Here’s What You Need to Know to Become an Aesthetician

More than 60,000 Americans are working aestheticians. But what is an aesthetician? 

Aestheticians or estheticians perform a variety of skincare, cosmetic, and beauty treatments. They’re employed at salons and spas and often work as freelancers.

If you’re interested in becoming an aesthetician, it’s a growing field. You can expect to make anywhere from minimum wage to over $50 an hour, depending on where you work. So keep reading to find out how to become an aesthetician.

How to Become an Aesthetician

There’s a simple process to undertake when becoming an aesthetician. Some aestheticians and cosmetologists are self-taught.

But it’s more common to have formal education. And most licensing programs won’t grant certification to aestheticians without a degree. 

Generally, the process involves taking a program and receiving further training. Then you’ll have to complete practical hours and pass a licensing exam. As you work, you’ll have to retain that license by getting it renewed every three years or so.

Now that you have a sense of what it takes, let’s dive into each step in greater detail.

Research Programs

If you’re committed to becoming an aesthetician, you should start by researching programs. What schools are in your area? What kinds of classes do they offer? 

Make sure you choose a program with lots of hands-on learning. An accredited school should be offering it. And you may consider looking into cosmetology programs, as the two are often similar.

Consider the tuition, commute time, and hours you’ll have to dedicate to each program. These factors should all play a role in which program you choose. 

Finally, look into the licensing requirements in your state. Do they require you to have a cosmetology degree or one from an aesthetician program? Do they require certain courses or a particular number of hands-on hours?

You want to make sure you’re using your time and money wisely. Set yourself up for success by having the details sorted out from the start.


To enroll in a program, you’ll need a GED certificate or, at least, a high school diploma. Once you’re enrolled, you can start studying!

Most aesthetician programs are between 6-12 months long, requiring an average of 600 hours of education. Your state may require more hours or fewer depending on their regulations.

In your program, you’ll learn the essentials of skincare and cosmetics. You will likely learn about hair, nails, and massage, too.

You’ll practice working with clients and you’ll take courses on business skills, too. In the end, you’ll graduate with either a diploma or an associate’s degree. 

In some areas, you may be able to further your education. Master-level programs or medical aesthetician programs exist, too.

Those programs are for people wanting to work in healthcare facilities. These are not the same as a Master’s degree, but give you the title of Master Aesthetician.

If you’re interested in that path, you’ll have to complete extra training, usually up to 600 hours. 


Once you’ve completed your formal education, you’ll likely start training. Training could be included in your program. If not, you might have to find an apprenticeship at a beauty spa or salon. 

Even if your program includes training, you’ll need hands-on experience to getting certified. Starting at a salon, you may not perform the full duties of an aesthetician. But you’ll still be getting the necessary experience. 

Just be sure to keep in mind your state’s regulations. What do they consider “practical” training hours? 

If you opt not to do an aesthetician program, you may be able to complete a formal apprenticeship program. Typically, though, these programs require a temporary license.

Become Certified

You’ll need an official license to practice any kind of aesthetic or cosmetic skincare in the US. What you want to look for is your state’s Board of Cosmetology, a subbranch of the Department of Health. 

Once you’ve passed your program, you can apply to take the licensing exam. In most states, you have to sit for and pass a written exam before you can become licensed. In others, you’ll have to perform a practical exam, too. 

You can also apply to become certified as an aesthetician. Look for the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA). They offer a National Esthetician Certification you can apply for.

To earn that certification, you’ll have to go through a training class and pass another exam. This is also another way to become a Master Aesthetician. Like your license, this certification has to be renewed every few years.

Determine Your Specialties

As you become an aesthetician, you may want to consider what skills you’d like to specialize in. You can certainly do a little bit of everything in your work.

But some people like to become experts in certain areas. This is especially for those considering freelance work or opening their own salon.

Waxing and Massage

Aestheticians learn all the essentials of hair removal and, in some programs, massage. These are key skills to know, especially if you want to work at a spa. 

You’ll learn how to wax and thread unwanted hair. You’ll also learn how to apply and use depilatory creams. Depending on your program, you may also practice using laser hair removal treatments.

Learning the techniques of head, scalp, and neck massages will be part of your program, too. In some cases, you may also learn how to massage arms, hands, and shoulders. 

Makeup and Cosmetics

Many aestheticians choose to include makeup in their services. They may offer suggestions on what products to use for different skin types. They may also apply makeup for special events.

If you specialize in cosmetics, you could start an eyelash extension service. Or, you could center your business around doing makeup for weddings and proms.

Skincare Treatments

Skincare is the foundation of all aesthetics programs. You’ll need to know how to provide facials, masks, and exfoliating treatments. You’ll need to understand how products react with the skin. 

Clients may come to you looking for acne products or anti-aging treatments. It will be helpful to know how to administer chemical peels and laser treatments, as well. 

In addition to facial skincare, you may learn how to care for the skin on the body, too. This can range from suggesting sugar and salt scrubs to assisting with moisturizing treatments. You may also perform clay or seaweed body wraps to help promote skin elasticity. 

Start the Process Today

Those are the key parts of knowing how to become an aesthetician. It takes time and hard work, but you can make it through. It’s a rewarding career where you get to help others become healthier and more confident. 

Check out more on skincare by clicking on our Hair & Beauty section.

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