Becoming a Medical Esthetician (Aesthetician) – Education & Certification

“Medical estheticians play a vital role in medical practices by bringing a deep level of expertise in skincare that physicians may not have. Medical estheticians are trained and experienced in addressing concerns of anti-aging, acne, skin maintenance, and pre- and post-surgery facial treatments.”

Jennifer Fredette, Multi-state Licensed Esthetician

Taking care of skin requires specialized knowledge and training. To do so many clients rely on an esthetician’s expertise to make recommendations on keeping their healthy skin. Either in a salon or medical clinic, these skincare professionals utilize their expertise to provide facials, chemical peels, makeup consultations, and hair removal.

Licensed skincare specialists who work in a clinical setting are called medical estheticians. They are employed in dermatology offices, plastic surgeon clinics, hospitals, and medical spas. The title can be misleading, however, as no medical training requirements exist. Medical estheticians are required to attend cosmetology or esthetician school and obtain state licensure upon graduation. Often, to practice in medical clinics, hospitals, or dermatology offices, estheticians will pursue specialized training such as how to use lasers for skin treatments or hair removal. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023), skincare specialists—a professional field that includes medical estheticians—are expected to see 9 percent growth in job openings nationally between 2022 and 2032, adding 7,500 positions. 

Below is outlined the path to becoming a medical esthetician, including a step-by-step guide to joining this profession, top programs of study, and an overview of typical job duties.

Ask an Expert: Jennifer Fredette

Jennifer Fredette has been working in skin care for more than  22 years. She is a multi-state licensed esthetician, certified in esthetics, Reiki Level 1 & 2 practitioner, certified for medical esthetics chemical peels, and director of skin care services at Massage Heights In New York. She has extensive experience working with retail partners such as Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Dillard’s. She has a bachelor of arts from Adrian College and completed her esthetician training at Christine Valmy School of Esthetics, New York. 

HealthcareDegree.com: What is something you wish the public understood about medical estheticians?

Fredette: Medical estheticians play a vital role in medical practices by bringing a deep level of expertise in skincare that physicians may not have. Medical estheticians are trained and experienced in addressing concerns of anti-aging, acne, skin maintenance, and pre- and post-surgery facial treatments. Along with this, medical estheticians have a wealth of knowledge on skincare products, ingredients, and formulations which assist clients in safely reaching their overall goals. Medical offices also allow estheticians access to a wider range of equipment, tools, and treatments compared to traditional spa and day spa environments.

Medical estheticians always work within their scope of practice. For example, they can perform certain chemical peels, non-invasive facial treatments, facial massage and stimulation, and administer skin care protocols for pre- and post-cosmetic procedures. Their work supports skin healing, exfoliation, and hydration that complements patients’ care and desired results.

HealthcareDegree.com: What advice would you give aspiring medical esthetician students?

Fredette: If you want to become a medical esthetician, the first thing I recommend is that you practice becoming an excellent esthetician. Understanding that the skin is the largest living organ and knowing the fundamentals of skin health and facial care maintenance are the building blocks for a career for any esthetician and this confidence will help grow your career in the direction that you are seeking.

My second tip is to find a mentor medical esthetician that you can learn from or intern with. Being able to shadow an expert medical esthetician will give you insight and experience to choose the esthetics specialty that is perfect for you.

Medical Esthetician Specializations & Degree Types

Medical estheticians earn an esthetician degree at dedicated esthetician schools, two-year colleges, or cosmetology schools. These programs involve a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practice to gain the necessary skills to enter this profession. Students must complete a required number of hours to be eligible for state licensure. To graduate, students typically also have to complete a required number of treatments to demonstrate competency and experience. 

Students who want more training can complete specialized medical esthetician courses after completing their initial esthetician program. These courses range from a few days to a few weeks and can cover skills requiring hands-on training, such as laser hair removal or collagen injections.

Admissions Requirements for Medical Esthetician Programs

Admission requirements for esthetician programs vary depending on the location, quality, and length of the program. For most schools, the only requirements are that applicants have completed high school or obtained a GED.

Medical Esthetician Program Accreditation

There are several medical esthetician school accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These agencies include:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Accrediting Council for Continued Education & Training (ACCET)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE) 
  • National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)

Students should ensure the program they attend is accredited. This ensures a minimum level of quality of education and meets coursework and content requirements. Attending an accredited program is not required for licensure but can boost job applications and employment opportunities.

On-Campus Medical Esthetician Degree Programs

Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes

Aveda is a well-known and respected cosmetics company with high-end salons and spas across the country. Applicants must have specific training with their products to work at one of their prestigious establishments. Graduates of Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes are eligible for state licensure and have the necessary training to provide medical esthetician services.

The length of this program varies based on the licensing requirements of the state where the program is completed. Most programs are at least 750 hours and 27 weeks in length. The Aveda program provides unique training in treatments using plants and flower essences. Students participate in the theory, practice, and clinical study of skincare. Throughout the program, students will take quizzes, participate in demonstrations, and pass practical exams to ensure competence in all aspects of medical esthetician care.    

  • Location: 17 locations in nine states
  • Duration: 750 hours or 27 weeks (length can vary based on state licensing requirements)
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)

Citrus Community College

Citrus College Esthetician program students can develop the necessary skills to help clients achieve and maintain healthy skin. Throughout the nine-month program, students will gain knowledge and skill in both classroom and hands-on settings. Citrus College offers both an esthetician certificate of achievement and a two-year associate degree of science (AS) in cosmetology. 

Required coursework includes three levels of esthetician courses and 600 hours of practical experience. Students will learn how to remove hair, recommend facials based on skin type, do makeup, and perform proper sanitation and disinfection procedures. Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology Esthetics licensing exam.

  • Location: Glendora, CA
  • Duration: Nine months to two years
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

College of the Mainland

In just nine months, students can complete their esthetician certificate program at the College of the Mainland. This program prepares students to pass the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations test for licensing in esthetics. This program is offered once a year in the fall. 

Students must complete 20 semester-credits of coursework, including the applications of facials and skincare technology, an introduction to salon developments, and licensing test preparation. In addition to classroom work, students gain hands-on experience by providing facials, chemical peels, waxings, and anti-aging treatments in the school salon. 

  • Location: Texas City, TX
  • Duration: Nine months
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Paul Mitchell The School Sacramento

At Paul Mitchell, students train to become not only top estheticians but also to be skilled business professionals. In this nine-month course, students move through three levels of courses learning the rules of skincare, how to apply them, and how to expand beyond them. 

Technical areas of education covered include skin types, how to control infection, sanitation, skin physiology, how to provide consultations, hair removal, chemical treatments, and state laws. As part of the program, students must purchase a professional kit filled with top-quality Paul Mitchell products and tools. 

  • Location: Sacramento, CA
  • Duration: 600 hours or nine months 
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences

West Georgia Technical College

At West Georgia Technical College, students can earn an esthetician certificate. This is an entry-level program designed for students who have no previous experience in the field. There are two primary objectives in this program: train students to be excellent estheticians and adequately prepare graduates to pass the state licensing exam. It should be noted that in Georgia students must sit for their state licensing exam within 24 months of completing their required credits. 

Required coursework for this certificate includes salon management, introduction to esthetics, skincare procedures, anatomy and physiology of the skin, and color theory and makeup. Students must also complete eight credits of esthetics practicums to ensure they have sufficient hands-on experience to excel in this career. 

  • Location: Carrollton, GA
  • Duration: Approximately nine months
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Santa Monica College

Santa Monica College offers a two-year associate’s degree in cosmetology for students who want to learn all aspects of salon care, including esthetics, or a shorter certificate for those who want to focus on the face and skin. While there is a lot of overlap in esthetician education for the associate’s degree and the certificate, the certificate is a bit more in-depth. It includes courses in mechanical and chemical exfoliation.

To complete the esthetics certificate, students must earn 13 credits in required coursework, while the associate’s degree requires 25.5. The associate’s degree has 1,600 total hours of training and practice, while the certificate has 600. Students who complete the associate’s degree can sit for a cosmetology license in California, and the certificate students are eligible to sit for the esthetician license.  

  • Location: Santa Monica, CA
  • Duration: Two years for the associate’s degree
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Online or Hybrid Medical Esthetician Degree Programs

Due to the hands-on nature of medical esthetician training, there are currently no fully online programs in the U.S. However, there are some hybrid programs as well as online coursework that can supplement in-person education. 

Evergreen Beauty College

Evergreen Beauty Colleges recognizes that the intensive format of most beauty colleges doesn’t fit every student. Instead of three or four days of eight to ten hours of coursework and practice, Evergreen holds four-hour classes each day. Students are then required to complete additional assignments and coursework online. This flexible format allows students to pursue a career in medical esthetics while continuing to work or care for a family. 

The flexible online or even part-time format doesn’t mean a lower quality of education. Students are still required to complete hands-on procedures and treatments under the supervision of faculty members. The program is divided into three phases. The first phase is primarily classroom work, while the second is learning to work directly with clients. The final and third phase is an externship and preparation for board certification in Washington. 

  • Location: Six locations in Washington
  • Duration: Seven to nine months 
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences

Udemy

Udemy is a provider of online courses. While students cannot complete an esthetician degree through Udemy, they can take classes that will prepare them for esthetician school or advance the skills of those who have already completed their degree. Courses offered for estheticians through Udemy include how to become a world-class esthetician, infection control for estheticians, holistic skincare, facial protocols, and dermaplaning techniques. 

All Udemy courses are offered entirely online in a self-paced format. Once students have completed all the modules, they will receive a certificate of completion. Courses can be as short as 30 minutes and up to over 25 hours, depending on the topic. 

  • Location: Online
  • Duration: Varies 
  • Accreditation: Not applicable

Nima Institute

Students who live in Salt Lake City can complete their esthetician education through a hybrid program at Nima Institute. This 1,200-hour certificate offers classroom courses through distance learning. However, students are still required to visit campus to complete hands-on training. A hallmark of this program is that students are taught by professionals in the field who have real-world experience, therefore providing a unique perspective that is not just rooted in book knowledge. 

Upon completion of this course, students will have the necessary education and training to earn their master esthetician license in the state of Utah. 

  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Duration: 1,200 hours
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Esthetician?

Medical esthetician school can be completed in nine months to a year after graduating from high school. State licensure or certification may take additional months to achieve.

How To Become a Medical Esthetician – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Completing high school or obtaining a GED is required to enroll in most medical esthetician programs. Students should focus on biology, chemistry, and anatomy classes to prepare for this career. 

Also, as communication is essential for working closely with clients, classes such as creative writing and psychology can help students gain skills that will help them excel as medical estheticians. 

Step 2:  Complete a Medical Esthetician Program (Nine months to Two Years) 

The time it takes to complete a medical esthetician program varies based on the school or certificate or degree. Certificate programs at cosmetology schools can be completed in as few as nine months. 

Esthetician programs at community colleges can take up to two years if the student is pursuing an associate degree. Students in all programs take a combination of lecture courses in a classroom setting followed by hands-on experience. Most programs’ graduation requirements include completing a required number of experience hours and treatments. 

Step 3: Obtain State Licensure (Timeline Varies)

Estheticians, medical or not, are required to be licensed in all 50 states. Requirements vary by state and include completing a required number of hours of supervised practice, as well as completing a degree or certificate program. Most states also require passing an exam to demonstrate competency in the field.

What Do Medical Estheticians Do?

Medical estheticians work in clinics, dermatology offices, hospitals, medical spas, and long-term care centers. They work under the supervision of healthcare professionals to provide skincare services to clients. While job duties vary based on place of employment and clientele, typical day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Consulting with clients on skincare needs
  • Providing treatments based on supervising healthcare professional’s orders
  • Educating patients about their skin and providing recommendations for products or treatments
  • Supporting patients who have had burns or surgery with skin treatments and care
  • Teaching clients how to apply makeup to cover up scars or other skin conditions
  • Utilizing technology such as lasers to remove hair, rejuvenate skin, or remove cellulite
  • Injecting fillers such as silicone (in some states)
  • Performing manual lymphatic drainage

Medical Esthetician Certifications & Licensure

Estheticians must be licensed in all 50 states. Requirements for licensure vary by state. so students should contact their local board to learn if they meet the qualifications. Generally, all states require candidates to pass an exam and have completed a required number of supervised work hours. 

Some states, such as Oregon, offer an advanced esthetician license, which has additional requirements but allows license holders to perform more advanced non-ablative esthetic procedures. 

Medical estheticians can also earn national certifications that demonstrate competency or advanced training in the field. One top certification is the National Esthetician Certification from the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA). To qualify, candidates must order the training manual (which includes the formal application), get authorization to take the test, and complete the exam online at home. This process generally takes four to six weeks.

How Much Do Medical Estheticians Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2023), medical estheticians fall under the category of “skincare specialists.” On average, the 65,270 skincare specialists around the country earned $51,100 annually, with the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $27,600 
  • 25th percentile: $33,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,200
  • 75th percentile: $58,730
  • 90th percentile: $81,320

Medical Estheticians Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a medical esthetician. 

Become a Phlebotomist

Physicians rely on phlebotomists to draw patients’ blood for diagnostic tests. Phlebotomists must have strong attention to detail in order to ensure the proper vials are filled for the required tests. They must also have a good bedside manner to comfort nervous patients.  

  • Typical Education: Certificate or diploma
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  American Medical Technologists (AMT), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), and the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC)

Become a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are the key to a smooth-running medical facility, clinic, or office. They can work on the administrative side including billings, scheduling appointments, and checking patients in. They can also work on the medical side and show patients to exam rooms, take patients’ vital signs, collect medical history, and assist doctors with procedures.  

  • Typical Education: Diploma, certificate, or associate degree 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) for Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association, Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing, Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from the American Medical Technologists

Become a Psychiatric Technician (Aide)

Psychiatrist technicians and aides provide care to patients with mental health disorders or disabilities. They work in long-term care facilities, correctional centers, and psychiatric hospitals. They work under the supervision of a psychiatrist and typically assist with day-to-day tasks such as hygiene, feeding, and group activities. 

  • Typical Education: Certificate or diploma 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

At HealthcareDegree.com, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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