Estheticians are cosmetologists who give facials, apply makeup and teach clients home maintenance tricks. Also called "aestheticians," they work in beauty shops, department stores, spas and health-care offices, where medical estheticians pamper the skin of patients affected by health issues. Every state requires approved education and licensing for estheticians, and their average salary depends in large part on the type of employer and job location.
Average Salary and Range
The average skincare specialist, or esthetician, earned $15.25 per hour as of 2012, the same as $31,720 per year for a full-time job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this average hides a wide gap between poorly paid and well paid practitioners. The lowest-paid 10 percent received $17,460 per full-time year or less, while the top-earning 10 percent got $51,900 per year or more, an eye-popping difference of nearly 300 percent.
An important consideration in esthetician pay is the type of gig -- for example spa, hotel, beauty salon or medical office. Personal care services, such as beauty salons, have the most jobs, but the pay is below average. Skincare specialists working in personal care services earned $14.40 per hour or $29,950 per year on average in 2012, reports the BLS. The second-largest employer was doctors' offices, paying an average of $18.95 per hour or $39,420 annually. Estheticians working in the amusement and recreation industries averaged only $16.31 hourly, equivalent to $33,920 per year.
You'll have a better chance to earn big bucks by becoming a medical esthetician. To qualify for this specialty, students typically choose more health-oriented classes during training and get on-the-job experience in medical offices. The highest-paying industry for skincare workers in 2012 was outpatient care centers, where average annual wages for estheticians were $42,680. In second place, hospitals paid $40,500 on average, followed by doctor's offices, as already noted. Department store estheticians were the next-highest paid, earning $37,180 per year on average.
Pay by State
As for houses and real estate, location is a big deal for an esthetician. Alaska had the highest pay of any state in 2012, an average of $47,170 annually, according to the BLS survey. Oregon, the runner-up, paid an average of $42,180 per year, while jobs in high-priced District of Columbia paid an average of $41,160 annually. In New Hampshire, estheticians also averaged more than $40,000 annually.
The highest-paid metropolitan region in the 2012 BLS report was neither Hollywood nor Los Angeles. The highest-paid estheticians worked in the Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, Connecticut, combined region, where they averaged $54,020 per year. In Jefferson City, Missouri, they averaged $53,400 per year, and in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they averaged $52,330 annually.
From 2010 to 2012 jobs for cosmetologists, hairstylists and hairdressers will increase 16 percent, compared to 14 percent on average for all jobs, according to the BLS. The government doesn't break down the outlook for estheticians separately. Although retirements will open up additional jobs, competition will be keen for work in high-paying spas and salons.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Barber, Hairdresser, or Cosmetologist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Quarterly: Medical Aesthetician
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: Skincare Specialists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Barbers, Hairdressers or Cosmetologists -- Job Outlook