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Despite the economic doom and gloom bombarding the country from every corner of the media, there is reason to be optimistic about the job outlook for estheticians.
According to CNN.com, skin care specialist is ranked No. 4 out of the top 10 jobs in the service occupation segment.1 And these top 10 jobs are expected to experience strong growth and be in demand for the next decade, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When considering the average rate of growth for occupations across all service industries, employment for skin care specialists is projected to grow at a slightly faster clip. In 2006, there were approximately 38,000 licensed skin care specialists in the United States working in day and resort spas, and beauty and nail salons. By 2016, that number is expected to increase to 51,000.2
This growth will primarily be a result of an increasing population and the growing demand for personal appearance services, particularly skin care services.2 Continued growth in the number of nail salons and full-service day spas will also generate numerous job openings for skin care specialists, manicurists and pedicurists, and it’s expected that the employment of manicurists and pedicurists will increase 28% by 2016. Estheticians and other skin care specialists will also see large gains in employment, with an expected growth of 34%, as more facial procedures to improve a person’s complexion become both more available and more popular in spas and some medical settings.
It’s also projected that opportunities for entry-level estheticians will be favorable, but job candidates at high-end establishments will face keen competition. Opportunities for jobs will likely be best for those with previous experience, as well as those licensed to provide a broad range of services.
Looking at the same report, in May 2006 the median hourly earnings for skin care specialists, including tips, was $12.58.2 While usually low for entry-level workers, earnings can be considerably higher for those with experience.
Other factors such as the size and location of a spa need to be considered when discussing earnings, as well. Depending on the spa owner and how the business is organized, estheticians may receive commissions based on the price of a spa service or a salary based on the number of hours worked. Many spa employees receive commissions on the products they sell, and some spa owners may pay bonuses to employees who bring in new business. Also, the ability to attract and hold regular clients is a key factor in determining earnings.
Then and now
When Skin Inc. magazine was first published in Fall 1988, who knew what would happen in the esthetic industry? Hold the Fall 1988 issue of Skin Inc. magazine in your left hand and the recent March 2008 issue in your right hand—notice a difference?
The first issue was published in black and white, while a vivid four-color cover and inside pages were presented to you in the March issue. A fine-lined sketch of a woman appears on the magazine’s first cover, but the March cover boasts the silhouette of a broad-shouldered male. Tag lines were different as well. “Business and Science for Skin Care Professionals,” was then and now it’s “Spa Business Solutions.”
And the first issue’s a little lighter than one of the latest, right? No doubt March’s 144 pages weigh a bit more than the first issue’s 64. Those 64 pages, however, served as a stepping stone to what the magazine is today for business owners, spa managers, estheticians and other industry professionals. Countless changes have occurred in the past 20 years, perhaps none more important than those in education. And it’s the growth in the number of people requiring spa services and the number of estheticians this country will see in coming years that makes good education as important now as ever.
“The same complications that estheticians faced 10 and 20 years ago are the same issues that we still face today,” said Lyn Ross of Institut DERMed in the International Medical Spa Association’s Spring 2006 newsletter.3 “Education has become increasingly important to the educated consumer receiving services from a skin care specialist. Clinical skin care is rapidly emerging as the standard in esthetics thanks to baby boomers who are driving to achieve more youthful and healthier appearances. The licensed skin care specialist must be equipped to recognize common skin conditions, develop treatment plans and meet the growing need for skin rejuvenation services in salons, spas, mediclinical centers and physicians’ offices.”
Education has always been a hot topic in the industry, and this is evident in Skin Inc. magazine’s first issue 20 years ago. David I. Minkow wrote an article for that issue titled “Get Ready, Get Set, Go!” The first part of the article provided insight into what it was like for an esthetician to move from one state to another and the issue of reciprocity. In the article, Minkow recommends that as soon as you decide to move to another state, contact the board of cosmetology for that state’s licensing requirements—how many hours of education were necessary to practice esthetics in that state. Minkow wrote:
“ … Whether called esthetician, cosmetician or facialist, licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state. A national licensing law would make things much easier, but such legislation is a few years away, according to Luella Bailey, chairwoman of the Florida branch of the National Cosmetology Association.”
Today, according to Susanne Warfield, founder of the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA), a national license is not a possibility, but a nationally recognized exam that, if passed successfully, grants national certification, is the NCEA’s goal.
In late 1988, an esthetics license was not offered throughout the United States. The states not issuing separate esthetics licenses included: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia. The states of Delaware, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah offered a facialist license, and a couple of other oddities included the fact that in Pennsylvania, 300 hours of training was required to become a cosmetician, but no license was required to practice skin care. In Washington, where no esthetics license was available, you needed a manicurist’s license to practice skin care.
Today, all of the states except Connecticut offer an esthetics license. The training requirements range from a low of 250 hours in Oregon to a high of 1,500 hours in Alabama for an esthetics license. In Connecticut, only a cosmetology license is available and this, according to Warfield, is due to the state’s political climate.
There are also 25 states that require some sort of continuing education, with 14 of those states requiring it for instructors only.
Required or not though, continuing education is something that every skin care professional should strive to attain throughout a career. Courses don’t need to cover just treatments and methods, either. Douglas Preston, business consultant and president of Preston, Inc., believes if you want to advance your career in the shortest time possible, focusing your education on learning is what will impress people the most, even before they ever reach your treatment room. He lists his favorite learning topics for the success-minded esthetician—professional conduct, sensitivity awareness, etiquette, and proper, elegant communication.4 “Great customer service is in knowing what makes people feel important, respected and cared for, and genuinely appreciated,” Preston writes, and he encourages estheticians to look for these courses on the Web, in trade magazines and at industry shows.
Perusing the pages
Celebrating esthetic education’s advancement throughout the past 20 years is important, but sometimes taking a look back helps bring everything that’s happening today into focus.
The first issue of Skin Inc. magazine featured an item about the Comité International D’Esthetique Et De Cosmétologie (CIDESCO) in its “News” section—CIDESCO exams were given at the National Cosmetology Association’s annual meeting in 1988. At that exam, Ursula van Deelan from the Netherlands was the international delegate in Atlanta; Mark Lees, PhD, who received his CIDESCO diploma in 1973, was the national examiner; and the late Erica Miller, who received her diploma in 1977 in Monte Carlo, was the national coordinator. Of the 22 who took the exam, 20 passed.
The one-page calendar section in the Fall 1988 issue featured news about industry trade shows, and also the education classes being held at the International Dermal Institute, the Conservatory of Esthetics, Correlations, Inc. and the Swiss Skin Care Training Center. And you’ll find ads for Eva Friederichs’ Images of Success Esthetic Institute in Oakland, California; Yvonne’s Esthetic Concepts Advanced Esthetic Training Center in Minneapolis; and the Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts in Sherman Oaks, California, in that first issue, as well. Many of these education facilities have continued to educate esthetic students throughout the years.
So the baby boomers—the maturing age group that wants to hide the effects of aging or even try to stop them altogether—have been credited with causing jobs in the esthetic market to increase. However, there are other reasons as well.
Increased public awareness of sun damage has motivated more people to seek expert advice in protecting or repairing their skin. Advances in medical science and technology, such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, are giving estheticians more products and tools to improve the appearance of damaged or aging skin.5
But even with more people seeking esthetic services for a variety of reasons and an upsurge in job growth, the standardization of education in the esthetic industry is still not a reality. Organizations do exist, though, that are diligently working toward that goal. One of them is the NCEA. Since its founding in January 2000, the organization’s mission has been to represent the esthetic profession by defining and conveying standards of practice while educating the industry and the public.
Through growth and transformation, the NCEA has maintained 14 association members—many of the original 22 no longer exist or have merged—and has grown its corporate members to include manufacturers/distributors, schools and postgraduate training facilities. Individual memberships were added as a membership category in 2002 to further represent the growing need for representation on state regulatory boards.6
The alliance of associations is what Warfield says is the greatest advance toward industry education standardization. “Without the associations coming together, I don’t think the NCEA would be where it is today,” said Warfield, who firmly believes that working together for a national exam and certification is what is important for estheticians and the industry. “Singular associations may claim to set their own standards, but they are not using a nationally recognized exam.” This, she claims, is one of the obstacles to attaining that national certification goal.
In its effort to come to an agreement within the industry on the use of terminology, esthetician job tasks and training hours, in late 2001 the NCEA 600-hour and 1,200-hour job tasks were developed, and this has been the primary focus of the development of the National Standards and Curriculums by the NCEA throughout the years.
According to its Web site, the certification program that is available for associations, schools, manufacturers/distributors and individuals was developed due to the basic need to assist state regulatory boards in maintaining consumer safety, licensee mobility, international recognition and meeting the job tasks of the skin care professional in order to be successful in today’s skin care industry
and the industry of the future.
“States need to write rules that recognize national certification,” says Warfield. Due to the scope of esthetic practices and new technology, it’s no easy task and there’s no quick solution. Delegates to NCEA meetings and industry representatives willing to sit on state regulatory boards are always needed. For Warfield, the work continues.
In a recent NCEA meeting report, she writes, “Career mobility of the licensee by getting as many people as possible certified will provide this industry with the political clout it needs to get higher education and legislation passed. Wouldn’t it be be nice to have 1,200 hours of training for estheticians state-to-state before the year 2020?”
Beyond status quo
Good education is vital to the training of skilled technicians who are expected to meet the needs of a growing population. The outlook for jobs in the industry appears to be good and, while more states than ever before offer an esthetic license, requirements still differ from state to state, often causing reciprocity issues for estheticians who may need to move in an ever-mobile society.
It’s often said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fortunately, for the esthetic industry, there are those who won’t stand still and haven’t been tolerant of the status quo. Certainly Skin Inc. magazine’s team will continue its efforts to bring readers the latest in what’s happening with education, as it has throughout its first 20 years. And with a strong job outlook and dedicated industry professionals working toward a national exam and certification, there is reason to be optimistic.
2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008–2009 ed, Service Occupations:
Cleaning, Food and Personal
3. L Ross, One-Stop Healing Shop, www.medicalspaassociation.org/newsletter/spring2006/esthetics.htm
4. D Preston, Continuing Education for Estheticians: Put Your Mind Where the Money Is!, www.spatrade.com/knowledge/idx/61/171/article/
5. California Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information, www.calmis.cahwnet.gov/file/occguide/skincare.htm
6. National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations, NCEA History, www.ncea.tv/ns/history.html
(All accessed Mar 4, 2008)