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Obscure careers: Aestheticians

Aestheticians dedicate their careers to making their clients beautiful: they are responsible for radiant skin, fighting the signs of aging, hairless legs, wrinkle-free foreheads and baby-soft skin. Even during challenging economic times, people still want to look good, and the employment outlook for these professionals will continue to be strong, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Aestheticians: of beauty, soothing skin, the newest products and cutting-edge techniques

When skin doesn't quite look up to par, when minor skin irritations seem to invade the cheeks, or when one wants some special skin treatment for a special occasion, there's but one place to go: the aesthetician's. Many clients, mainly women, have their skincare specialist of choice, and trust her (or him) with their face and their skin, thus developing close-knit relationships.

Aestheticians work mainly in pleasant environments, such as spas, medical offices and wellness centers, but must be prepared to deal with customers who might have quite unreasonable demands, such as making a a zit disappear three hours before a black-tie dinner. Aestheticians are expected to keep up with new developments in their fields, and should be very good at working with people and listening, since many clients may want to talk while getting a treatment. Similar to a hairdresser, aestheticians must be part informal adviser, patient listener, and cheerleader for the client. Building a solid core of repeat customers can be a key to success for aestheticians, especially those who are self-employed and rent a station at a salon or spa, which is customary in the industry.

What is an aesthetician?

They make movie stars' faces glow on the red carpet and give them that enviable dewy skin look: yes, stars might have been born with it, but you can bet that these artists also have a fantastic team of specialists at their beck and call, including aestheticians. However, skincare services are not just limited to the rich and famous, as indulging in an occasional facial or skin treatment is a small, but affordable luxury. Some dermatologists work with skincare specialists to provide comprehensive services to their clients.

Aestheticians can focus on a variety of skin-related treatments, and can also choose to specialize in certain areas. The one area that's perhaps the most popular are facials, during which the aesthetician cleanses the client's skin, does any necessary extractions, provides additional treatment and moisturizes and pampers the skin. Other aestheticians work in medical spas, oftentimes under the supervision of a doctor, who administers chemical peels, laser treatments or Botox and other similar injections. Other fields include waxing and laser hair removal. Aestheticians have in-depth knowledge of how to treat clients' skin, evaluate individual needs and make customized product recommendations. Many times, aestheticians also include a neck and shoulder massage in their facials and some offer full-body treatments, such as scrubs and mud wraps - the sky is the limit, as new products and techniques are constantly arriving on the market. It's all part of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry: whatever the market thinks of next, aestheticians will probably know about it. Are retinol-based creams the right choice for oily skin? Should one get a chemical peel before a big event or will that make skin too raw? Aestheticians usually have the answers.

Aesthetician certification and training

The vast majority of states require aestheticians to obtain a state license and to complete job-related training at a state-approved cosmetology program, which typically involves 600 to 1,800 hours of training, depending on the state. Most states also require applicants to sit for an exam in order to obtain their license, which must be kept current and may include a continuous education requirement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data for aestheticians, also known as skincare specialists, and expects employment in this profession to grow by 25 percent between 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). This is thanks to, in large part, the growing number of skincare establishments, including salons, spas and medical spas. An aesthetician salary varies, but the national mean annual wage for skincare specialists as of May 2011 was $32,080 (bls.gov/oes, 2012). Training programs to become an aesthetician are routinely offered at both public and private institutions, such as vocational schools, career colleges, community colleges and cosmetology schools. Classes typically include disinfection and sanitation, anatomy and physiology, laws and regulation, paramedical aesthetics and pharmacology, general science, specialized skincare techniques, business essentials, and many other classes.

Students should be sure to check their state's individual licensing and educational requirements for skincare professionals.

Sources

"Aesthetics International Association," AIA, 2013, http://www.aestheticsassociation.com/

"Skincare Specialists," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395094.htm

"Skincare Specialists," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/skincare-specialists.htm#tab-2

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