Aesthetician vs. Esthetician: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 24, 2021

People spend a lot of money on beauty and skin care. Because of this, there are many viable careers within the skin care sector, such as the positions of aesthetician and esthetician. If you're interested in a career in skin care, learning more about the difference between these two roles can help you decide which one suits your interests and skill set. In this article, we explain whether there is a difference between an aesthetician vs. esthetician, define each job title, discuss key differences, and explore how to follow either of these career paths.

Is there a difference between an aesthetician vs. esthetician?

The roles and responsibilities of an aesthetician vs. esthetician sometimes overlap, as there isn't always a universal standardized acceptance of the definitions of these roles. The term aesthetician sounds similar to esthetician and some companies do not distinguish between the two and simply use the two terms interchangeably. Many companies do differentiate between the two, though, but both roles still have similar responsibilities and duties. The term aesthetician applies to somebody who performs medical skin procedures, while an esthetician focuses on cosmetic and cleaning procedures.

What is an aesthetician?

Aestheticians, also called medical, paramedical, or clinical aestheticians, work in clinical settings. They are skin care professionals who treat patients who have experienced skin damage, typically to their face or neck region. Common causes of this damage include burns, surgeries, chemotherapy, and scarring from an accident or injury. Beyond treating patients in the immediate aftermath of their skin damage, aestheticians also help patients maintain healthy skin after their treatment through moisturizing, cleansing, and makeup application.

Aestheticians possess medical knowledge, and they undergo technical and safety training. A good aesthetician not only has the requisite medical and technical knowledge but also has good interpersonal skills and can put their patients at ease and alleviate their concerns. An aesthetician may focus on one specific area of skincare, such as laser therapy, or they may generalize and practice a range of clinical skin procedures. The national average salary of an aesthetician is $19.25 per hour.

What is an esthetician?

Estheticians, also called skin care specialists or facialists, offer skin care services in a salon, spa, or other cosmetic settings. While aestheticians typically help their patients with damaged skin as the result of a specific cause, estheticians tend to treat more general skin problems, such as dry skin, oily skin, age spots, and wrinkles. They perform assessments on their client's skin to determine issues and suggest cleaning and care techniques based on their client's skin type and needs.

Estheticians have their own training and instructions to give them the knowledge they require to use the proper tools and equipment. Beyond this, a good esthetician also has excellent interpersonal skills and a great deal of patience. Because their focus is more on cosmetics, estheticians often work with clients who are treating or pampering themselves to an enjoyable service. The national average salary of an esthetician is $17.31 per hour.

Read more: What Does an Esthetician Do? (With Skills and How to Become)

Differences between aestheticians vs. estheticians

Aestheticians perform medical services while estheticians focus more on cosmetics. As a result, the environments in which they work are often different. Aestheticians commonly work in clinics, hospitals, burn and trauma centres, rehabilitation centres, and dermatology offices. Estheticians commonly work in spas, salons, resorts, and health and wellness centres.

The knowledge and expertise required can be different for each role, too. Aestheticians often know about physiology, anatomy, microdermabrasion, and pre-and post-surgical skin care. While an esthetician might not require that knowledge, they may have practical knowledge that aestheticians don't. Laser hair removal might be something an aesthetician does, along with tattoo removal and micro-laser peels. Varicose vein treatment and scar reduction are also responsibilities of an aesthetician, while an esthetician might focus more on exfoliation, facial scrubs, and injectables and fillers.

How to become an aesthetician or an esthetician

The process of becoming an aesthetician is very similar to becoming an esthetician. Because some provinces don't have an official differentiation between the two, these career paths are sometimes identical. Some businesses and certification courses do differentiate between the two, though, so in these cases, it's very important to know for which specific position you're applying for or studying. Here are some steps to follow if you're interested in becoming either an aesthetician or esthetician:

1. Obtain your secondary school diploma or equivalency

If you have not yet graduated from high school, then your first step is to finish high school or secure an equivalency. Aesthetician credential programs usually require a high school diploma, so you can't become an aesthetician before graduating high school or getting your equivalency. After this, you can apply to enroll in an aesthetics program.

It's possible to find work in a salon or spa without having a high school diploma. In many provinces, to have the title of "esthetician" requires a high school diploma, and often an additional credential, but this is not always true. If you're only interested in working in cosmetic esthetics, it may be possible to do so without a secondary school diploma or equivalency.

2. Enroll in an esthetics or medical aesthetics program

There are many different medical aesthetician programs. Colleges typically offer these programs, though there may be clinics or other institutes that offer these programs as well. There's no set standard length for these programs. Some programs take 42 weeks to complete, while others measure time by hours, requiring 600-750 hours of on-the-job training. Many people finish these courses over six months. In these courses, you may learn about laser therapy, chemical appeals, tattoo removal, and how to help patients recover from melanomas.

Many colleges offer esthetician programs that are the same as medical aesthetics programs. If the province or territory where you live doesn't officially recognize a difference between aesthetician and esthetician, then this step is the same for either. For cosmetic estheticians, it may be possible to work in a salon or spa without graduating from an esthetics program. Cosmetology schools may be beneficial to aspiring estheticians because they teach their students how to use tools and equipment that estheticians use in their jobs.

Read more: The 10 Most Valuable Certifications Today

3. Intern at a clinic

This step is not necessary for every aesthetician or esthetician, but it may be a beneficial step for some. Many programs offer job placements. If you've completed such a program, it's probably not necessary to work as an intern or in a work experience role at a clinic. If your program did not include on-the-job training, then securing an internship might be the next best step.

4. Research licensing requirements

Different provinces and territories have different regulations. You may not need any additional credentials to what you receive for graduating from your program. Some jurisdictions do require additional licensing, either for individual aestheticians and estheticians, or licensing for the clinic where they work.

Read more: A Guide on How to Become an Esthetician

5. Find a job at a clinic

Once you have all your necessary credentials, you can look for fully paid work at a clinic or other medical institution. A well-formatted resume and a persuasive cover letter are very beneficial to have, especially for those who have just graduated from their course and don't have employment experience yet. To succeed in a job interview, you can review common interview questions or ask a friend or family member to host a mock interview to help you build your confidence.

Read more: A Guide to Writing a Resume Summary With Samples

6. Additional steps

After working as aestheticians for several years, some look for new opportunities to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired. One common next step is to work in an evaluative or regulatory capacity. Many aestheticians move on from treating patients themselves to becoming training inspectors who visit medical skincare facilities and inspect them to ensure they are following all applicable regulations and delivering care in an efficient and professional manner.

For many estheticians, training is often the next step after working for several years. An esthetician may transition from providing cosmetic services directly to clients to training other estheticians on how to deliver those services. Experienced estheticians also often become instructors at cosmetology schools. Another option many pursue is to start their own spa or salon or to buy a franchise so that they can work as a business owner instead of as an employee. Last, many estheticians use the skills they learn in their jobs to become beauty influencers and coaches, typically via social media.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌