The term 'beautician' can encompass many specializations, with esthetics and cosmetology being the most common. Training programs in these areas are available at technical schools, community colleges and private for-profit schools. These professions require state licensing before practicing at a professional level.
Individuals interested in skin care can enroll in esthetician certificate programs. Courses consist of safety practices, esthetics theory and the use of products. Students also gain practical experience working under supervision with real clients. Most programs can be completed in two semesters.
Cosmetology is a broader field of study involving hair styling, skin care, makeup and nail care. Students can train through certificate programs or associate's degree programs. Associate's degree programs require two years of study and include a few general education courses, like expository writing and business classes, in addition to courses in the major area. Certificate programs take about a year to complete and cover only cosmetology. At both levels, students learn about and gain hands-on experience in all types of salon services.
For all program types, a high school diploma in necessary for admission, along with coursework in math, English and reading. Pre-enrollment placement testing may be required before enrolling in a cosmetology certificate program. Some courses may be available online.
These programs are designed to prepare students for state licensing requirements, which usually include a minimum number of logged classroom hours and passage of a knowledge examination. Some programs train students in the electrical machinery used in skin care. Some of the related topics include:
- Skin care and makeup products and application
- Principles of chemistry
Cosmetology certificate coursework includes theory and clinical coursework. Theoretical courses cover basic cosmetology topics like shampooing, sterilization, sanitation and salon business. In clinical hours, students work on each other or clients to learn practical techniques in cutting, styling, perming and hair coloring.
Cosmetology students must also meet state requirements in theoretical and practical education, usually totaling 1500 or more hours. Many programs offer full-time day programs, as well as part-time evening programs. Most cosmetology programs have attendance requirements including at least one year of continuous enrollment. To complete a certificate program, students must complete a comprehensive timed written and practical exam. State examinations are also required for licensure after graduation. Some topics covered in cosmetology programs include:
- Chemical processes
- Cosmetology and health
- Scalp treatments
- Manicures and pedicures
Associate's Degree in Cosmetology
Beauticians can pursue an associate's degree in cosmetology through a variety of schools. Some of the topics covered, in addition to cosmetology curriculum, include professional research and computer applications for salons and human resources. Graduates of this degree program are awarded an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree or Associate of Arts (AA) degree in cosmetology. Cosmetology topics of study are similar to the certificate programs and typically include:
- Cosmetology concepts and fundamentals
- Salon operations
- Cosmetology design
- Research and reporting
- Cosmetology career development
Popular Career Options
Graduates of esthetician certificate programs might seek employment with salons, manufacturers and movie studios. Some career choices include:
- Make-up artist
- Product educator
- Dermatology assistant
- Day spa esthetician
- Facial specialist
Cosmetology students learn all areas of beautician services and, therefore, have several employment options. Some career choices include:
- Nail care
- Platform artist
- Makeup artist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists were expected to increase by 10% from 2014-2024. Employment of estheticians and other skin care specialists was predicted to grow 12%. In May of 2015, the average wage reported by the BLS for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists was $28,770 annually. Skin care specialists earned an average of $35,300 annually.
In esthetician or cosmetology certificate and degree programs, aspiring beauticians receive hands-on training and take courses in key topics like salon operations, safety, hair care and nail care. Graduates may work as makeup artists, skin specialists or hairdressers.