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How to Become an Esthetician

Becoming an esthetician can be a rewarding career choice, and there are a few different paths you can take to become licensed. One option is to complete a cosmetology program at a vocational school or community college, which typically takes about nine months to a year to complete.

Alternatively, you can enroll in an esthetics program at a dedicated school, which will take longer but will provide you with more specialized training. Once you have completed your education, you will need to pass a state-licensed exam in order to practice esthetics.

If you’ve wondered how to become a licensed esthetician, you’re in the right place. We’ll help you understand what an esthetics career looks like and provide you with helpful information about the process for earning your license.

What does an esthetician do?

Estheticians are skin care professionals who focus on providing treatments that improve the appearance of the skin. Common treatments performed by estheticians include facials, exfoliation, and massages.

Estheticians typically work in salons, spas, or dermatologists’ offices. Many also offer mobile services and make house calls to provide their clients with convenient access to professional skin care treatments.

How to become an esthetician

Becoming a licensed esthetician requires completing a state-approved educational program and passing a licensing exam. Educational requirements vary by state, but most programs include both classroom instruction and hands-on training. Classroom topics typically include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Principles of hair removal
  • Facials
  • Makeup application

Students also learn how to perform various spa treatments, such as body wraps and scrubs. Depending on which state you’re in, the requirement for classroom hours can vary quite a bit. For example, in Michigan you’ll only need to complete 400 hours of coursework before you can take the state exam. Toward the other end of the spectrum, Connecticut will require you to get a cosmetology license which requires 1,500 hours of classroom time.

If the classroom isn’t your cup of tea, some states will allow you to do an apprenticeship rather than take a state-accredited course. You’ll have to work a set number of hours under the guidance of a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist, but this can be a good option for some people who may not have the time or inclination to take a traditional esthetics course.

In addition to completing an educational program or apprenticeship, candidates for licensure must pass a written and practical exam. The written exam covers topics such as sanitation and disinfection, infection control, and safety procedures. The practical exam tests students’ ability to perform various esthetic services, such as giving a facial or applying makeup.

With the completion of an accredited program and passing scores on both exams, individuals can earn their license and begin working in the field of esthetics.

How long is esthetician school?

There are many factors that go into determining how long esthetician school lasts. The biggest factor is your state’s requirements. Some states do not issue esthetician licenses separate from cosmetology licenses, and in those states, you will have to go to a cosmetology school and your program will likely be longer and more expensive as a cosmetologist provides more services than an esthetician.

Another factor that can determine the length of your program is whether you choose to take a full-time or part-time course load. If you take part-time courses, you will undoubtedly stretch out the overall length of your program.

If your state does issue standalone esthetics licenses you can usually expect your esthetician program to include about 600 hours worth of classes over a span of about six months.

How to choose an esthetician school?

There are several things to consider before you pick a school. A good first step is to look into all the available esthetician schools in your area and check their online reviews. Make sure the school is accredited by the state board of cosmetology and offers the type of training you’re looking for.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, schedule an interview with the admissions department. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and get a feel for the school’s culture. Also, be sure to check out the school’s job placement rate. A good esthetician school will have a strong track record of helping students find jobs after graduation.

Another useful tip is to go out into the real world and talk to other estheticians to see where they went to school and get their feedback. Even if you don’t know anyone personally, you might be surprised how many people are happy to talk about their experiences and provide you with their advice on which programs are the best.

How long does it take to get an esthetician license?

As discussed above, the requirements of your state will largely dictate how long it takes to get an esthetician license. Typically, you can apply, complete a program (or apprenticeship), and complete your state’s exam requirements in six to twelve months. If you choose to take classes part-time or your state requires a cosmetology license to work as an esthetician, your program could take one to three years.

Learn more about earning your esthetics license.

What makes someone a good esthetician?

Like any job, there are certain types of people better suited for one job than another. So what makes a good esthetician?

In terms of personality traits, estheticians should be friendly and outgoing, as they will be working closely with their clients on a regular basis. They should also be detail-oriented, as they need to give each client the individualized attention they deserve. Finally, estheticians should be good at multitasking, as they often have to juggle multiple clients at once.

Regarding physical attributes, estheticians should have well-manicured hands and nails, as they will be doing a lot of work with their hands. They should also have good eyesight, as they need to be able to see small imperfections in the skin. Finally, estheticians should have good stamina, as they will be standing for long periods of time.

Jobs outlook for estheticians

There are more than 80,000 people working as skincare professionals in the United States today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth in this field is almost off the charts, with 17% job growth predicted between 2021 and 2031. That’s more than 13,000 new jobs created in this space and a strong argument for starting a career as an esthetician. Where do most estheticians work?

  • California – 6,640
  • Florida – 4,690
  • Texas – 4,340
  • Washington – 1,680
  • Arizona – 1,660

Per capita, the states with the highest concentration of estheticians are:

  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • Idaho
  • Rhode Island
  • Arizona

How much do estheticians make?

The mean hourly wage for estheticians was $20.05, which equals an annual average salary of $41,700 across the United States in 2021.

Percentile 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Hourly Wage $ 11.10 $ 14.06 $ 17.93 $ 22.83 $ 31.58
Annual Wage $ 23,100 $ 29,240 $ 37,300 $ 47,490 $ 65,680


Your location and employer will have a big impact on how much you make, and you can see the variance in salary by looking at the different percentile wages with the top 10% making more than $40,000 more annually than the bottom 10%.

States with the highest page for estheticians are:

  • Washington DC – $77,560
  • Connecticut – $63,940
  • Washington – $62,960
  • Illinois – $53,490
  • New Mexico – $52,660

Learn more about esthetician salaries.

More questions?

If you have more questions that need answering please check out our FAQ page where we answer more popular questions people have about esthetics schools and a career in the skin care industry.