What Is the Difference Between a Dermatologist & an Esthetician?

Oct 20, 2021

Comparing Dermatologists to Estheticians

Do you want to be a dermatologist or esthetician? Dermatologists and estheticians are skin care professionals. The key distinction is that dermatologists are medical doctors and qualified to diagnose and treat medical conditions that affect the skin. Estheticians concentrate on the skin's appearance and may use facials or other treatments to improve the skin's appearance or care for problems such as acne. The table below provides some key comparisons from esthetician to dermatologist careers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2020)* Job Outlook (2019-2029)**
Dermatologists Medical Degree $254,158 4% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)
Estheticians Postsecondary Program and License $34,090 17% (for skincare specialists)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Dermatologists vs. Estheticians

Dermatologists and estheticians are both skincare specialists. There are many things to consider when choosing between an esthetician vs dermatologist career.

Although dermatologists and estheticians both work with people's skin, the similarities in their work are superficial. They have appointments with people, and as part of their duties they will inspect a patient's skin. Dermatologists use medical tests and data to diagnose patients and make decisions about how to treat their condition. They may also perform surgery or other medical procedures to treat patients. Estheticians are focused on the appearance of a person's skin and may help identify issues such as unwanted hairs or acne. They may remove hairs, advise clients on how to properly clean their skin and give clients treatments such as peels.

Dermatologists

Dermatologists are medical professionals, and they must have a medical degree and license to treat patients. They may also need to complete a residency or internship and earn certification to specialize as a dermatologist. Dermatologists may opt to focus on procedural dermatology, which involves performing surgical procedures to correct skin-related issues, or other subfields such as pediatric dermatology, which involves treating children with skin conditions. They spend their careers working with patients with skin disorders, including eczema and skin cancer. They may work in medical offices or clinics, and are usually able to primarily work regular daytime hours.

Job responsibilities of a dermatologist include:

  • Performing patient examinations
  • Conducting and/or ordering medical tests
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Operating on patients
  • Developing a treatment plan
  • Referring patients to other specialists when needed

The steps you'll need to take in order to become a dermatologist are:

  1. Obtain a bachelor's degree
  2. Attend medical school
  3. Complete a residency program in dermatology
  4. Become board certified in dermatology

The cost and time commitment of education required to become a dermatologist is high. First, you'll need to spend four years completing a bachelor's degree, followed by another four years of medical school. Dermatology residency adds another four years for a total of twelve educational years. On top of this, the education can be demanding and will require you to devote a lot of time to studying.

Estheticians

Estheticians are beauty care professionals who focus on the appearance of the skin. They are required to complete a postsecondary training program and be licensed. A high percentage of estheticians work in personal care, while some may also work in health stores or other retail locations. It's common for them to work during the day and evening, and they may work during the week and on weekends.

Estheticians may also work in a clinical setting such as a doctor's office or hospital. Estheticians who do clinical work are commonly called aestheticians. Their focus is less cosmetic and more medical in nature. Generally, these professionals may assist doctors like dermatologists in the treatment of skin conditions like acne or ingrown hairs. They may also perform laser hair removal if they are trained in this role. When comparing the careers aesthetician vs. dermatologist, it is important to remember that dermatologists are licensed medical doctors whereas estheticians are not.

Job responsibilities of an esthetician include:

  • Examining their clients' skin
  • Explaining ways to treat blemishes and other issues
  • Recommending products and makeup
  • Applying facials or cleaning clients' skin
  • Removing hair
  • Performing tests

The steps you'll need to complete in order to become an esthetician are:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED
  2. Complete a training program and earn a certificate
  3. Obtain licensure according to your state's requirements

One difference between dermatologist and esthetician careers is the necessary time commitment to education for each. Whereas it takes 12 years to become a dermatologist, it will typically take less than one year. A certificate program will usually take six to twelve weeks, then you'll usually need around 100 hours of supervised work before you can become licensed. This time commitment is important to consider when deciding whether to become a dermatologist or esthetician.

Some states, including Virginia, Utah, and the District of Columbia, also offer additional credentials in the form of a Master Esthetician License. Estheticians who earn this license go beyond the basic requirements to become licensed in their state. They pass an additional exam and complete additional hours of supervised work. The title of Master Esthetician is helpful when applying for jobs and seeking promotions.

Related Careers

Since dermatologists perform some surgical procedures, those considering this career may also be interested in becoming a surgical assistant. Beauticians also help with skin care, so those considering being an esthetician may also want to explore the option of being a beautician.

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