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How Long Is It to Obtain an Esthetician's License?

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Estheticians are skin-care specialists who provide personal services such as facials, make-up application and face massage. Estheticians may work in spas, salons, hotels or resorts, along with cosmetologists and hairstylists. The U.S. Department of Labor projects esthetician and other appearance worker jobs to grow much faster than average between 2008 and 2018. The amount of time it takes to obtain an esthetician license depends a great deal on where an individual lives, as each state has its own regulations concerning esthetician training and the application process.

Training Hours

All but two states have some sort of training-hour requirement for estheticians and other kinds of personal appearance workers. These can vary drastically. Alabama requires 1,500 hours or training, while Pennsylvania requires only 300. The majority of states ask for 600 hours of training. The length of time it takes to receive training will vary depending on the school’s available schedules and the needs of the students. Full-time programs will take the least amount of time, but part-time programs, particularly those who attend classes only during the weekends, last much longer. The New York Institute of Esthetics’ program lasts 30 weeks. But the programs at the Imaj Institute, located in Arizona, last either 24 weeks (for a 750-hour program) or 19 weeks (for a 600-hour program).

Background Check

New estheticians may be required to complete criminal background checks before beginning their training or being licensed by the state. Conducting a background check will add some time to either the college admission process or the licensing process. How much time depends on how quickly the school or state can process the paperwork and how thorough the background check must be. A criminal background check will add additional time if there have been past convictions which need to be explained, either in writing or in-person to the state board.


Most states require that estheticians take and pass a state exam before being eligible for a license. The exam may consist of writing, oral and/or practical skills sections. Study guides and practice exams for the various state esthetician exams are available in many larger bookstores. Estheticians may have to wait several weeks after graduation before they can take their state exam, and then for several more weeks until they receive their results. The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which oversees esthetician licenses as well, lists the average time for receiving a test date for both the written and practical sections of their exams as eight to 12 weeks. Most states will not allow estheticians to work until they have taken and passed their examinations.


Applying for an esthetician license requires a great deal of paperwork, which can take time to gather. Besides a state application, an individual may need to submit official transcripts or other proof of training from her esthetician school. An applicant may also need to include passing scores on the state licensing exam and a criminal background check or fingerprints and a release form. Fee processing can also add time to both initial licenses and renewals. Online or credit card payments, if acceptable, generally take the least amount of time to process, and personal checks the longest. The North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners has the processing time for credit card license renewal payments as less than two weeks, but the processing time for personal checks as four to six weeks.


Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.