7 Steps to become an esthetician: Salary, skills, and more

Last updated: May 26, 2024
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7 Steps to become an esthetician: Salary, skills, and more
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Have you always wanted to work in the beauty industry?

According to Statista, the beauty and personal care market is expected to grow by 3.80% from 2023 to 2027, paving the way for more career opportunities, including esthetician jobs.

If you have an interest in beauty and skincare, you might enjoy working as an esthetician.

But how exactly do you pursue this career path? And what skills do you need?

In this article, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide you can follow to become an esthetician. You’ll also learn how much you can expect to earn, what your job responsibilities will be, the skills you’ll need, and more.

What is an esthetician?

An esthetician is a professional who helps people improve and take care of their skin. These professionals know how to treat wrinkles and skin conditions such as blemishes.

Estheticians primarily work in spas and beauty salons, but they can also work in hospitals, hotels, nursing facilities, medical offices, and other settings.

Employment for skincare specialists is projected to grow by 17% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than average, with about 13,400 job openings expected.

The increase in demand for skincare professionals may be largely linked to higher beauty standards, which people — especially women — are willing to take extra measures to meet.

What do estheticians do?

Estheticians provide skincare services, and many specialize in certain types of skincare, such as microdermabrasion or makeup. Those that work at spas might learn how to provide all the treatments on their employers’ menu.

Estheticians have a wide range of responsibilities. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Giving clients a warm and friendly welcome

  • Making sure they adhere to appointments promptly

  • Giving clients cosmetic treatments, including superficial chemical peels, waxing, and facial massages

  • Determining each client’s skin type to recommend the best products for them

  • Applying makeup for special occasions, such as prom or a wedding

  • Determining the suitability of different treatments

  • Interviewing clients to make sure they’re aware of any allergies

  • Engaging with clients during their treatments

  • Teaching clients how to have healthy skin

  • Performing extractions and acne treatments in a safe way that also eliminates the risk of scarring

  • Giving clients body wraps, masks, and scrubs

  • Performing hair removal treatments, such as tweezing, threading, and laser hair removal

How much do estheticians earn?

According to over 350 salary profiles recorded by Payscale, estheticians earn an average salary of $15.30 per hour or $38,913 per year. They can also get paid commissions when they sell beauty products to clients.

However, estheticians’ salaries can differ based on several factors, including experience, location, and specialization.

Experience

Estheticians with several years of experience can earn higher salaries than beginners. Those with 10 to 19 years of experience report earning just over $20 per hour, while those with less than a year’s experience report making around $14.30 per hour.

That’s a difference of about $5.70 per hour. While this may not seem like a lot, when calculated monthly, this equates to around $1,000 more for experienced estheticians per month (presuming they work eight hours per day).

Location

Estheticians who live in certain parts of the country can also earn more. Pay rates for different cities are largely based on the cost of living and other factors, such as the size of the salon.

For example, estheticians who live in Massachusetts tend to earn 16% more than average, while those who live in California make 15% less than average.

Specialization

The five main specializations for estheticians are as follows:

  • Facial specialists

  • Medical estheticians

  • Skincare specialists

  • Spa therapists

  • Waxing specialists

While many salons offer a standard rate for estheticians, regardless of their specialization, some offer different rates. Again, this will depend on the location and work setting.

What skills do estheticians need?

Here are some of the top skills you’ll need to be a good fit for a career as an esthetician.

  • Interpersonal skills: A considerable portion of your day will be spent working one-on-one with clients. Thus, you’ll need to be personable and make others feel comfortable and relaxed. Learn more about interpersonal skills.

  • Communication skills: Hand-in-hand with interpersonal skills are good communication skills since you’ll be engaging with clients during their treatments. You’ll also often be required to explain treatments to clients in a way that’s easy for them to understand. In addition to clients, you’ll need to communicate with your co-workers and boss regularly.

  • Listening skills: Clients often have unique requirements and needs. Thus, you need to be able to listen to each client’s requirements and take notes when necessary.

  • Attention to detail: Working with skin requires attention to detail, which means ensuring you use the right products and quantities. Since people are incredibly protective of their skin, making a mistake or applying the wrong products could have disastrous consequences.

  • Sales skills: You can earn good commissions by selling beauty products to clients. Thus, having good sales skills can help you make extra cash every month. Storytelling, in particular, is an excellent sales skill since it allows you to connect with clients and make them more likely to purchase from you.

  • Knowledge of beauty products: You need to be an expert in different products and their ingredients so that you don’t accidentally cause an allergic reaction. Deep knowledge will also help you sell products.

  • Cleanliness: Since an esthetician career focuses on the cleanliness of the skin, keeping your work area clean and maintaining a neat and tidy physical appearance is essential. After all, you are your best testimonial.

Do you have specific hard and soft skills that could help you in this job? Learn what the nine best skills are to put on your resume.

Steps to become an esthetician

Here are the steps you can take to become an esthetician:

1. Enroll in an accredited esthetician program

Complete an esthetician or cosmetology program that’s approved by the state you want to work in.

Note that some states will require you to have a high school diploma or GED to attend cosmetology or esthetician school. Others, however, accept candidates who don’t have high school diplomas — as long as they’re 16 years or older.

Cosmetology and esthetician programs differ in price, schedule, and availability. Thus, it’s best to consider several programs in your area so you can find the one that’s best suited to you and your budget.

Most cosmetology and esthetician programs cover a range of topics, including customer relations, product knowledge, skin anatomy, and esthetician treatments. These programs also combine theoretical and practical coursework.

2. Get a state license

Next, you’ll need to earn an esthetician license to practice in the state you plan to work in. Each state has different requirements, so make sure you do your research.

Many states require a passing grade on the state licensing exam alongside a specific amount of classroom and work experience. Chances are good that your cosmetology or esthetician program will include some or all of these hours as part of its program.

The licensing exam involves a combination of practical components, in which you’ll need to perform treatments, as well as written sections that will test your theory knowledge.

3. Gain experience

Once you have your license, you can apply for entry-level positions in spas, salons, or other establishments such as hospitals and hotels.

Starting with an entry-level position means you’ll gain hands-on experience to improve your skills and advance to positions in larger businesses — or operate independently if that’s your ultimate goal.

In addition to building your skills and experience, you’ll establish a strong base of clients who like your work and become loyal to you.

You can also choose to pursue a career path that’s closely related to esthetician work, such as a makeup artist, to build your reputation in the beauty industry.

Remember to highlight your hard skills on your resume to stand out from other candidates.

4. Consider getting a certification

While many companies don’t require a certification, getting one could reflect well on you and your dedication to the esthetician and beauty fields. Obtaining a certification may also help your job applications stand out so you are chosen for positions with a higher income potential.

The most popular certification for estheticians is the National Esthetician Certification, which is offered by the National Coalition of Estheticians Association (NCEA).

5. Pursue higher-paying positions

Now that you’re a licensed esthetician and have gained experience, you can pursue specialist positions. These are more focused positions that include facial specialist, spa therapist, or dermabrasion specialist roles.

You can also choose to become a spa manager or public relations representative for beauty companies.

Learn more about writing a stellar resume to help you land the job of your dreams.

6. Continue your education

You’ll need to renew your license every once in a while to maintain the education requirements for being an esthetician.

Most licenses need to be renewed after a few years, but the exact number of years depends on the state. So, be sure to read up on the requirements in your state.

Renewing your license may involve learning new skills, taking a practical exam, or working additional hours. Since the medical industry is constantly evolving, you may need to learn new best practices to keep your education up to date.

You can use continuing education opportunities to expand your skills, which will enable you to improve customer results and satisfaction.

7. Optional: start your own business

This step is optional, but it’s a great way to increase your income. After working for someone for several years, starting your own spa or business with the knowledge and skills you’ve learned is often a good idea.

Having your own business means you’ll get to increase your income — or even potentially branch out into a franchise.

However, starting a business takes hard work and requires several steps, such as conducting market research and obtaining the necessary funds. Be prepared to put in long hours in the beginning.

FAQs about estheticians

What’s the difference between an esthetician and an aesthetician?

Estheticians and aestheticians are both skincare experts. However, estheticians focus more on cosmetic skin treatments, such as facials and hair removal, whereas aestheticians handle the medical side of skincare, such as botox or medical procedures for patients with severe skin issues.

Is becoming an esthetician worth it?

There are several benefits to becoming an esthetician, including a decent hourly wage, the opportunity to work in the beauty field, and the chance to start your own business once you’ve gained enough experience.

However, whether a career as an esthetician is worth it for you will depend on your passions. If you’re truly passionate about the beauty industry and skincare, this is a great fit for you.

Start your career as an esthetician

A career in the beauty industry can help set you up for a fulfilling and happy life with a high income potential. With enough experience, you might even be able to start your own business.

If you already have the qualifications and experience to work an entry-level esthetician job, you can look for a position on Jobcase’s job board.

Simply type in the position you’re looking for alongside your location. All available jobs will pop up so you can go through them and find one that suits your skills, needs, and career goals.

Interested in other beauty careers? Discover hair and beauty jobs available right now.

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Tammy Martin
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I recommend checking out the HydraFacial treatment offered at Skin Soul Med Spa's Burlington location. This procedure can be a valuable addition to an esthetician's skillset, as it's a popular and effective non-invasive facial treatment. Not only will it enhance your ability to provide a wide range of skincare services, but it can also boost your earning potential as clients increasingly seek advanced skincare solutions. You can find more details about the HydraFacial treatment at Skin Soul Med Spa's Burlington location by visiting their website at https://www.skinsoulmedspa.com/locations/burlington/hydrafacial/ It's essential to stay updated with the latest skincare trends and technologies to excel in your esthetician career, and this resource can help you explore this exciting opportunity further.

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