Esthetician Schools, Career Guidance, & Skin Care Info
Welcome to the Healthy Skin Esthetician Blog! We are the #1 spot for healthy skin and skin care careers. We have:
- Detailed guidance on how to become an esthetician;
- A directory that lists every esthetician school in the United States;
- Instructions on how to have healthy, glowing skin; and
- In-depth product reviews and reports.
Whether you want to become a professional esthetician or simply learn the most effective ways to have healthy skin, we’ve got what you need!
On this page, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to start a career as an esthetician. There's a ton of information here, so if you need a break, be sure to check out some of our skin care posts and product reviews.
Let's start at the beginning: What is an esthetician, and what does an esthetician do, exactly?
Estheticians are skin care therapists. They are licensed professionals who use state-of-the-art technology and medical research to ensure that their clients' epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) is healthy and glowing.
So what do estheticians actually DO for their clients? Depending on the setting, estheticians may provide the following skin care services:
- Treatments to the Head and Neck. That may include:
- Facials and treatment masks, to clean out a client’s pores, rub away dead skin cells (known as “exfoliation”), and moisturize the skin to make it firm and youthful-looking;
- Light massage, to stimulate the skin and facial muscles and ready them for treatment (a quick-but-important note: estheticians usually receive a few hours of facial massage training, but they are not able to work as masseuses; to find work as a masseuse, you’ll need to get a massage license); and
- Microdermabrasion, a cosmetic treatment that exfoliates dead skin cells;
- Body treatments, such as:
- Body wraps that hydrate the skin, make it firm, and infuse it with vitamins and minerals; the mixtures in body wraps can be made from seaweed, mud, algae, clay, lotion, or creams;
- Body polishes and scrubs, to exfoliate the skin and improve the circulation of blood and lymph to the skin’s surface;
- aromatherapy, to help clients relax and de-stress;
- Depilation (which is a fancy word for “hair removal”). Skin care professionals may perform services such as:
- Plucking, shaving, and/or waxing; types of waxes often include a back wax, a bikini wax, a Brazilian wax, a chin wax, a leg wax, a lip wax, an underarm wax, and so on; and
- Eyebrow shaping, as well as eyelash tinting (another quick note: estheticians do not perform electrolysis, as that requires an electrolysis license).
- Non-Medical Skin Analysis. Many people think of skin care therapists as cosmetologists, but forget that a big part of the job is looking at people’s skin to make sure they’re healthy. Estheticians will administer:
- Skin evaluations using lamps and magnifying equipment, in order to analyze the skin’s condition and detect tissue disorders; and
- Extraction techniques to remove open comedones (aka, blackheads) and closed comedones (aka whiteheads) from the skin.
- Skincare Instruction to Clients. One of the most surprising (and most satisfying) aspects of an esthetician’s job is offering guidance and education. They give:
- Direction and guidance about skin cleansing regimens and techniques (you would be amazed at how many people don’t know how to take proper care of their skin!);
- Harmful skincare practices that people should avoid; and
- Advice on which skin care products would be a good fit for specific clients.
- Cosmetic and Beauty Advice. Last but not least—estheticians are ultimately beauticians! The most successful skin care therapists use their expertise to
- Devise color schemes that will illuminate a client’s skin tone;
- Recommend strategies that will conceal scars, blemishes, or pigment variations; and
- Suggest application techniques and strategies that suit a client’s facial shape and contours.
So to sum up, what does an esthetician do? A good esthetician is part teacher, part health professional, part beautician, and part business person!
How to Become an Esthetician
Every state has different laws that dictate the specific requirements to become an esthetician, but in all states, you'll need to do three things:
1. Attend an esthetician school and receive a certain number of training hours. In some states, the laws say that estheticians must receive 250 hours of training, while the laws in other states require that estheticians receive 1,000 or more hours of training. It all depends on where you live, but on average, most states require between 600 and 750 hours of training. The school you attend will let you know how many hours your state requires, and when you're applying to schools, you should make sure that your school meets the required number of hours.
2. Pass a state-administered exam to prove you're learned the skills necessary to work in a spa or salon. For whatever reason, a lot of people who finished school are terrified of the state exam, but there's no reason to be nervous. Most state exams consist of a written test and a "hands on" practical test, and your school will school give you all the practice you need to pass the exam.
3. Pay some fees to activate your license (usually ranging from $25 in some states, to a couple hundred in others). Like most licensed trades, you'll have to pay a fee to activate your license, and then pay an annual fee to keep it active. Paying license fees is kind of a bummer, but it's a requirement, and they're usually not too bad.
So, how do you become an esthetician? Find a school, take the exam, and pay for your license. Easy as one-two-three!
You probably have a few more questions, so we've included each of the sections below to discuss the concerns that people usually have when they're interested in a career in esthetics.
We'll start with the most important part of starting your career: SCHOOLS.
Esthetician Schools Near You
The Healthy Skin Esthetician Blog maintains the most extensive and up-to-date directory of esthetician schools on the internet.
We've compiled a detailed list of educational programs available in your state, the salaries that estheticians in you state earn, and what you should look for in a skincare program. Click on your state in the sidebar to see available training programs in your community, or visit our "Find Schools" page above to have schools near you give you a call.
What Do You Learn in a Training Program?
In the section above, we detailed each of the main job tasks that an esthetician handles in any given day. But exactly what do you learn in esthetician school?
You'll learn to do each of the tasks in the list above, but you'll learn a lot more than just the techniques you'll use. Basically, you will become an EXPERT on the skin. You will have specialized training on a wide range of topics, including:
- Human anatomy and the biological makeup of skin;
- Physiology (which is a fancy word that means “how the cells, muscles, and organs work together”)—in other words, how the health of your organs and muscles affect the skin;
- The growth cycle of skin cells, and how skin products, skincare treatments, and lotions affect the skin;
- How certain factors, such as diet, exercise, and chemicals in the atmosphere affect the skin—both for better and for worse;
- How to provide skin care in a safe and hygienic way (this is an important one, that new students are surprised about);
- Skin diseases and how to spot them, as well as bacteriology and infection control;
- Facial massage techniques, and how they affect the underlying muscles and tissues;
- Basics of electricity and how to use electrical equipment to remove hair and stimulate new skin cell growth;
- Makeup techniques, including color theory and styling systems;
- Laws and regulations about how you can work as an esthetician in your state; and
- Business skills, including how to interact with customers, basic accounting skills, and sales techniques.
Most esthetician programs start with textbook learning and in-class lectures, and then ease into "hands on" training by using mannequins and fellow students. Once you've mastered the basics, you'll move on to real live clients in a student salon environment.
If you read that list above and you think it sounds a little intimidating---or if you're like us, and high school science just wasn't your thing!---that's totally ok. Most schools do a great job in making topics above simple and easy-to-learn. They're entire job is to teach others about skin, and they've gotten pretty good at it.
What Do You NOT Learn in School?
Here's a scandalous secret: you won't learn everything you need to know about esthetics in your skincare training program.
The main purpose of an esthetician program is to enable you to pass the state licensing exam. That's it. That's the point of school. The state creates a licensing exam, and the beauty schools in that state develop their curriculum to get your ready for the exam.
Esthetician training facilities do NOT teach you absolutely everything you need to know to be an esthetician. They teach you all you need to know to *get started as an esthetician.* The truth is, you learn what it takes to be an esthetician after you graduate.
The things that will truly make you successful---your charisma, your way with people, your networking skills, your sales game, and so on---those are things you develop outside of school.
So don't get too obsessed with finding "the perfect school." Find "the perfect school for you."
Previous Experience Required to Attend Classes
Here's a wonderful aspect about esthetician training: you need absolutely no previous experience in order to begin an esthetician training program. All you need is an interest in skin care, a desire to help others, and a willingness to learn.
Depending on the state you live in, you may need a high school diploma or a GED / high school equivalency degree to start a training program, and the schools you apply to will let you know if that's the case. In terms of work experience, however, you need ZERO work experience to apply to class. Whatever your skill level currently is, you know enough to get started! Training programs are designed to introduce you to the basics, and then build your skills as classes continue.
How Long Does It Take to Become Licensed?
Whenever you're excited about a career, the first thing on your mind is, "How much will I make?" We'll get to that in a second.
First we'll answer the question, "How long is esthetician school?"
For estheticians, the length of training depends on a few things. We mentioned that each state has different laws about training periods. On average, most states require 600 to 750 hours of supervised training, and that usually takes about six months to complete.
However, there is another factor that determines how long training will take, and that's whether or not you'll go to school full-time or part-time. Here's a rough estimation of how long classes will take:
- If you’re a full-time student, you can usually complete all the required classes in four to six months;
- If you’re a part-time student, you can usually complete all the required classes in six to twelve months.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. As a full-time student, you'll be out of school quicker and able to get a job, but keep in mind, it can be very difficult to be a full-time student and have a job (and most people can afford to not work for any length of time). Part-time schooling will allow you have a job outside of class, but it'll take a little while longer for you to enter the workforce.
When you're visiting schools, talk to one of the administrators and discuss your situation. They'll help you determine the best strategy for you to take.
How Much is School?
Every school is different, and the cost of esthetician schools near you will vary widely depending on where you live and where you decide to go to school.
Basically, there are three types of schools: big-name private schools with multiple locations (such as Paul Mitchell or the program at Empire Beauty Schools), local private schools that only have one or two locations, and community college/trade school programs.
There are pros and cons of each type of school:
- Big-name private schools usually provide a GREAT education, but can be very expensive. The price tag on private schools can be anywhere for $7,500 to $12,500+ for the entire program.
- Local private schools provide a solid education and can connect you to many of the salons and spas in your area, and while some are reasonably priced, others can get pretty expensive. The price of these schools is usually between $5,000 and $10,000.
- Community colleges and trade schools provide a great esthetician education, but classes only start in the Fall and Winter. Of all three, community colleges are the most affordable, and usually cost between $2,500 and $6,000 to complete.
That brings us to the next question...
Can I Borrow Money for Classes?
From a financial standpoint, it can be difficult to figure out how to become an esthetician. Most of us don't have enough savings to pay for tuition out-of-pocket.
Luckily, almost all schools have student loan programs where students are able to borrow some or all of the tuition required to attend classes. For many of us, the ability to borrow money is the only thing that will allow to attend classes and get an esthetician's license, so please know that you will have options available to you.
There are numerous different borrowing plans and they require a little bit of explanation, so we've written a post about the different the types of students loans.
Also, the schools you're interested in will go over student loan options in detail, so don't be afraid to ask questions. A very large percentage of your fellow students will also need to borrow money, so your school should be able to give you detailed information about the forms you need to submit.
If There Are No Training Programs in Your Area
Certain states have a number of excellent programs, and students can head to any of the major cities to find an excellent training program. However, there are some states where there aren't many schools where you can learn the trade. If that's the case, what do you do for training?
Well, you've got a couple of options.
Option #1: Make the trek every day. One of the advantages of an esthetician's education is that it's relatively short. If you can you go full time, you can usually finish classes in six months or less. You may spend a ton on gas, but you can get it done and never look back.
Option #2: Adventure Time! If there are no training programs in your area, you can move nearer to the programs in your state! Most esthetician programs are in a state's metropolitan centers (even Alaska has a few esthetician schools in Anchorage!) so this may be your chance to experience life in the big city. There are plenty of rental options available to you, and you can check out www.apartments.com or www.padmapper.com to see what's available. Relocating for school can be a ton of fun, and it's something you should definitely check out.
Salary and Income Info
Here's the big question: how much do estheticians make?
There is a government agency called the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it's their job to do research on how many people have jobs, what kind of work they're doing, and how much they earn.
According to their latest measurement (taken in March 2015), the average esthetician salary was $34,081.
HOWEVER, that number is a little misleading. Here's why:
The income figures for estheticians in different states varies widely. And that makes sense, because it costs more to live in some states than it does to live in others.
So to help you determine how much you can expect to earn in your state, we've put together the chart below. Take a look at your state, and you'll get an idea of what you can earn per hour and per year.
And, after you're done reading the chart, read the section below it---there's some pretty fantastic news about the esthetician's salary in your state.
We promised you some good news, so here it is:
The state figures mentioned in the chart are probably a little bit low. Estheticians in those states probably earned more than the figures on the chart.
Why is that?
Estheticians make a lot of money from tips and gratuities, and very often, those tips are not recorded when people do their taxes (they're legally required to, but many people make mistakes and omit that information). That means the actual income for estheticians in each of those states is higher than what's recorded---often by a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.
Those tips add up over the course of a year!
Higher Pay Than Cosmetologists
Here is a really amazing fact: In almost EVERY state, estheticians earn more per year than cosmetologists.
Take a look!
Isn't that incredible?
The only states where cosmetologists earn more than estheticians is Hawaii, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Washington.
If you're interested in becoming an esthetician, you will end up being one of the highest paid employees of the beauty industry.
Here are some other interesting observations:
- On average, the highest-paid estheticians live in Wyoming, and make an average salary of $54,550 per year (and again, that number does NOT include tips, so it’s probably more than that!). Oregon came in second place, where estheticians earned $50,790 per year (before tips).
- Estheticians in 33 states made more than $30,000 per year, estheticians in 16 states made more than $35,000 per year.
- There were seven states that did not measure how much skin care therapists made. Those states were Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
It's nice to know that you become an esthetician, your efforts can really pay off! It's not guaranteed that you'll earn that much, but it's good to know that you'll have the opportunity to make a good living.
Places of Employment
Perhaps more than any other job in the beauty industry, estheticians enjoy two incredible job benefits: the opportunity to work in a wide range of environments, and schedules that are super-flexible.
First, let's take a look at the locations where estheticians can work:
- Salons. There are a ton of estheticians employed by salons, and they’re a great place to get experience and learn the ropes. They’re also a great place to build relationships with clients, because the customers at salons tend to come back to the salon many, many times.
- Spas. These range from more laid-back local spas to plush resorts, and they are a great source for reliable income. Spas and medi spas tend to hire experienced estheticians, so you may have to build your resume before you can find work there.
- Home Offices. If you’ve developed a network of clients who will follow you wherever you go—and that should ultimately be your goal—you can open a practice in your own home. You’ll be able to create a schedule you like, make and sell your own products, and maybe even form your own business.
- Cosmetics companies. After practicing for a few years, some estheticians choose to enter the business world, and work for cosmetics companies, doing sales, training, or management. Another example of the many different places an esthetics career can take you.
- Cruise ships. Ever want to adventure abroad and see the world? Meet exciting people and see faraway lands? If you work on a cruise ship, you’ll be paid to travel! Make no mistake, estheticians on cruise ships work HARD. But at the end of the day, you may find yourself in Jamaica or China or France!
Those are the places where most people know estheticians work. But there's one other place where skin care therapists work: medical settings.
Many people choose to become medical estheticians, and those people work in the following places:
- Doctor’s Offices And Hospitals. Many estheticians work in a dermatologist’s office, alongside doctors who focus solely on skin issues. But they may also work in hospitals and treatment centers and anywhere where there are people who have diseases that affect the skin. For a very interesting look at an esthetician who works with cancer victims when they are going through chemotherapy, check out this article.
- Surgeon’s Offices. Patients who receive reconstructive or plastic surgery will often consult with an esthetician after their surgery, and he or she will provide one-on-one attention to patients on an on-going basis. Estheticians who work in cosmetic surgeon’s office make a great living, and get to help people at a very vulnerable time in their lives.
- Medical Spas. These have the welcoming atmosphere of a typical salon or spa, but they are actually medical facilities that employ a licensed dermatologist or medical doctor. Medical spas offer “advanced” treatments that you wouldn’t find in a regular salon, such as laser hair removal, chemical peels, and Botox injections. Estheticians are not usually allowed to administer advanced procedures, but they can provide assistance to the medical professionals in medical spas.
Medical esthetics is a little different than regular esthetics, so we discuss medical estheticians in a little more detail below.
Now that we've discussed where estheticians work, let's take a look at the schedules they keep.
Work Schedules and Hours
Esthetics can be full-time or part-time work, and many people enter the field because they have schedules that require flexibility. Let's take a look at some of the options available to estheticians:
- Full-time Work. Work at salons, spas, and resorts is typically full-time, and the work day usually starts sometime in the morning and ends in the early evening. You’ll usually work a 35- or 40-hour work week. You’ll make the most money if you consistently work full-time, and it’s the best way to build a loyal following.
- Part-time Work. If you’re a parent or have a number of other responsibilities, part-time work as an esthetician can be a great career option. Part-time estheticians work at salons and spas, and a part-time schedule usually takes up between 10 and 25 hours per week.
- “Floating” Work. If you’ve developed a clientele and started your own company, you’re free to work whenever you want! Many estheticians who are in business for themselves work nights and weekends, as their clients are available during those times.
At the start of your career, it's very likely that you won't have as many scheduling options as someone who's been in the game for a while. But as you develop a clientele, you will have more control over when you see clients, and how long you see them. The longer you work, the more freedom you'll have to create a schedule that suits you.
A career as an esthetician can be very satisfying---and very profitable! If you're interested in getting started, visit our "Schools" page and find a program that's right for you. And if you want tips on how to keep your skin healthy and clean, sign up for our newsletter.
Here's to your career, and here's to your healthy skin!