How to Become an Esthetician: The Complete Guide
If you’ve ever had a strong interest in beautifying your own appearance, or the appearance of others, then keep reading, because you may have the desire and the talent necessary to become a licensed esthetician, and this article will show you the exact steps that you need to take to become one.
Who knows? A few years from now, you may even find yourself on the set of a big-budget movie applying makeup to the face of a Hollywood star, or working in a high-end spa in Beverly Hills, or becoming your own boss and starting your own beauty business.
Let Esthetician Schooling Connect You With a High Quality Esthetician School in Your Area!
Are you ready to take the next step and begin your career as a well-paid esthetician? Esthetician Schooling has partnered with some of the best esthetician schools in the nation. Our huge network of nationally recognized esthetician schools will make it easy for you to find the right school and get started training immediately!
The beauty schools in our network contain one or more of the following high quality standards:
- State Board Recognition
- NACCAS Accreditation
- Student Financial Aid
- Job Placement Assistance for Those Who Qualify
To get started, simply fill out the quick 1-minute application below.
What is an Esthetician and What Do They Do?
- Exfoliation Treatments
- Body Wraps
- Spa Treatments
- Waxing Treatments
- Hair Removal
- Makeup Application
Estheticians are good with their hands and possess a warm demeanor, putting the client at ease and helping them to relax through soft touch techniques, scented lotions, and aromatherapy. A good esthetician is highly knowledgeable about skin care products, skin care needs, the latest skin cleansing techniques, and more.
Estheticians are active listeners who are comfortable working one-on-one with customers in close proximity, holding honest face-to-face discussions about the client’s needs and what can be done to improve their skin condition.
They also use a variety of machines in their occupation including, skin lancets, facial steamers, microdermabrasion machines, ultrasonic facial machines, ultraviolet UV sterilizers, and more.
What Kind of Esthetician Do You Want to Be?
A spa esthetician is usually employed by a spa or beauty salon and performs the procedures mentioned above. The esthetician may work at the spa or beauty salon as an employee or they may lease a small space at the spa or beauty salon and work as a self-employed esthetician, building their own clientele and receiving payment for their services directly from the customer.
A medical esthetician focuses on improving the appearance of someone who’s skin may have been affected by disease, physical trauma, or a medical procedure, such as facial reconstructive surgery. They are usually employed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon and may provide either pre or post-operative skin care treatments, including:
- Chemical Peels
- Laser Therapy
- Acid Treatments
If you’re not the academic type or can’t afford the cost of tuition, don’t worry. Some states will allow you to obtain the required number of hours of training needed for licensing through an esthetician apprenticeship under the supervision of a licensed esthetician. However, if you do choose to acquire your training through an apprenticeship, please keep in mind that you will be required to train longer than you would at a licensed school. The only states where this does not apply are Alaska and Wisconsin, where all licensees are required to accumulate 350 hours of training and 450 hours of training, respectively.
The number of hours of esthetics training required varies from state to state. The diagram below shows you the minimum hours of training required at a licensed school for each state. As you can see, certain states allow you to substitute an apprenticeship supervised by a licensed esthetician in place of hours accumulated at a licensed esthetician school.
It is important to remember that individuals are prohibited from practicing esthetics without a valid and current state license. Connecticut is the only state in which you can practice esthetics without a license.
Training Hours Required by Each State
|State||Esthetician Schools||NACCAS Accredited Schools||Lowest Tuition Cost||Highest Tuition Cost||Avg Tuition Cost||Avg Graduation Rate||Avg Job Placement Rate||Avg Loan Debt||Avg Program Length|
|District of Columbia||2||1||$9,255||$9,255||$9,255||66%||55%||$0||26 wks|
|New Hampshire||7||6||$10,950||$15,230||$12,189||90%||59%||$6,470||28 wks|
|New Jersey||24||18||$7,300||$9,847||$8,189||53%||83%||$4,013||22 wks|
|New Mexico||8||4||$7,200||$10,125||$8,436||72%||64%||$9,317||23 wks|
|New York||30||23||$2,850||$15,100||$7,782||49%||74%||$4,213||23 wks|
|North Carolina||12||7||$3,800||$12,075||$9,164||67%||74%||$7,726||30 wks|
|North Dakota||3||3||$8,000||$8,000||$8,000||N/A||N/A||N/A||20 wks|
|Rhode Island||2||2||$9,195||$9,598||$9,397||67%||74%||$6,259||20 wks|
|South Carolina||12||7||$4,600||$11,380||$8,426||86%||85%||$7,270||27 wks|
|South Dakota||2||1||$5,975||$6,900||$6,438||94%||74%||$5,000||23 wks|
|West Virginia||3||2||$5,500||$7,425||$6,463||N/A||N/A||N/A||22 wks|
|State||Esthetician Schools||Lowest Tuition Cost||Highest Tuition Cost||Average Tuition Cost||Avg Graduation Rate||Avg Job Placement Rate||Avg Loan Debt||Avg Program Length|
All esthetician schools are required to set forth an esthetics program that meets the minimum number of hours of theory and hands-on training required by the state board for licensure. For instance, schools in California are required to provide an esthetics program that requires the student to accumulate 1600 hours of training before they are eligible to graduate. In South Dakota, esthetician students are required to accumulate 600 hours of esthetics training.
Most esthetician schools offer similar curriculums that combine instructional theory with hands-on practical application. Students usually learn through lectures, textbook study, multimedia presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on training using mannequins and people. Some schools, like Aveda Institute, use the 4MAT Learning System which is designed to teach students who have different learning styles.
A good esthetician school is equipped with an in-school salon or spa where students can perform practical applications on actual clients and develop job-ready skills through hands-on training
While esthetician programs differ from school to school, students will generally study the following subjects:
- Esthetician Theory
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Histology of the Skin
- Diseases & Skin Disorders
- Sanitation & Sterilization
- Microbiology & Infection Control
- Practical Applications
- Use of Treatment Machines
- Use of skin care products
- Face & Body Treatments
- Facial Cosmetics & Color Theory
- Massage Manipulation Techniques
- Face & Body Waxing
- Eyebrow trimming
The esthetician programs offered by private schools range from 16 weeks to 1 year in length, while the esthetician courses offered by community colleges are usually 18 months to 2 years in length. Students are usually awarded an Undergraduate Certificate upon completion of a private school program, while community college graduates may either receive an Undergraduate Certificate, Diploma, or Associates Degree, depending on the length of the program and the number of credits required for completion.
The average tuition cost of an esthetician education ranges from $5,000 to $12,000 plus books, supplies, and miscellaneous fees. Esthetician schools in rural areas are usually less expensive to attend than schools in metropolitan areas. Of course, well-known schools like Aveda Institute and Empire Beauty Schools can usually charge more for tuition because of their reputation for training highly qualified job-ready graduates.
Fortunately, the U.S. government provides federal and state grants to those who qualify to help alleviate the high cost of tuition. Federal and private loans are also available. Every year, scholarships are awarded to a few lucky students, as well.
How do I Choose the Right Esthetician School?
There are many different factors to consider when choosing an esthetician school but, probably the most important factor to consider is accreditation.
The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS) is an independent accrediting commission that has been officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national agency for the institutional accreditation of postsecondary schools and departments of cosmetology arts and sciences.
Schools whose esthetician programs are NACCAS accredited must adhere to a strict set of standards put forth by the agency. The NACCAS determines if the school meets NACCAS standards and is even inspected by a team of officials who visit the school and evaluate the school’s facilities, equipment, and curriculum.
NACCAS accredited schools are re-evaluated every six months and, if the schools don’t meet the minimum NACCAS standards, they lose their accreditation until the necessary changes have been made.
If a school’s esthetics curriculum isn’t accredited by the NACCAS, you’re taking a slight risk by going to that school, since they are not required to meet national standards of educational performance.
Other factors you may want to consider when choosing an esthetician school are:
- Cost – What is the cost of tuition and other related expenses?
- Financial Aid – Does the school accept state/federal grants, offer scholarships, etc?
- Debt – Do most of the students graduate with school debt or do they graduate debt-free?
- Location – Can you commute or will you have to move? Is the school located in a safe area?
- Program Length – Can you get your diploma or certificate in less than a year?
- Experience – Is there an in-school salon/spa where you can gain experience with real clients?
- Class Schedules – Can you attend the school part-time, nights/weekends if necessary?
- Instructors – How much industry experience do the instructors have? Do they stay up-to-date?
- Teaching Styles – Will the teachers work with slow learners and handicapped students?
- Class Size – Are the classes small? Do the teachers allow some time for one-on-one instruction?
- Facilities – Are the classes, restrooms, and breakroom clean and well-equipped?
- Equipment – Does the school have newer, up-to-date equipment to train on?
- Materials – Are the learning materials and multimedia presentations digital or state-of-the-art?
- Exam Prep – To what extent will the school go to help you prepare for and pass the NIC exams?
- Tour – Can you tour the school during class hours?
- Reputation – Is the school known for training well-qualified graduates who easily find jobs?
- Graduation Rate – Does the school have a high on-time graduation rate?
- Job Placement Rate – Does the school have a high job placement rate?
- Job Placement Assistance – Will the school help you find a job in your chosen career field?
Getting Your Esthetician License
- Complete a state-approved esthetics course, accumulating the minimum number of training hours required by the state.
- Complete and submit a licensure examination application.
- Pay any licensing fees as required by the state.
- Pay the examination fees for both the written and practical exams.
- Register with the company administering the exams in your state (usually PSI, PCS, or DL Roope).
- Wait for your Authorization to Test (ATT) letter or Official Admission Notice to be emailed to you with the date, time, and location of your exams.
- Take the written exam and pass with a score of at least 75% or better.
- Take the practical exam and pass with a score of at least 75% or better.
- Wait for your Notice of Completion or Score Notice stating that you have successfully passed both exams.
- Receive your state esthetician license.
- Renew your esthetician license every two years, as required by the state.
Now, that you know what steps you must take to obtain your esthetician license, let’s take a closer look at the theory exam and the practical exam.
The Esthetician Theory Exam
The purpose of these exams is to prove that you have completed the minimum number of hours of esthetics training as mandated by the state and, therefore, you now possess the knowledge and skills needed to become a state licensed esthetician.
No matter what state you live in, if you are applying for your esthetician license and are required to take a theory exam, you’ll be taking the written exam created by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology or, NIC, for short.
The theory exam tests your knowledge of esthetician theory, from Sanitation and Infection Control Procedures to Lymphatic Drainage and everything in between. Most states give you 90 to 100 minutes to complete the exam, which consists of multiple choice questions. If you receive a score of 74% or lower, you will be required to retake the exam, until you receive a passing score of 75%.
Fortunately for you, NIC issues an updated Candidate Information Bulletin every year which outlines the topics you’ll be tested on in the theory exam. The topics included in the exam are:
- Sanitation and Infection Control Procedures
- Advanced Knowledge of Human Physiology/Anatomy
- Skin Histology
- Structure and Function of the Layers of the Skin
- Skin Conditions and Disorders
- Cosmetic Ingredients
- Factors that Affect the Skin
- Dermatological Terms
- Plastic Surgery terms
- Skin Analysis
- Exfoliation Methods
- Use of Electrical Equipment
- Hair Removal Methods
- Advanced Facial Treatments
- Advanced Body Treatments
- Lymphatic Drainage
- Pre/Post Operative
Keep in mind that cell phones, tablets, computers and other personal electronic devices are prohibited in the examination area. Purses, bags, coats and other personal items not directly related to the examination are also prohibited. Exhibiting disruptive behavior and talking to any other candidates or examiners during the examination is also prohibited.
The Esthetician Practical Exam
There may be a dress code in place for the exam as well. You’ll also be required to bring two forms of valid identification and a recent passport-sized photo showing your head and shoulders.
You’ll be given approximately 90 to 125 minutes to complete the practical exam. You’ll be tested on the following core domain sections:
- Work Area, Client Preparation & Setup (1st client, 15 minutes)
- Cleansing the Face with Product (10 minutes)
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage (10 minutes)
- Particle Microdermabrasion on the Forehead (10 minutes)
- LED Treatment (10 minutes)
- Work Area, New Client Preparation & Set Up of Supplies (2nd client, 15 minutes)
- Ultrasonic Treatment of the Forehead & Upper Lip (10 minutes)
- Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Treatment (10 minutes)
- Microcurrent Treatment to Upper Orbicularis Oculi (10 minutes)
- Body Treatment: Dry Exfoliation & Mud Mask (15 minutes)
- Blood Exposure Procedure (10 minutes)
It is important to note that the designated minutes above is the maximum amount of time you are allowed for each section. When the timer goes off, you are required to stop working IMMEDIATELY. You will be given time to setup the general supplies you will be using for each section during the examination.
The exam proctors will give you verbal instructions for each core domain section of the exam. Each instruction will be read twice. If you ask the proctor any questions you will be met with the following replies, “Do the best you can with what you have available” or “Do as you were taught”.
Failure to follow the NIC Health and Safety Standards during the exam will result in dismissal from the exam. Also, if you do not follow the infection control procedures or you allow your work area to become and remain unsafe, you may be given a failing score.
Cell phones, tablets, computers and other personal electronic devices are prohibited in the examination area. Purses, bags, coats and other personal items not directly related to the examination are also prohibited. Exhibiting disruptive behavior and talking to any other candidates or examiners during the examination is also prohibited.
Pursuing a Fulfilling Career as an Esthetician
- Esthetician/Skin Care Specialist
- Clinical Esthetician
- Master Esthetician
- Wax/Hair removal Specialist
- Medical Esthetician
- Spa Manager
- Esthetician Instructor
You may find employment at a full-service salon, spa, destination resort, wellness center, or on a cruise ship. You may even find yourself working next to a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon in a medical office. You may choose to work as an employee, a self-employed freelancer, or even start your own business.
You may choose to work in Hollywood on movie sets and television sets or at a local stage theater. If the fashion industry excites you, you may find yourself applying makeup on runway models or working as a makeup artist on location at a photoshoot. You may even choose to work in the bridal industry.
If you enjoy helping others learn, with some additional training, you could even become an esthetician instructor at a private school or community college. With the esthetics industry, the sky’s the limit.
Esthetician Salary: What to Expect
California has the highest employment number with 5,450 estheticians/skin care specialists employed in the Golden State as of May 2015. North Dakota has the lowest number of employed estheticians/skin care specialists with only 30 estheticians employed as of May 2015.
Depending on what state you live in, being a spa esthetician or medical esthetician can be a very lucrative career. While estheticians/skin care specialists employed in the state of Indiana receive the lowest salary at $21,240 yearly and $10.21 hourly, estheticians/skin care specialists employed in the state of Wyoming receive the highest salary at $55,330 yearly and $26.60 hourly.