How to Become an Esthetician

Estheticians nationwide earn a median salary of $36,510 per year.

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Estheticians are skin-care specialists who typically work in salons and spas or are self-employed. It’s an in-demand position: Esthetician jobs are expected to rise much faster than average by 2030. To become an esthetician, you usually need to complete a state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program and pass a state licensing exam.

Employment outlook

The following information comes from the most recent nationwide data (May 2020) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Median pay: $36,510 per year or $17.55 per hour.

Total number of jobs in 2020: 68,700.

Projected employment growth from 2020-2030: 29%.

10 cities and metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of esthetician jobs:

  • Ogden-Clearfield, Utah.

  • Bend-Redmond, Oregon.

  • Johnson City, Tennessee.

  • Boulder, Colorado.

  • Napa, California.

  • Lafayette, Louisiana.

  • Savannah, Georgia.

  • Barnstable Town, Massachusetts.

  • Tucson, Arizona.

  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona.

Education and training required

Minimum education required: Certificate from a state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program.

Training needed: Estheticians must complete a postsecondary vocational training program approved by the state they plan to obtain a license from. It could be at a community college or private vocational school, depending on the availability in your area. After a state-approved program is complete, estheticians must complete a written and practical state exam for licensing.

The Associated Skin Care Professionals provides information on state regulations and the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology provides contact information on state licensing exams.

Licensing needed: An esthetics or cosmetology license, depending on your state.

How to pay for your education

Financial aid availability: If you attend a community college with an esthetician training program, you typically can access federal aid dollars through Title IV funding. Not all programs will be eligible for federal student aid. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to access need-based aid and federal student loans. If you have a financial gap to fill, consider private student loans.

If you attend a private technical school with esthetician training, you may find the school offers its own loan programs or the equivalent of a “buy now, pay later” financing option. Use these with caution since rates may be much higher than federal student loans. Compare the program available at these schools with any offered by a nearby community college.

Typical cost to become an esthetician: The cost of becoming an esthetician will vary by the cost of a training program. For example, at Western Suffolk BOCES in Dix Hills, New York, it costs about $9,500 to complete a program.

To compare the costs of associate degree programs in cosmetology and related personal grooming services, you can use the Department of Education’s College Scorecard to search by “Field of Study.” This will show you median debt, graduation rates and salaries at U.S. schools.

Loan forgiveness available: Estheticians are unlikely to receive student loan forgiveness through a specific forgiveness program. Individual companies may provide additional training once you are licensed.

Working conditions

Hours: Full-time or part-time hours, often evenings and weekends. Working more than 40 hours a week is typical.

Where you’ll work: Estheticians typically work in salons and beauty and health spas or medical offices. They are sometimes self-employed and make house calls.

Risks: Estheticians often use chemicals on the face and body, so they must wear protective clothing that is well-ventilated. Estheticians often have to stand for long periods. In addition, you may need to obtain general and professional liability insurance.

Benefits: Some employers provide health insurance, but it’s not guaranteed. You can join several professional associations, such as the National Coalition of Estheticians Association, Associated Skin Care Professionals, the Professional Beauty Association, and the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. However, union membership is uncommon in this field.

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