Becoming an Esthetician: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as an esthetician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to find out if becoming an esthetician is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of Becoming an Esthetician

Estheticians help people look and feel great by providing services such as facials, massages, skin analysis and facial waxing. Before you consider becoming an esthetician, think about the pros and cons:

PROS of Becoming an Esthetician
A fast-growing career (12% increase in employment from 2014-2024)*
Few educational requirements*
A good career for those who like to work with people*
Schedules are often flexible*

CONS of Becoming an Esthetician
Long hours and weekends may be necessary*
Pay can be low for entry-level positions*
Licensure is required*
Extended periods of standing and walking on the job*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As an esthetician, you could be qualified to perform facials, facial massages, chemical peels, eyebrow tinting, hair removal and makeup application. In addition, part of your job would require acting as a salesperson to gain and maintain your client base, and you could be required to promote beauty products sold by your employer. You also need to be in good physical shape because you'll generally work on your feet throughout your shift.

Many estheticians work in spas and salons; those who specialize as medical estheticians generally have more training and can be employed by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Some are dedicated to working with cancer or other special needs patients who are looking to improve their sense of well-being.

Occupation Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, job opportunities are expected to grow much faster than average, about 12% from 2014-2024. Skin care specialties are becoming increasingly popular, which is why growth in the field is expected. Competition for jobs is greatest at high-end spas, while it's frequently easier to find entry-level jobs at average establishments.

In 2014, the BLS reported that skin care specialists, including estheticians, earned a median salary of $29,050. However, medical estheticians may earn more. According to, most medical estheticians earned between $22,000 and $51,000 in January 2016. Your experience and ability to bring in clients for an employer can determine your ability to receive the higher-paying jobs.

Education and Other Requirements

To become an esthetician, you generally need a degree or certificate in esthetics. Many esthetician programs are available at community and technical colleges and can prepare you to work in a salon or spa. Some programs concentrate on medical esthetics and can prepare you to work in a dermatologist's office or a plastic surgery center. You may need a current esthetician license in your state for entry to a medical esthetician program.

Courses in esthetician programs could teach you to perform chemical peels, electric therapies, facials, microdermabrasion, hair removal, body-wrapping and makeup application. Generally, you get to learn and practice your skills on real people. Most programs also teach you about safety and sanitation, as well as first aid.

State Licensure

All states require that estheticians become licensed, but requirements for licensure vary by state. You generally need to complete a state-approved educational program and pass a licensing exam. In addition, states require that you participate in a certain number of supervised training hours as part of the licensing process.

Useful Skills

Confidence, along with a neat, updated image, is important for anyone working in the personal appearance industry. Part of being a successful esthetician involves being attentive to your clients' particular needs and pleasing your customers. For example, some clients may like to talk during a visit, while others prefer to be quiet and fully relax. As an esthetician, you should also have:

  • An enjoyment of working with people
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Aesthetic and creative talents
  • Sales capabilities
  • Administrative skills

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

Most companies are seeking employees who have outstanding interpersonal and customer service skills, indicated by a March 2012 search for esthetician jobs. You must also have a license in the state where you plan to work; some positions, like master esthetician, may have additional licensing requirements. If you're working as a medical esthetician, you might need basic life support certification. Below are examples of real job postings from March 2012:

  • A national massage therapy chain in Cincinnati is looking to hire an esthetician who can perform facials. Applicants must be friendly and professional, have good communication skills, and hold a current Ohio managing esthetician license. Employees should be able to work flexible hours and be knowledgeable about other esthetic modalities.
  • The plastic surgery division of a university hospital in Utah is seeking a master esthetician to do laser treatments, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and body treatments. The esthetician must assist doctors in laser surgery, as well as place medical supply and skin care product orders. Capacity to communicate with other medical professionals and outstanding customer service skills are necessary. Applicants should have a state master esthetician license and basic life-support certification.
  • A Florida dermatological center is looking to hire a medical esthetician to consult with patients on skin care treatments. The employee must have experience working in medical esthetics, as well as knowledge about laser care, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and makeup application. The ideal candidate should be professional and friendly, have good communication and sales skills, and be proficient in using computers.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Experience and professionalism are of vital importance to employers. If you have expertise in all the esthetic practices, such as facials, hair removal, makeup application, as well as more advanced types of services, you could have greater job opportunities. Also, being licensed in several areas of esthetics or cosmetology could open the door to higher-paying jobs.

Other Careers to Consider

Nail Technician

Being a nail technician requires many of the same skills as an esthetician, such as interpersonal and sales skills, professionalism and a preference for working with people. You could provide manicures and pedicures, and apply nail art and nail extensions. Like esthetician training, nail technician training is fairly brief, and you could qualify for a license if you complete a short-term certificate program in nail technology or cosmetology. The BLS indicated that job opportunities were predicted to increase 19% from 2008-2018, which is faster than average. However, the pay for this career is fairly low. The BLS indicated in May 2010 that manicurists and pedicurists received mean salary of only $22,000, including tips.

Hairdresser and Hairstylist

If you're looking for a career that would allow you to be more creative, you might consider a career as a hairdressers or hairstylist. You would perform cutting, coloring and styling for men, women, and children. You can qualify for a license by completing a cosmetology program at a community college or technical school. Like the esthetician field, this career is expected to grow faster than average, at 20% from 2008-2018, according to the BLS. In 2010, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists earned a mean salary of $27,000 per year, including tips.

Massage Therapist

As a massage therapist, you can also use skills similar to that of an esthetician. Massage therapists are qualified to give full body massages for therapeutic purposes. Training is available in various massage modalities, such as acupressure, sports massage and reflexology. Most states require licensure, which includes the completion of an approved educational program and a licensing exam. Massage therapists work in spas, nursing homes, hospitals and sports medicine clinics. According to the BLS, job opportunities were projected to grow 19% from 2008-2018. In 2010, massage therapists earned mean salary of $40,000.

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