On the surface, cosmetologists and estheticians may seem incredibly similar. They’re both focused on helping their customers look their best. Each career requires great people skills and knowledge of the beauty industry. But there are some major differences between them!
The main difference between cosmetologists and estheticians is their focus. While estheticians focus only on skin services such as skincare and make-up artistry, cosmetologists can offer hair, skin, and nail services—though their education is most focused on hair.
Still not sure which profession is best for you? Let’s take a deeper look.
Table of Contents:
What is a Cosmetologist?
As a cosmetologist, you can offer a variety of hair, skin, and nail services. A cosmetology license opens many career pathways up to you.
But, while cosmetologists learn a lot of basic beauty services, the majority of their education will include things like cutting, dying, and styling hair.
What is an Esthetician?
An esthetician only offers skin services and isn’t licensed to work on hair or nails. This may sound like they do less than a cosmetologist who works with skin in addition to hair and nails.
In reality, estheticians do more advanced skincare work than cosmetologists. Since estheticians learn about skin more in-depth, they can provide more skin services than cosmetologists in most states.
How Do You Get A Cosmetology License?
You must be at least sixteen years old to begin cosmetology school. Depending on your state, you may need to be older. You might also be required to have a high school diploma or GED.
Once in school, the hours of education you need varies by state. Generally, cosmetologists need more schooling than estheticians.
It may take months or years to complete your education, depending on your state’s laws and how often you attend classes.
Some states allow for you to get your experience through a workplace that is licensed in cosmetology, rather than a school.
After your schooling, you must pass an exam to acquire your license.
Take our free cosmetology practice test to see if you’re ready to take your exam!
How Do You Get An Esthetician License?
Before you begin school to become an esthetician, you must be at least sixteen or older. Some states have higher age requirements, and some require a high school diploma or a GED.
The hours of experience you need to complete your schooling will vary depending on your state, but it will take considerably less time than obtaining a cosmetology license.
However, in some states, you can apply for an extra license to become a Master Esthetician. This will allow you to offer services that estheticians without this license cannot.
Like cosmetologists, estheticians can get experience through a licensed workplace, rather than a school, in certain states.
You must pass an exam to get your license. To become a Master Esthetician in the states that offer this licensing, you will have to take a separate exam.
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Esthetician vs Cosmetologist Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for estheticians is $31,290.
In contrast, cosmetologists earn a median income of $24,830 a year. The Bureau lists manicurists and pedicurists separately, but they have a similar median income of $24,330 per year.
Related read: The 20 highest paying cities for cosmotologists
Something else to keep in mind is that cosmetologists and estheticians can receive tips that add to their income and have the potential to earn commission on sold products as well. Esthetician Edu says that this can increase your income considerably!
Can You be an Esthetician with a Cosmetology License?
Some states don’t require separate licenses for estheticians and cosmetologists, but most do.
That’s not to say you can’t be both an esthetician and a cosmetologist—but you would need two separate licenses to do so.
Is it Better to be a Cosmetologist or an Esthetician?
When considering whether to become a cosmetologist or an esthetician, there are two things you should consider:
- What are your state’s laws?
- What do you want your future career to look like?
In states that don’t require a separate esthetician license, cosmetology will give you a broader range of services you can provide. This is especially important if you think you’ll want to work on hair or nails in the future.
If your state requires a separate license, it comes down to personal preference!
The most important question is this: when you picture your future career, what does it entail?
- Are you giving back-to-school haircuts and styling the hair of brides-to-be?
- Are you giving manicures, pedicures, and facials?
- Do you see yourself needing to diversify your services to stave off boredom or gain clients faster?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s probably best for you to become a cosmetologist!
If you’re happy specializing in skin services, and aren’t interested in styling hair or becoming a nail tech, pursuing an esthetician license is likely the right choice for you.
However, there is a third option! Some people have both cosmetology and an esthetician license. This would allow you to do it all, so to speak, and can help you find more clients and round out your career.