How to Become a Licensed Esthetician: State-by-State Requirements

How to Become a Licensed Esthetician: State-by-State Requirements

Starting a career as a licensed esthetician opens up many opportunities in skincare and aesthetics. However, for those stepping into or currently exploring this field, it is vital to know that every U.S. state sets its own rules, regulations, and requirements for practicing esthetics in that state.

Map of U.S. States

This means there could potentially be 50 completely different laws regarding the scope of practice and performing aesthetic treatments -- that's a lot of variation for one profession!

50 different scope of practices: 

This is important to know because you must abide by the state laws that you want to be licensed in. What you can do in one state might not be the same in another.

50 different licensing requirements:

This also goes for licensing requirements. Each state has its own set of laws and requirements for obtaining a professional license in that state.

Knowing these requirements and laws will help you map out your educational journey. It will also make sure that once you are licensed, you’re ready to offer your expertise to your clients while staying within the legal boundaries of your practice.

I am going to help guide you and give you a general overview of some of the state-specific requirements to help you on your esthetic journey.

Steps to Become
a Licensed Esthetician

While the requirements to becoming a licensed esthetician vary by state, two key steps are usually a part of the process:

  1. Complete the Required Education Hours. 

    Finish the minimum number of education or apprenticeship hours required by your state -- at a state-approved esthetician program. See the helpful table below

    Some programs offer full-time, part-time, and even night/evening-class options, depending on what works best for your schedule. 

  2. Pass the State Licensing Exam.

     After completing your education, you'll need to successfully pass the state board's esthetics examination. This exam may include a written (theory) exam and, in some states, a practical (hands-on) assessment to make sure you are ready to practice safely and correctly.

State Differences in Esthetician Licensing Requirements

As I mentioned, understanding esthetician licensing requirements can vary greatly from one state to another.

It's important to research and understand the rules for the state where you plan to work. If you're considering this career path, here are some key things to keep in mind and look for:

  • Licensing Requirements: You'll usually find this information with the Cosmetology State Board specific to your state. See the helpful table below for links to each state board.

  • Education Hours: Every state decides on the minimum number of education hours needed to qualify for a license. See the helpful table below for each states’ education hour requirements.

  • Scope of Practice: Each state defines what estheticians can and cannot do. Always check with your state board to make sure you're practicing within your legal scope.

  • Master or Advanced Esthetician Programs: A few states offer a Master Esthetician or Advanced Esthetician program, requiring additional education hours. This license allows you to perform more advanced treatments in that state that may include deeper chemical peels, laser procedures,  microneedling, etc.

    As of 2024, the states that offer Master Esthetician programs are the District of Columbia, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

  • Additional Certificates: Some states allow you to offer certain treatments, like lash extensions, dermaplaning, or lasers, if you have the extra training and certificates.

  • Apprenticeship Hours: Some states allow you to use apprenticeship hours instead of education hours to get your license. However, the apprenticeship hours required are usually more than the school education hours.

  • License Transfer to Another State: Some states make it easier to transfer a license from one state to another state, and some make it more difficult. This is called reciprocity or endorsement and each state has its own requirements.

  • Approved Schools/Programs: Make sure your education is through a program approved by your state's esthetician and cosmetology board.

  • Advanced Treatments Delegated by a Doctor: Some states allow estheticians to perform treatments beyond their scope when delegated by a medical doctor; other states do not allow delegation. This information can be found in the relevant state’s medical board since the doctor is taking responsibility for the delegation.

  • Use of Medical Devices: The use of certain medical devices, such as microneedling devices, which are Class II medical devices, varies by state. Some states allow estheticians to use Class II medical devices, and other states prohibit their use.

    Did you know? The FDA regulates what is considered a medical device, and your state regulates who can use medical devices. 

  • Additional Resources: There are numerous resources available that help give insight to specific state's laws and regulations. Here are some to look into: 

    • AmSpa (American Med Spa Association): provides numerous resources for the legal & business side of esthetics. 

    • Facebook groups: Facebook groups --specific to esthetics and the state you are licensed in-- are an amazing resource. You can ask questions and see other skincare professional's questions and answers. Search for state specific esthetician groups or state specific esthetician advocacy groups. 

      Here is an example of a California Esthetician Advocacy Group; and a general Rules and Regulations Esthetic Group.


The Importance of Continued Education for Estheticians

Online course for chemical peel training

Finishing an esthetician program is just the start of your career. Unfortunately, these programs only teach the basics. It's advanced learning and continued education that really sets you apart in the beauty industry.

The aesthetic world is continually changing and advancing, with new technologies, techniques, and products regularly being introduced to the market.

To stay relevant and properly skilled, ongoing education is going to be the key to your success. This will not only keep you up-to-date but also help you become a true skincare expert.

If you make the effort to learn more than the just the basics, and invest in your education, you improve your skill set, expand your skincare knowledge, and keep your services in demand, which results in happy, returning clients who have real results (which is always the goal).

Keeping up with the latest skincare treatments and technologies also helps you have a competitive advantage in the industry.

You should always remember that there is always something new to learn in aesthetics, and this ongoing learning not only benefits your career but also the care you provide to your clients.

Esthetician Licensing: State Requirements & Contacts

Esthetician school students

Becoming a licensed esthetician starts with meeting specific education hours, which differ from state to state.

Here is a helpful resource that gives you an idea of different education hour requirements by each U.S. state, as well as the governing board linked to each state, to contact and find more information if you are interested in an esthetic career in that state.

 Licensed Esthetician Governing Boards and Required Hours

 State &
State Board Links
Alabama 1000
Alaska 350
Arizona 600
Arkansas 600
California 600
Colorado 600
Connecticut 600
Delaware 600
D.C. 600 +600
Florida 260
Georgia 1000
Hawaii 600
Idaho 600
Illinois 750
Indiana 700
Iowa 600
Kansas 1000
Kentucky 1000
Louisiana 750
Maine 600
Maryland 600
Massachusetts 300
Michigan 400
Minnesota 600
Mississippi 600
Missouri 750
Montana 650
Nebraska 600
Nevada 900

New Hampshire

New Jersey 600
New Mexico


New York 600
North Carolina 600
North Dakota 600
Ohio 600
Oklahoma 600
Oregon 500 +500
Pennsylvania 300
Puerto Rico 1000
Rhode Island 600
South Carolina 450
South Dakota 600
Tennessee 750
Texas 750
U.S. Virgin Islands 250
Utah 600 +600
Vermont 600
Virginia 600 +600
Washington 750 +450
West Virginia 600
Wisconsin 450
Wyoming 600


Important Reminder: This information is meant to be a helpful resource. Since rules & regulations can change at any time, always double-check with the relevant state board to make sure you have the latest information.

Seeing such a vast difference in required education hours for each state is a prime example of how much each state differs in laws and regulations for esthetics.

How do you feel about the wide range of differences with each state?

Do you think there should be more standardization on a national level or is it best to have each state responsible for their own regulations? 


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