August 24, 2020

Cosmetology or Esthetics? What’s the Difference?

When you think about attending beauty school, it’s likely that cosmetology and esthetics are the first two programs that come to mind. There’s a good reason for that! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in cosmetology and esthetics have been growing faster than average since 2018. At Hair Professionals Career College, we offer both cosmetology and esthetics programs.

Many of our potential students wonder what the difference between cosmetology and esthetics is. While there are some similarities between what a cosmetologist does and what an esthetician does, these fields are actually very different. We want to help students make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right program for them!

If you’re not sure which program to pursue, keep reading to learn more about the differences!


Estheticians are skin care specialists who are trained to assess and enhance the skin through treatments and services. They provide treatments like facials, makeup application, and hair removal, as well as more advanced skincare modalities like microdermabrasion or chemical peels. An esthetician typically does not cut/style/color hair or perform nail services, which is what sets them apart from cosmetologists.

Woman having a skin treatment at a spa

At Hair Professionals Career College, our esthetics program focuses on teaching students these skills, as well as other techniques:

– Facials
– Waxing
– Body Wraps
– Aromatherapy
– Microdermabrasion
– Makeup Application

Careers for Estheticians

Well qualified, licensed estheticians could potentially have one of these careers or several others:

– Facial Technician
– Microdermabrasion Technician
– Waxing Technician
– Spa Owner
– Spa Manager
– Freelance Makeup Artist
– Aromatherapy Specialist


Cosmetologists provide services that treat and beautify hair, nails, and skin. Many cosmetologists become hairstylists, hair colorists, barbers, or makeup artists. While a cosmetologist can provide some basic skin services, they don’t offer advanced modalities like microdermabrasion or chemical peels.

Stylist fixing woman's hair while posing

Our cosmetology program focuses primarily on the following skills. However, our program is not limited to just learning these!

– Hair Cutting
– Hair Coloring
– Hair Design
– Skincare
– Manicuring and Pedicuring

Careers for Cosmetologists

Qualified, licensed cosmetologists could potentially have one of these jobs or a variety of others:

– Personal Hairstylist
– Salon Hairstylist
– High-end Salon Hairstylist
– Hair Colorist
– Spa Technician
– Nail Technician
– Facial Technician
– Spa Owner
– Salon Owner
– Salon Manager
– Spa Manager
– Freelance Makeup Artist

The Difference

Skill Set

As you can see, both estheticians and cosmetologists learn skin services, skills, and techniques at Hair Professionals Career College. This is the biggest differentiating factor between the two programs. Esthetics students will not be exposed to learning hair treatments or skills, nor will they be exposed to manicuring skills and techniques.

Job Opportunities

There are several similarities among the two, being skin services, as mentioned above, including makeup application and understanding, but their biggest similarity is the type of jobs they can have. Qualified cosmetologists can often find jobs that an esthetician can have, too. However, estheticians can’t pursue a few of the jobs cosmetologists can, due to licensure differences.


Legally, in the state of Illinois, estheticians must complete 750 training hours to get their license.

Illinois state law requires cosmetologists to complete 1500 training hours to receive their license.

How Do I Choose?

In the end, choosing the right program will come with going over a few different factors. Here are a few to consider:

– How much time do you have/want to spend?
– What are you interested in learning?
– What do you want to focus on in your future career?
– What parts of beauty are you most passionate about?
– How accommodating is your financial situation?

At Hair Professionals Career College we want to dedicate time to helping our students find the right fit. Contact us for more information on any program you’re interested in, and come in to take a peek into our day-to-day schedule. You can also schedule a tour of one of our campuses. We have locations in Palos Hills, Oswego, and Sycamore, Illinois. We hope to see you soon!

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