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Become a Beauty Therapist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research beauty therapist career information. Learn about the training requirements and career prospects to make an informed decision about becoming a beauty therapist.

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Should I Become a Beauty Therapist?

Beauty therapists work with skincare and esthetics to ensure patients are happy looking and feeling their best. They work in a salon setting providing customer service to people needing facials and hair appointments.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aesthetician and Skin Care
  • Barber and Hair Cutting Services
  • Beauty Salon Management
  • Cosmetology, Hair, and Nail Instructor
  • Electrolysis
  • Facial Treatment Specialist
  • Hair Design
  • Make-Up Artist
  • Nail Technician - Manicurist
  • Permanent Cosmetics and Tattooing

Career Requirements

Degree Level Diploma, certificate, and associate's degree.
Degree Field Esthetics
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in every state.
Training Enrollment in an esthetician program or apprenticeship; apprenticeship requires more hours.
Salary (2014) $33,810 per year (Average salary for skincare specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete Beauty Therapy Training

Attain a High School Diploma

Beauty therapy, a term more commonly used outside the U.S. for skincare and esthetics, typically requires a high school diploma as the minimum educational requirement for employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some high schools offer vocational education, such as state-approved cosmetology programs, that includes esthetician training. Completion prepares students for their state's esthetician licensing exam, if required to obtain employment (www.bls.gov).

Enroll in an Esthetician Program

Diploma, certificate, and associate's degree programs in esthetics are available through postsecondary vocational schools, technical schools, and community colleges. They include lectures, demonstrations, classroom learning, and school salon training under instructor supervision and guidance. Course topics include manicures, pedicures, skincare, anatomy and physiology, facials, chemical skincare treatments, massage, cosmetic application, temporary hair removal, and eyebrow arching. Students learn about health and safety issues like sanitation and infection control. Training takes less than two years. Externship training is available. Graduates are qualified to sit for their state's licensing exam.

Enroll in an Apprenticeship Program

Some states allow aspiring beauty therapists to enter formal apprenticeship arrangements with licensed estheticians or skincare specialists who can train and supervise them in a licensed salon setting. Apprentices have to complete more hours of preparation and training than those who attend formal education programs. States outline strict requirements as far as minimum training requirements and maximum workload for apprentices. Apprentices are eligible to apply for their state license at the completion of their training.

Step 2: Earn State Licensing

According to the BLS, estheticians are required to be licensed in all 50 states. Licensure requirements vary by state, although most states have minimum age, minimum education and minimum training requirements. To obtain licensure, candidates must pass written and practical skills tests to demonstrate their competence. Most states have separate licensing examinations for skincare specialists, manicurists, and pedicurists. Some states require licenses be renewed periodically.

Step 3: Find Employment

After completing the requirements for licensure, estheticians or beauty therapists find work in barbershops, salons, and spas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), barbers, cosmetologists, and hairdressers expect an employment growth of 13% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Skincare specialist jobs in particular are expected to increase 40% during that same period. The BLS also stated that, as of 2014, the mean annual wage for skincare specialists was $33,810.

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