Esthetician Courses: What You Need to Know

Esthetics training is about much more than skincare. You'll also be taught about skin biology, human physiology, product selection, use of salon equipment, sanitation, state laws, and business skills.


Esthetician school combines theoretical knowledge and practical training. Students learn through classroom instruction and demonstrations, practicing on mannequins, and ultimately working on their classmates' and clients' skin.

Although most programs occur on weekdays, some offer evening and weekend classes. An esthetics student committing to a full-time schedule may spend around 24 to 35 hours per week in the class or school salon.

What Do You Study in Esthetician Classes?

Every program has slightly different courses, usually dictated by your state's licensing board. Your esthetician program will likely include:

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Anatomy and Physiology

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

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

READ MORE: Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients and Contaminants to Avoid

Esthetics courses like these prepare you to treat your clients' skin for relaxation or improved appearance.

Your esthetician school's makeup application course should cover selecting and applying cosmetic products, perhaps for a basic day, evening, or bridal look.

Learn to remove unwanted hair using various methods, including waxing and threading. This subject may not focus on the shoulders up, so be prepared!

This covers building a business, including relevant skills such as marketing, client retention, health insurance requirements, and tax laws.

These classes teach how to protect clients and meet state requirements regarding the safety and sterilization of tools and your workspace.

Popular Esthetics Curriculum

To fulfill state requirements for esthetician programs, schools sometimes teach from prepared curriculum from independent companies. Prepared curriculum could include textbooks or other reading material, multimedia materials, test prep materials, and more. Two of the biggest esthetics curriculum creators are Milady and Pivot Point, as they both create course materials that align with the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). A ton of states use NIC tests for their esthetician licensure exams. Others create their own curriculum or use an option from a smaller organization.

Regardless of how your esthetician program creates its curriculum, if you want additional materials to help you with your board exams, test prep resources are provided by Pivot Point, Milady, other curriculum providers, and also from NIC itself.

In addition to licensure curricula, you can find ones for certifications. The two most popular ones are the NCEA and CIDESCO certification programs.

NCEA, short for the National Coalition of Estheticians Association, offers a voluntary NCEA Esthetician Certification. Finding a school that uses NCEA's curriculum may be helpful because it means you'll get an especially extensive education.

A less common prestigious certification curriculum comes from CIDESCO. This can be offered by schools or online, and its highly specialized certificates are recognized internationally.

Some schools allow students to pursue NCEA or CIDESCO certification through their typical esthetician school training. But you may be able to return to esthetics school to earn these at another time.

Online Esthetician School

Laws governing what parts of esthetician school can be delivered online are constantly in flux. Though many states allowed that option in 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most stopped at the end of that year or early in 2021. Even when online instruction was allowed by certain states for approved esthetician training hours, they almost universally allowed only parts of an esthetician program to be delivered online.

As technology improves, you may keep an eye on your state's laws and board announcements to see if things change, but for the most part, you can assume that you need to attend esthetician school in-person.

You can find continuing education classes—aimed at licensed estheticians—and potentially even advanced or instructor programs online, however.

Esthetics/Skin Care
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