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Esthetician Career Guide

What is an esthetician?

An esthetician is a professional in the field of skincare who specializes in enhancing the health and appearance of the skin. Their expertise lies primarily in facial skincare, although their scope of work extends to the entire body. The importance of their role in businesses and organizations cannot be overstated. They offer services that not only help to improve skin health but also provide an enjoyable and relaxing experience for their clients, thereby contributing significantly to customer satisfaction and retention.

Their role further extends to educating clients on proper skincare routines and recommending suitable products. They act as skincare consultants, guiding clients in making informed decisions about their skin health. In this way, they play a crucial role in both skincare education and the promotion and sale of skincare products, adding value to organizations by providing treatments and driving customer engagement and commerce.

Duties and responsibilities

Estheticians are responsible for conducting comprehensive skin assessments to understand the client’s skin condition. This involves skin analysis and consulting with the client about their skincare routine as well as lifestyle habits that may affect their skin.

Based on their assessment, they perform various skin treatments, including facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and extractions. They may also provide other services such as body treatments, hair removal, and makeup application. These professionals recommend skincare products to clients and instruct them on properly using them to maintain their skin’s health post-treatment.

Work environment

An esthetician primarily works in a clean, well-lit environment, typically at a spa, salon, or skincare clinic. They might also work in a medical setting, such as a dermatologist’s office or a plastic surgery clinic. Some professionals operate from home or travel to their clients’ houses, offering a more personalized and convenient service.

Their work involves close contact with clients, hence the need for excellent hygiene practices. It may require standing for prolonged periods during treatments. The environment should be calming and serene, adding to the overall soothing experience they aim to provide their clients.

Typical work hours

The work hours for an esthetician can vary greatly based on their workplace and clientele. Those working in spas, salons, or skincare clinics may operate within the usual business hours, from 9 am to 6 pm. However, evening and weekend appointments are common as clients may want treatments outside their work hours.

For self-employed estheticians, their schedules can be flexible, adapting to the needs of their clients. It is also worth noting that special events, such as weddings or proms, often require makeup and skincare services, which may result in nontraditional work hours.

How to become an esthetician

This career guide section outlines the steps to become an esthetician, highlighting the necessary training, certification, and on-the-job skill enhancement requirements to excel in the profession.

Step 1: High school diploma or equivalent

Becoming an esthetician begins with acquiring a secondary school education. Completing your high school studies or achieving an equivalent diploma is mandatory, as it forms the basis for pursuing further education and training in this field.

Step 2: Enroll in a state-approved aesthetics or cosmetology program

Following your secondary education, you must attend a state-approved aesthetics or cosmetology program. These programs generally offer hands-on training on skin care procedures, sanitation methods, and the basics of skin biology and chemistry. You will also learn about various tools and products used in skincare and how to evaluate your client’s skin type and condition.

Step 3: Complete the required hours of instruction

Make sure to complete the minimum required hours of training as stipulated by your state. These hours include both in-class theoretical instruction and practical experience. This mandatory requirement is intended to ensure competence in performing esthetic procedures and understanding the applicable local regulations.

Step 4: Pass the licensing exam

Once you’ve completed your training program, you’ll need to pass the state licensing exam, which usually consists of both written and practical tests. The exam checks your understanding of the fundamentals of skincare, health and safety regulations, as well as your skill in performing aesthetic procedures. Successfully passing the exam ensures you are licensed and ready to practice in your state.

Step 5: Seek employment

Upon acquiring your esthetician license, you are eligible to apply for jobs in skin care or related fields. You can look for job openings at spas, health clubs, dermatology clinics, or beauty salons. You may also consider setting up your private practice or becoming a beauty consultant.

Step 6: Continuing education

The beauty industry constantly evolves, so you must stay updated with the latest techniques, tools, and trends. Look for opportunities to attend workshops, seminars, or additional courses in areas that interest you, such as advanced skincare treatments, makeup application, and laser technology. Some states also require ongoing education credits for license renewals.

Step 7: Gain specialized certifications

To increase your marketability and specialize in a particular skincare area, consider achieving additional certifications. Certifications in medical esthetics, oncology esthetics, or master esthetician may enhance your profile and broaden your professional opportunities.

How much do estheticians make?

Compensation for estheticians varies by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Factors influencing their salary include specialized training, years of experience, and the prestige of the place of employment. Furthermore, they often earn tips from their clients, which significantly increase their overall income.

Highest paying industries

  • Outpatient Care Centers: $45,000
  • Specialty Hospitals: $43,000
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $40,000
  • Personal Care Services: $36,000
  • Health and Personal Care Stores: $35,000

Highest paying states

  • Wyoming – $52,490
  • Minnesota – $49,510
  • Utah – $47,150
  • Maine – $45,460
  • Montana – $45,430

Browse esthetician salary data by market

Types of estheticians

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for estheticians.

Medical esthetician

These specialists work in healthcare settings, using their knowledge of skin treatment methods to assist patients with conditions that affect their appearance. This may include recommending skin care regimens for people undergoing chemotherapy or offering therapy for burn victims to help regenerate skin tissue. This area of work often requires additional training beyond regular esthetician training, such as learning about medical terminology and procedures.

Spa esthetician

The focus is more on relaxation and wellness in a spa setting. Their responsibilities often include conducting treatments such as facials, body wraps, and body polishes. This path provides an opportunity to work in tranquil environments like day spas, resort spas, and cruise ships, where they can assist clients in achieving relaxation and skin health simultaneously.

Retail esthetician

Working in a retail setting allows these professionals to recommend particular products to customers and perform makeup or skincare consultations. They often work in stores specializing in beauty products, and their role may include sales and marketing tasks, as well as their esthetician services. Unlike other specializations, this role often comes with sales targets and performance metrics to achieve.

Freelance esthetician

This career path offers the flexibility to work independently or contract with several salons or spas. These professionals often provide mobile services, such as at-home facials, waxing, or makeup application for special events such as weddings. A freelance esthetician needs strong entrepreneurial skills to build their client base, manage their schedule, and handle their business finances.

Makeup artist

Some estheticians choose to specialize in makeup application. These professionals might work in a salon, spa, retail setting, or backstage at fashion and entertainment events. They must stay on top of current makeup trends, have a creative eye, and possess solid customer service skills. Knowledge of various skin types and conditions gained in their training can benefit them in helping clients achieve the desired look while maintaining skin health.

Top skills for estheticians

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as an esthetician.

Client communication skills

To establish confidence and trust in their clients, these professionals need exceptional interpersonal communication skills. The ability to clarify complex procedures, answer questions, and reassure clients is critical. Excellent customer service, empathy, and an understanding attitude can greatly improve client satisfaction.

Detailed knowledge of skincare products and procedures

Estheticians must master the knowledge of countless skincare products, their ingredients, potential benefits, and risks. This also extends to procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and facials. By coupling this knowledge with a keen understanding of different skin types and conditions, they can tailor unique treatments for each client.

Physical stamina

Working in this role involves long hours on feet, performing intricate treatments that require precision and steady hands. A good level of physical fitness and stamina is crucial to maintaining performance and preventing fatigue.

Sales skills

They often recommend products to their clients for home use. Thus, having sales skills can be beneficial not just for themselves, but also for their place of employment, increasing profitability and customer satisfaction. Being able to present, conversate convincingly, and close a sale are useful skills in this area.

Hygiene awareness

Given the intimate nature of their work, professionals in this role must have a robust knowledge of hygiene practices to ensure the safety and comfort of their clients. This includes sterilizing equipment, maintaining clean work areas, and proper handwashing techniques.

Patience and precision

Skincare treatments often require a steady hand and a keen eye for detail to ensure efficacy and safety. They must possess patience and precision, especially when performing delicate procedures or dealing with sensitive skin conditions.

Career path options

As an esthetician, you already know the ins and outs of skincare, makeup application, hair removal, and facial treatments. But what about their potential career paths? The beauty industry offers many opportunities to grow and advance in your career, taking you to new heights.

With experience and continuous professional development, you can specialize in certain areas, such as medical or paramedical esthetics. This specialization involves working closely with healthcare professionals to provide skincare treatments for patients undergoing medical procedures or recovering from surgeries. This not only broadens your scope of practice but also increases your earning potential.

Another path that many often take in their career is to become a spa or salon manager. This job requires you to work on the business side, including managing the staff, overseeing operations, and marketing the spa or salon. It gives you a chance to apply your leadership skills, and it comes with greater responsibilities and higher pay.

If you have a knack for teaching and sharing knowledge, a career in esthetics education could be a fantastic choice. Esthetics educators work at beauty schools, colleges, or private institutions, teaching the next generation of estheticians. It’s a fulfilling job that allows you to shape the future of the industry.

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you might consider opening your own spa or skincare clinic. With the right business acumen, this path offers the greatest earning potential and the ultimate control over your career. It also entails securing funding, selecting a venue, purchasing equipment, hiring staff, and advertising your services.

Ultimately, the beauty industry is vastly diverse, and there is no right or wrong career path—it all depends on your passion, skills, and long-term career goals. Keep abreast of industry trends and professional development opportunities to stay competitive, excel in your profession, and explore the endless possibilities.

This profession has witnessed significant transformations in the past few years, mainly due to trends in technology and society. One of the most notable trends in the field of skin care is the rise of technology integration. Estheticians now incorporate advanced techniques such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser treatments into their practices to address specific client skin concerns effectively. These technological advancements have expanded treatment options, allowing these professionals to offer personalized solutions to their clients.

A shift towards natural and holistic skincare has also been observed. More clients are looking for non-invasive treatments that use natural ingredients, leading to organic skincare therapies’ development. As a result, they must be knowledgeable about a wide range of products and their ingredients. In addition, with wellness becoming a global trend, many are incorporating mindfulness and relaxation therapies into their treatment offerings, thereby creating a comprehensive wellness experience for their clients.

Employment projections for estheticians

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for estheticians is expected to grow 17% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. This promising employment outlook stems from an increasing public interest in skincare and the evolving role of estheticians in promoting overall health and wellness. Regardless of the employment setting, professionals in this field may expect solid job prospects due to these industry trends.

Esthetician career tips

Adapt to new cosmetic and skincare trends

As an esthetician, it’s essential to keep up with the latest trends in skincare and cosmetics. New ingredients, techniques, and products are regularly introduced into the beauty market. Those professionals who keep up with the trends and can incorporate them into their services or recommend them to clients will stand out in this competitive field.

Provide personalized service

Every client has a unique skin type and different beauty goals. Offering customized services based on in-depth skin analysis and understanding your client’s needs will set you apart. This extra effort can result in client loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals, greatly enhancing your career prospects.

Invest in continuous education

Staying at the forefront of your profession often involves ongoing learning. Seek out advanced esthetician courses, skincare product seminars, and industry workshops. Specific areas you might consider for further study include:

  • Advanced facial treatments
  • Medical esthetics
  • Chemical peels and microdermabrasion
  • Laser skin treatments

Acquire relevant certifications

Additional certifications can make you more employable and desirable to customers. Certifications like CIDESCO (Comité International d’Esthétique et de Cosmétologie) and CIBTAC (Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) are recognized worldwide as prestigious qualifications in the beauty industry.

Build a professional network

Networking is an important part of any professional’s career growth, and estheticians are no exception. Joining professional associations and attending networking events can expose you to new job opportunities, clients, and partnerships. Some networks and associations you may want to consider:

  • National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA)
  • Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP)
  • Estheticians’ Professional Association (EPA)
  • International SPA Association (ISPA)

Where the jobs are


  • Hand and Stone Spa
  • European Wax Center
  • Ulta Beauty
  • Massage Envy
  • Bliss Spa


  • California
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Illinois

job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Simply Hired
  • LinkedIn
  • Spa and Salon Staff


What specific skills or qualities does an esthetician need to be effective?

They should possess strong interpersonal skills as they often work closely with clients. Being patient and having a caring demeanor can be helpful when dealing with clients who may have sensitive skin conditions. Additionally, they should have a solid understanding of skin care products, techniques, and treatments to recommend the best solutions for clients’ needs. A knack for sales can also be beneficial as they often recommend skin care products to their clients.

What kind of training or education is required for becoming an esthetician?

At a minimum, they should possess a high school diploma or equivalent. This should be followed by a state-approved esthetics training program where they master the basics of skincare. The length and content of the program can vary by state. After completion of an approved program, licensure must be obtained, which typically involves a practical and theoretical exam.

What types of treatments does an esthetician typically perform?

They are skilled in various skin care treatments such as facials and chemical peels, microdermabrasion, body treatments, and waxing. Some may also specialize in advanced techniques such as laser treatments, microneedling, or lymphatic drainage, depending on their training and state regulations.

What is the work environment of an esthetician like?

They can be found in various workplaces, including spas, salons, medical clinics, and health and wellness centers. Some are self-employed and may run their own business. The work environment is generally clean and well-lit, with them often on their feet for an extended time. The job can also involve repetitive motions when performing skin care treatments.

Are there any health risks associated with being an esthetician?

While the field of esthetics is not generally associated with severe health risks, there can be some minor risks related to the job. These could include skin irritation from working with various products, muscle strain from standing for extended periods, or the potential for contracting infections if proper sanitation procedures are not followed. To minimize these risks, they must follow all health and safety guidelines associated with their work.

What is the typical work schedule for an esthetician?

They often have varied schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays to accommodate clients. Full-time and part-time positions are available, and many work more than 40 hours a week, particularly self-employed individuals who manage their own businesses.

Can an esthetician specialize in specific types of treatments?

Yes, they can choose to specialize in certain types of treatments. Some may focus on treating certain skin conditions, such as acne or rosacea, while others may specialize in anti-aging treatments. Additionally, some individuals may be trained in more advanced procedures such as microneedling, chemical peels, and using various types of equipment such as lasers. Specializing can provide an edge in the competitive beauty industry.

Is there a demand for estheticians?

Their demand is expected to grow in the coming years, in line with the general growth of the beauty and wellness industry. The increasing interest in natural and organic skin care treatments, as well as technological advancements in skin care treatments, are contributing to this growth.

Why should someone consider becoming an esthetician?

This can be a rewarding profession for those passionate about skincare and helping others feel confident in their own skin. It offers opportunities to meet and work with a diverse range of clients, stay informed about the latest trends and technology in skincare, and even run your own business. If one enjoys working with people and has an interest in beauty and wellness, this career could be a good fit.

Is being an esthetician a stressful job?

Like any job, it can have stressful elements, including standing for long periods, managing a busy appointment schedule, or dealing with difficult clients. However, many find the job satisfying and enjoyable, particularly when they see their services’ positive impact on a client’s confidence and well-being.