Become a Certified Esthetician: Certification and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a certified esthetician. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in esthetics.

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Be a Certified Esthetician

Estheticians, or aestheticians, are skin care specialists who typically work in spas and salons to provide a variety of treatments for their clients. Some of the typical duties of an esthetician include performing deep skin cleansing and treatments, hair removal, and massages. Estheticians also recommend skincare treatments, products, and regimens to their clients.

Many estheticians are self-employed, which allows them to set their schedules and work where they wish. However, these professionals still often need to work evenings and weekends. Skin care specialists also spend much of their time standing and may be exposed to harmful chemicals.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Certificate or associate's degree
Degree Field Cosmetology or esthetician program
Licensure All states require licensing except Connecticut
Experience Varies; some employers may require at least two years
Key Skills Excellent customer service, communication, time management, and monitoring abilities; understanding of the tools used for facial procedures and extractions; familiarity with medical, spreadsheet, and word processing software; a professional appearance, the ability to stand for prolonged periods of time, and the willingness to work evenings and weekends
Median Salary (2018) $31,290 (for skin care specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; O*NET OnLine; Online job postings (August 2015)

Certified estheticians have excellent customer service and communication skills. They're adept at time management, observation and monitoring and are competent in understanding and using the tools necessary for facial procedures and extractions. Certified estheticians are familiar with medical, spreadsheet, and word processing software. They present a professional appearance and have the physical fitness to stand for prolonged periods of time. This career generally requires evening and weekend hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2018 that skin care specialists earned a median salary of $31,290.

Steps to Be a Certified Esthetician

Certified estheticians must complete a formal education and training program and adhere to state licensing laws as applicable.

Step 1: Complete an Approved Cosmetology or Esthetician Program

Most states require cosmetologists to be at least 16 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and have completed an approved cosmetology program. These programs are typically offered at community or technical colleges and can usually be completed in two years or less. State-approved cosmetology or esthetician programs blend traditional classroom lectures with hands-on training. The hands-on portion can be completed through internship opportunities or lab sessions.

These programs allow students to learn about cosmetology laws, ethics, management, and sales. Proper disinfection techniques are discussed in safety and sanitation courses. In practical courses, students become acquainted with facial, massage, makeup application, and hair removal techniques.

Success Tips:

  • Improve customer service skills. Since estheticians work directly with clients, they should have must good communication and interpersonal skills. Time spent in practical sessions, or field experiences, help to improve listening and speaking skills with clients, instructors and fellow students.

  • Practice hands-on techniques. Estheticians need to hone their techniques and manual skills performing skin care services. While still in school, students can recruit friends and family members as volunteers for facials or other skin care services to get more practice. Self-practice can also be a good way to improve their skills.

Step 2: Earn State Licensure

Every state has varying requirements for esthetician licensing. To become eligible, most state boards require an individual to have completed a minimum number of hours of approved education, which includes both theoretical and practical courses. After this requirement has been met, an individual needs to take the state licensing exam, which may include both written and practical components.

Success Tip:

  • Consider professional certification. Certification can be earned on a voluntary basis for experienced estheticians that wants to show their dedication and commitment to the field. Earning certification can distinguish an individual and show employers and clients a professional's level of expertise. A licensed esthetician that has two years of verifiable work experience can qualify for voluntary certification through organizations, such as the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors, and Associations (NCEA). The NCEA's certification process entails studying a training manual in order to successfully sit for the certification exam. Once the exam is passed, the esthetician is NCEA-certified.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

After becoming licensed, an esthetician can go on to apply for entry-level positions. While certification may be optional, most employers require a minimum number of years of work experience. This allows estheticians to establish themselves within the field and obtain a client base.

Step 4: Meet Continuing Education Requirements

Once an individual is licensed, they should check with their state board for any license renewal and continuing education requirements. For example, the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology requires esthetician renewals every two years. Not only does continuing education meet state license renewal requirements, but also it can help estheticians stay abreast of new facial techniques, research studies, and products.

Certified estheticians have completed a state-approved education and training program followed by state licensure and voluntary professional certification.

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