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Esthetician vs. Dermatologist: Which Career Is Right for You?



If you have discovered a passion for skin care, you might think about translating that to helping clients or patients put their best faces or entire bodies forward. That might lead you to consider going to school to train for a career as an esthetician or a dermatologist, as both jobs help people present their best selves to the world through clearer, healthier, more attractive skin. But what’s the difference between an esthetician or a medical or paramedical esthetician and a dermatologist? It’s a great question, because medical estheticians and dermatologists often work together in dermatology offices. Below, we’ve put together a guide that covers the job duties of each career and the training and licensure requirements for each. With this information, you should better be able to decide which career path is right for you.


What is an esthetician?

To summarize in the most basic terms, an esthetician is a professional who makes their clients’ skin look its absolute best. Estheticians use scientific knowledge and hands-on skills in executing both clinical and holistic skin care to ensure their clients have a great experience and receive the best possible service.


What do estheticians do?

Estheticians work in a range of settings, from salons and spas to medical offices alongside dermatologists. The latter workspace is common for medical estheticians, who may also work in plastic surgery or oncology offices. An esthetician’s job duties may vary, but they include assessing a client’s skin care needs, giving clients advice on the skin care ingredients and products that would be best-suited to their skin care needs, and performing treatments such as facials, exfoliation, chemical peels, acne treatments, makeup application, waxing, and more.

How do you become a licensed esthetician?

The requirements for estheticians vary by state, but they usually require between 300 and 1,000 hours of training at an esthetics or cosmetology school plus passage of a state exam in order to earn their licenses and practice. In Florida, estheticians are licensed as either a “facial specialist” or a “full specialist.” A facial specialist must have 220 hours of education, and a full specialist needs 400 hours. A facial specialist is authorized to offer basic facial and scalp treatments, whereas a full specialist can provide facial and nail services. It also requires registration with the state, and that application requires a $75 fee to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

It’s important to note that the state of Florida doesn’t accept apprenticeship licenses, so schooling at an accredited institution is required. Additionally, estheticians in Florida aren’t allowed to perform procedures such as dermaplaning, electrolysis, laser treatments, and microblading, and those require separate education and licensure through the Florida Department of Health.

How much money do estheticians make per year?

Esthetician salaries vary depending on specialty (paramedical/medical estheticians may make more) and location. In Florida, a medical esthetician typically makes between $41,769 and $53,105 per year, according to Salary.com. Additionally, self-employed estheticians with loyal customer bases can earn more than $52,000 per year.

What is a dermatologist?

In short, a dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in patients’ skin, nail, and hair conditions. They treat patients with concerns ranging from acne to skin cancer. Because dermatologists often specialize in treating skin conditions, their work overlaps to some degree with that of medical estheticians. But dermatologists are uniquely qualified to perform certain procedures that estheticians may not, such as removing cancerous tissue from the skin.


What qualifications do you need to become a dermatologist?

A dermatologist generally needs about 12 years of post-secondary education: a bachelor’s degree, medical school, a year-long internship, and a three-year dermatology residency program. They often go on to study subspecialties such as pediatric dermatology or cosmetic dermatology. Candidates must also pass the American Board of Dermatology exam to become board-certified. Only then can they practice dermatology, and they must also work to maintain their certification through continuing medical education and professional development exercises. Training to become a dermatologist requires an interest in developing deep specialist knowledge of skin conditions and anatomy.


How much money do dermatologists make?

In Florida, dermatologists typically make between $289,200 and $392,900, according to Salary.com. It’s important to note that for many dermatologists, that salary comes with a hefty student-debt load: The median medical school debt clocked in at $200,000 in 2019, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.


How do I decide which career path is right for me?

Though it’s often difficult to decide which career path will help you fulfill your dreams, understanding the roles and how they differ can help you decide which best matches your interests. If you are looking to help clients improve their skin and feel their best, then you might want to pursue the esthetician path. On the other hand, if you love learning and ultimately want to provide medical treatments and minimally invasive procedures, then you might look into becoming a board-certified dermatologist. When deciding, it’s important to think about what elements of the job interest you the most: What type of people do you want to work with? What environment would you like to work in? What kind of salary do you expect to make?


No matter which path you choose, the first start is getting yourself a high-quality education. If you want to learn more about becoming an esthetician or medical esthetician, contact us today to request more information from Cortiva Institute about our education programs.