How Much Does an Esthetician Make a Year?

by Mariel Loveland - Updated November 08, 2018
Woman in mask on face in spa beauty salon

Beauty is a booming market, and it caters to more than just your regular Sephora enthusiast. Beauty salons pull in around $20 billion dollars a year from haircuts and coloring to facials and laser treatment, and a lot of these treatments aren’t cheap. According to The Wall Street Journal, a facial from a high-end salon can cost upward of $650, and that’s before you add on specialty soaps and serums.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of money to be made in the world of beauty, and estheticians take a piece of that pie. An esthetician salary may not make you rich (unless you happen to work for your own high-end salon), but estheticians do have a meaningful job. They’re purveyors of self-confidence. An esthetician’s job is to help remedy a patient’s insecurities, be it acne, fine lines, scarring or body hair. As a medical skin care specialist (or paramedical esthetician), you may even get the chance to help those whose skin has been affected by illness or injury. If you have a passion for beauty and are looking to jump into this meaningful field, there are some things you should expect along the way.

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Tips

  • An esthetician makes around $30,000 per year, but the typical salary increases with tips, commissions and salon ownership.

Job Description

An esthetician’s main job is to help reduce the appearance of skin imperfections, groom body hair and reverse the effects of aging on a client’s skin. Many estheticians work in spas and salons. Sometimes they choose to open their own salon, and other times they’re employed by others.

During the course of an average day, an esthetician will provide various skin care and hair removal treatments. This includes facials, pore cleansing, exfoliating treatments and waxing. It’s typical for estheticians in a spa or resort setting to offer skin treatments like body wraps and aromatherapy. They’re also trained to understand skin conditions and give their clients advice about cleansing and skin care. Other estheticians opt to become makeup artists. As a makeup artist, they help accentuate their client’s features and may even perform services such as eyebrow tinting, lash extensions and microblading (though the latter of those requires additional certifications).

Education Requirements

In order to become an esthetician, you must have a high school diploma. Beyond that, you need to obtain a certificate, diploma or associate degree. It all depends on the specific program you choose. Cosmetology training typically lasts from a few months to two years, and your school must be accredited by your state board of cosmetology. At the end of your training, you typically have to complete a written and practical examination to receive your license. The requirements depend on the state.

If attending a traditional cosmetology school isn’t for you, many beauty industry hopefuls opt to receive their esthetician education online, but this isn’t available in every single state. For example, you can’t get an online esthetician license in Washington. Otherwise, online programs can offer the same type of education: a certificate, a diploma or an associate degree. Diplomas typically give students more theory, and associate degrees give more training for those hoping to become medical estheticians. Estheticians may also wish to receive additional certifications to offer a range of beauty services. Services like microblading and eyelash extensions require their own certificates.

Like most higher education, esthetician school isn't cheap. If you want an associate degree or diploma, you can expect to pay between $4,000 and $6,000 in tuition at a community college or $6,000 to $12,000 at a private school. Master esthetician training is even more expensive. A private school can run you up to $20,000, but you can make more money with the additional training. On average, most estheticians spend $8,000 to $15,000 on their education. Once you’ve paid for school, the licensing fees seem paltry. It’s typically less than $100 for the biannual licensing and $100 to $200 for the exam fee. If you choose to further your education, certifications for treatments like microblading and eyelash extensions cost upward of $3,000. However, these services greatly increase your esthetician hourly pay. You can charge between $450 and $800 for a single round of microblading. That’s a whole lot of additional revenue.

Industry

Esthetician work in a number of industries, including the medical and health care industry and the beauty and personal care industry. While some work in or own salons, others opt for additional education (depending on the state) and become medical skin care specialists. These paramedical estheticians tend to work in medical offices that specialize in dermatology, plastic surgery or oncology.

During an average day, a medical esthetician will aid a doctor in more invasive treatments than those offered in a traditional salon or spa. This includes things like laser- and light-based procedures, Botox, chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Though estheticians cannot perform certain medical services on their own, such as Botox, they do help prepare patients, assist the doctor and give post-procedure advice. This is particularly crucial for injured patients hoping to reduce the appearance of facial swelling, skin discoloration and scarring.

Years of Experience and Salary

Most estheticians don't need years of experience to get going, just an average of a few months to two years of schooling. After getting your license, you can start your career by applying at salons, spas or physicians’ offices. Some estheticians are employees who get a salary, while others are their own boss. They rent a space or give a percentage of their revenue to a salon owner or medical practice. You can contract your services to a variety of doctors including plastic surgeons and dermatologists or even opt to work on cruise lines, in resorts and hotels or at fancy spas.

Once you get the proper medical certification, you can jump start your career as a medical esthetician by contacting medical practices that haven’t yet jumped into the field of cosmetic medicine. Medical aesthetic treatments are considered low risk, so they’re easy to add to an already-existing practice.

Estheticians get paid one of two ways: either they rent a space in a salon or work on commission. Estheticians who rent a space set their own prices, and are merely responsible to pay the salon owner rent. Those who work on commission typically get between 30 and 50 percent of a service and 10 to 15 percent of a product sale. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of estheticians (likely those in the early stages of their career) made $8.97 per hour. The top 10 percent earned more than $28 per hour.

With celebrities like Madonna spending around $75 to run a metal fork over the skin for 15 minutes, it's safe to say that estheticians can make some pretty decent money. No, the average esthetician salary won’t make you rich (unless you happen to be working with pop icons), but you can make a nice living. According to Indeed, a job board that surveyed over 2,000 employees over the last three years, esthetician hourly pay across the nation is typically $17.39. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found a slightly lower median figure of $14.46 per hour or around $30,000 per year. Medical skin care specialists who specifically work in physicians' offices make the most amount of cash. Their median hourly rate is $18.69. The top 10 percent of skin care specialists made an esthetician hourly pay of more than $28.27. This is especially true for those practicing in affluent urban areas or high-end salons.

Job Growth Trend

The demand for estheticians is expected to grow over the next decade. In fact, the field is expected to expand faster than most other occupations. Projected employment for skin care specialists is supposed to increase by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal appearance field, which could include makeup artists and estheticians delivering treatment at salons and spas rather than medical offices, is expected to grow by 13 percent over the next decade. That’s twice as fast as all other occupations. In other words, if you have a passion for beauty, there’s a huge likelihood that your professional services will be needed.

About the Author

Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.

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