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Esthetician and Cosmetologist Training and Education

How long does it take to become a general cosmetologist or specialized esthetician?

  1. The state requirements for licensure
  2. The program selected – cosmetologists study longer than those pursuing educations as estheticians or nail technicians.
  3. Enrollment type – full time enrollment will move an individual through a program faster than those taking courses part time.

In many states, cosmetology training programs are nine months for full time enrollment, although some states set more rigorous guidelines and programs may take closer to a year and a half. Esthetician training programs are shorter, typically about half as long as the cosmetologists program at the same institution.

What kinds of courses do I take to learn how to become a cosmetologist or esthetician?

The curriculum in cosmetology training programs is comprehensive and includes courses that address all aspects of personal appearance – hair, skin, color and nails. Classes may include:
  • Anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry and nutrition
  • Sanitation and infection control
  • Shampooing and conditioning – products and procedures
  • Hair cutting – tools and technique
  • Hair styling – including permanent restructuring and chemical treatments
  • Hair coloring – theory and technique
  • Skin care including medical skin conditions
  • Make-up and cosmetic management
  • Nail care – manicures, pedicures, extensions
  • Products – theory, composition, selection and application

The curriculum in an esthetician training program is more focused in the areas of skin treatments, although fundamentals in human biology are still required. Courses for someone in a program geared toward becoming an esthetician may include:

  • Anatomy, physiology, biology and chemistry
  • Skin sciences
  • Facial/upper body massages
  • Facial treatments
  • Body treatments
  • Temporary hair removal, tools and techniques
  • Make-up, tools, products and technique

Although each state will specify the curriculum requirements for individuals wanting to be licensed in the field of cosmetology or esthetics, each cosmetology and esthetician school will establish its own curriculum. A certain number of discretionary hours is generally set by the state, and an educational program will decide what additional courses it feels will best enhance the core curriculum to turn students into skillful practitioners.


How much hands-on training is included in learning to become an esthetician or general cosmetologist?

In most esthetician and general cosmetology training programs, half or more of the hours of education will be hands-on, using mannequins, classmates, or public clients in a campus-based salon or spa to practice on and learn from. Although theoretical knowledge is essential to understand sanitation standards, infection control technique, product selection and use, skin and hair analysis and color theory, the ultimate application of this education is the successful delivery of beauty enhancement services to a public clientele.

Are there tests that need to be passed to become a cosmetologist or esthetician?

All states require successful completion of an examination in order to become a licensed personal appearance worker, and in most cases this will include both a written and practical component. The practical component requires the practitioner to demonstrate various treatments or procedures in the presence of an examiner. The student is scored based on procedure, sanitation, tool or product selection and execution. Each state sets its own threshold for a pass or fail score, and many even include a time component to each portion of the test.

Interaction with the model is also scored during this exam. The student’s ability to take a history from the model, identify any conflicts with previously used products or treatments, and then give appropriate advice must all be demonstrated in order to successfully pass the examination.

What other courses may be included in cosmetology or esthetician programs?

Many institutions that offer training programs for estheticians and general cosmetologists offer basic business courses, and some include classes that will help improve interactions with clientele. Understanding basic accounting and tax law is helpful for professionals that may be contractors in larger salons, as well as for those considering opening their own salons or spas some day. Because the delivery of beauty enhancement services is rooted in successful interface with clients, many students find that some formal training in communication skills helps them become more comfortable with the personal nature of the treatments and services they are providing.



Cosmetology Schools