for the licensing exam?

Yes, I was completely prepared for the exam. We practiced all the time, and the instructors taught us fun ways to remember test questions.

What were your favorite courses/topics in school? Why?

My favorite topics in school involved learning about all the different routes you could go with esthetics. From medical esthetics, waxing, spa, wedding stuff, owning your own business, makeup, or working for a product company to teaching. When I started the program, I wanted to get into costume makeup, then working in the spa environment was relaxing, and I loved learning about the products. After I learned about skincare medical procedures that could change the way someone felt about themselves, I was sold.

Interview With Current Esthetician Student Anna Pickett

Anna Pickett

Anna Pickett

Anna Pickett is a current esthetics student at Johnson County Community College in Kansas, who earned a spot on the President’s honor roll with a 4.0. She hopes to focus on advanced facials and body treatments after graduation.

What’s your favorite thing about esthetics school?

My favorite thing about esthetics school is being able to meet an amazing group of ladies and instructors that are so supportive in helping you reach your goals.

Where is your esthetics program located (or did you complete your education online)?

I go to Johnson County Community College.

Did/do you feel prepared for the licensing exam?

Right now, we’re practicing for our practical exam every Monday until April. Our instructor is also giving us one-on-one help. I say we definitely should be prepared by the time April rolls around!

What are your favorite courses/topics in school? Why?

I enjoyed learning about marketing your brand. I also love trying new things, and being in this field allows you to continue learning new techniques, technologies, products, and procedures!

Interview With Current Esthetician Student Alyshea Jones

Alysha Jones

Alyshea Jones

Alyshea Jones is a permanent artist for MAC Cosmetics and current esthetics student at the Paul Mitchell Skin Academy in Springfield, Missouri. She plans to specialize in micro-needling, advanced facials, chemical peels, enzymes, and overall age management treatments at VIP Esthetics in Nixa, Missouri after graduation.

What’s your favorite thing about esthetics school?

My favorite thing about school is hands-on learning. We receive a ton of training and get to be very hands-on right from the start.

Where is your esthetics program located (or did you complete your education online)?

I attend Paul Mitchell, the School- Skin Academy in Springfield, MO.

Did/do you feel prepared for the licensing exam?

We go over the state board exam questions several times a month, and the instructors offer extra training if you ask for help. I feel I will be more than ready by the time I graduate.

What are your favorite courses/topics in school? Why?

I’m skilled in many areas, but my main focus and passion is skincare/age management through advanced facials. As a makeup artist, I found my passion for helping people and making them feel their best. Skincare is another way I can help people, build their confidence, and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves. I’m also a sponge and LOVE learning, so theory class is something I really enjoy.

So did you work as a makeup artist before going back to school? What made you make the change?

I’m currently a permanent artist for MAC Cosmetics, so I do both. I have a passion for skincare and helping people, so I decided to enroll in the skin academy to further my education, and so I could offer more advanced services to my clients.

Additional Resources and Interviews

Beauty Schools Directory Presents Estheticians: Coursework, Careers and Examples

Interview with esthetician Denise Fuller, National Aesthetic Spa Network (NASN)

Interview with Renee Rouleau, beauty influencer, developer of skin-care products

Video by Eli Jones, esthetician, board member of NASN, and producer of DermNerd

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