Are you interested in working in the beauty industry, but aren’t sure which career path is best for you? It’s important to research the beauty careers you’re curious about to determine which suits you, whether it’s an esthetician, cosmetologist, or another option. Inspire Greatness Aveda Institutes offers outstanding educational programs for aspiring beauty professionals in Denver, CO, Provo, UT, and the metropolitan area of Phoenix. Here, we share insight into the differences between an esthetician and a cosmetologist to help you choose the best path for you.

What Is an Esthetician?

An esthetician (sometimes spelled aesthetician) is a licensed beauty professional who specializes in skin care. Estheticians provide services and skin procedures that help improve the health and appearance of a patient’s skin. They often work in spas, salons, and medical offices, but aren’t licensed to perform medical-grade skin treatments.


Aspiring estheticians must do a few things before they can start working as licensed professionals. Students must complete an esthetician school program that meets their state’s requirements, as well as pass a licensing exam. In Colorado, estheticians must complete 600 contact hours of training before becoming licensed.

Program Basics

An esthetician or esthiology program is more specific than a broader cosmetology program and can be completed in less time. These programs don’t include all the major aspects of the beauty industry but focus solely on skincare lessons and treatments. Some common lessons in esthetician programs include how to perform:

  • Facials and masks
  • Facial massage
  • Skin treatments
  • Waxing and hair removal
  • Body wraps and scrubs

Aspiring estheticians will learn these services through both classroom lectures and hands-on training.


Estheticians can enjoy a positive job outlook that is growing much higher than the average for all occupations. Employment of skincare specialists is projected to grow nine percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Overall, estheticians typically have a narrower job description than cosmetologists, although they both involve becoming licensed and working on clients.

What Is a Cosmetologist?

A cosmetologist is a licensed beauty professional trained in four main aspects of the beauty industry: hair, makeup, skin, and nails. Although many cosmetologists work mainly with hair, they can find jobs in all aspects of the industry because of their extensive training. Cosmetologists can work in a range of jobs after becoming licensed, including as a hairstylist, salon owner, makeup artist, manicurist, barber, and more.


To become a cosmetologist, students must complete an accredited cosmetology program and pass a licensing exam. Each state has different regulations on the number of hours needed to meet licensing requirements. In Colorado, cosmetologists must complete a minimum of 50 credit hours or 1,500 contact hours.

Program Basics

Cosmetology programs tend to be longer and more extensive than other beauty programs. This is because cosmetologists learn about many kinds of beauty services, not specializing in just one area. Common topics taught in a cosmetology program include:

  • Haircutting, styling, coloring, and chemical techniques
  • Nail painting, shaping, cleaning, and nail artwork
  • Hair removal techniques like waxing, tweezing, shaving, and threading
  • Skincare basics like anatomy and facials
  • Makeup skills like lash and brow tinting, makeup application, and color theory

Cosmetology programs use a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training to prepare aspiring beauty professionals for strong careers in the industry.


Cosmetologists have a strong job outlook, as the demand for beauty services continues to increase. According to BLS, the job outlook for barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow eight percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

Many cosmetologists choose to specialize in a certain service, while others choose to offer a variety of beauty services. The good thing is a cosmetology degree offers the flexibility to do either one, while an esthetician degree only focuses on providing skincare services.

Enroll in a Beauty Program Today

Now that you’re more familiar with the similarities and differences between estheticians vs. cosmetologists, you can decide which program you want to enroll in. Inspire Greatness Aveda Institutes offers both cosmetology and esthiology programs at our locations in Denver, CO, Provo, UT, and the metropolitan area of Phoenix. For more information on our programs or admissions information, contact us today.