Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Master Esthetician



The esthetics industry is a swiftly evolving one, with technological advances such as cosmetic lasers and medical light-based devices taking skincare and anti-aging to the next level.

But many of the newest innovations in skincare do not fall under the scope of practice of most state-issued esthetician licenses, posing a problem for spas that want to offer these services and the estheticians who want to perform them.

Further, the advanced study of the skin and how its health relates to the body’s muscles, nerves, and cardiovascular and lymphatic systems is an important component of esthetics, particularly for estheticians in medical practices and medical spas. However, it is an area of study that isn’t covered in-depth in most basic esthetics programs, which usually consist of a curriculum that is designed to meet basic state licensing requirements and not more.

In an effort to close the gap between popular therapies and the basic esthetician education standards currently in place, a handful of states have created the master esthetician license.

Enter Zip:

Earning a master esthetician license opens the door to a greater number – and wider variety – of job opportunities: skincare specialists with an advanced level of training are not only hired as lead estheticians in spas and salons, but also find opportunities in dermatologist’s offices, medical spas, and plastic surgery clinics.

Along With a Master Esthetician License Comes an Increased Scope of Practice

A master esthetician license requires an expanded level of study and hands-on training in advanced areas of esthetics, that include:

  • Advanced histology of the cell and the skin
  • Hormones
  • Chemistry and biochemistry
  • Muscles and nerves
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The lymphatic system
  • Advanced skin disorders
  • Laser, light, energy, and radio frequency therapies
  • Skin typing and aging analysis
  • Chemistry and ingredients of skincare products
  • Pharmacology
  • Advanced facial techniques
  • Advanced skincare massage
  • Advanced facial devices
  • Advanced hair removal
  • Medical terminology
  • Plastic surgery procedures
  • Pre- and post-operative care

Some of the cutting-edge treatments covered in a master esthetician program include:

  • Laser hair removal
  • Photorejuvenation
  • Laser/light therapy resurfacing
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Micro-current and radio frequency
  • LED
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Medium-depth peels

How to Become a Master Esthetician

To date, just Utah, the District of Columbia, Washington State and Virginia have a two-tier licensing system related to esthetics, licensing both basic and master estheticians who meet the state’s specified requirements.

To become a master esthetician, you would complete the following steps:

Step 1. Complete a Master Esthetician Program

You can take two different routes if you want to earn your master esthetician license:

1) Complete a combined esthetician/master esthetician program leading to initial state licensure as a master esthetician


2) Complete a master esthetician program after first completing a basic esthetician program

Most master esthetician programs are designed for students who have previously completed a basic esthetician program and are looking to advance their education to a more clinical level. However, a number of schools do offer programs that combine the required hours for both basic and master esthetician licensing. These programs run consecutively, allowing students to begin the master esthetician program as soon as their basic esthetician program is completed.

In Utah, for example, a basic esthetician program leading to initial state licensure consists of at least 600 hours of instruction, while a master esthetician program leading to state licensure as a master esthetician requires an additional 600 hours of instruction. Some programs combine these two levels of esthetics training into a single 1,200 hour program.

A master esthetician program includes both theory and hands-on practical training. The program’s theory focuses on the practice of advanced techniques and procedures, as well as anatomy, physiology, histology of the cell and skin, and related skin sciences, while the practical component of these programs allows students to participate in advanced workshops, specialized procedures, and supervised clinical activities.

Step 2. Apply for a Master Esthetician License and Schedule the Required Examinations

Upon completing a master esthetician program, you must apply for state licensure as a master esthetician with your state’s board of cosmetology and esthetics or other appropriate regulatory agency. Once you have been approved, you must schedule to take the required master esthetician exam(s) through the testing agency that works with your state’s licensing board.

Step 3. Take and Pass the Required Master Esthetician State Exams

Washington State, Utah, and Virginia use the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) National Advanced Esthetics written and practical exams, while Washington D.C. uses only the NIC National Advanced Esthetics written exam.

NIC National Advanced Esthetics Written Exam

  • Sanitation and Infection Control Procedures
  • Advanced Knowledge of Human Physiology and Anatomy
  • Skin Histology
  • Advanced Knowledge of Skin Conditions and Disorders
  • Chemistry
  • Cosmetic Ingredients
  • Factors that Affect the Skin
  • Dermatological Terms
  • Plastic Surgery Terms
  • Skin Analysis
  • Exfoliation Methods
  • Electricity and Use of Various Electrical Equipment
  • Advanced Methods of Hair Removal
  • Advanced Facial Treatments
  • Advanced Body Treatments
  • Lymphatic Drainage
  • Pre/Post-Operative Treatments

NIC National Advanced Esthetics Practical Examination

  • Setup and Client Protection
  • Cleansing the Face
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Ultrasonic Exfoliation
  • Jessner’s or 20% BHA Chemical Peel
  • Particle Microdermabrasion
  • Advanced Facial Treatment – LED
  • Electricity and Electrical Equipment – Microcurrent
  • Advanced Body Treatment – Dry Exfoliation and Mud or Seaweed Mask

State Training and Licensing Requirements for Master Estheticians

To date, just a few states—Washington, OregonUtah, Virginia, and Washington DC—have master esthetician licenses. Oregon recently passed a bill to create an advanced esthetician, although full implementation of this new esthetician license will not take place until 2018.

California’s proposed Assembly Bill 1153, known as the Master Esthetician bill, failed to pass in 2014.

Washington State

Initial Esthetician License Requirement: 750 hours

Master Esthetician License Requirement: 450 additional hours

Master Esthetician Exam Requirement: NIC National Advanced Esthetics practical and written examinations

Master Esthetician Licensing Resource: Washington State Department of Licensing

Master Esthetician Curriculum Requirements: Theory in the practice of master esthetics, business practices, and basic human anatomy and physiology, including:

  • Advanced client assessment, documentation, and indications/contraindications
  • Advanced diseases and disorders of the skin
  • Advanced theories and spa body treatments
  • Laser, light frequency, radio frequency, ultrasound, and plasma practices
  • Lymphatic drainage and advanced facial massage
  • Medium depth chemical peels
  • Pretreatment and post-treatment procedures

District of Columbia

Initial Esthetician License Requirements: 600 hours

Master Esthetician Manager License Requirements: 600 additional hours

Master Esthetician Manager Exam Requirement: NIC National Advanced Esthetics written examination

Master Esthetician Manager Licensing Resource: District of Columbia Board of Barber and Cosmetology

Master Esthetician Manager Curriculum Requirements:

  • Advanced esthetician curriculum:
    • Advanced facials
    • Advanced facial massage
    • Advanced body treatments
    • Advanced make-up
    • Advanced facial machines
  • Advanced sciences:
    • Skin histology
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Chemistry and biochemistry
    • Skin analysis
    • Cosmetic ingredients
    • Physics
  • Medical:
    • Surgical procedures
    • Plastic surgery procedures and pre- and post-operation care;
    • Non-surgical procedures
    • Medical terminology and intervention
  • Business:
    • Business plan
    • Marketing
    • Business operations
    • Industry relations
    • Compliance and safety

The Board may waive the training and exam requirement for applicants that hold a current DC-issued Esthetician Operator license or a Cosmetology Operator license along with certification through NCEA (National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations).

The DC Board also offers a Master Esthetician Instructor License for those that will be teaching the art and science of esthetics.


Initial Esthetician License Requirement: 600 hours and no less than 15 weeks

Master Esthetician License Requirement: 600 additional hours (an additional 200 hours of training is required to perform lymphatic massage)

Master Esthetician Exam Requirement: NIC National Advanced Esthetics practical and written examinations

Master Esthetician Licensing Resource: Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing

Master Esthetician Curriculum Requirements:

  • Advanced chemical exfoliation
  • Advanced pedicure
  • Temporary removal of superfluous hair by waxing
  • Advanced aromatherapy
  • Aging process and its damage to the skin
  • Medical devices
  • CPR training
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Advanced mechanical and electrical devices
    • Devices that apply a mixture of steam and ozone to the skin
    • Devices that spray water and other liquids on the skin
    • Devise equipped with a brush to cleanse the skin
    • Galvanic or high-frequency current
    • Sanding and microdermabrasion techniques


Initial Esthetician License Requirement: 600 hours

Master Esthetician License Requirement: 600 additional hours

Master Esthetician Exam Requirement: NIC National Advanced Esthetics practical and written examinations

Master Esthetician Licensing Resource: Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation

Master Esthetician Curriculum Requirements:

  • Advanced business subjects and infection control
  • State laws, rules, and regulations
  • Advanced anatomy and physiology
  • Advanced skincare and advanced modalities, including:
    • Microdermabrasion and dermaplaning
    • Crystal and crystal-free microdermabrasion and dermaplaning
  • Advanced procedures and chemical exfoliation
    • Electric treatments, microcurrent, and ultrasound
    • Chemical exfoliation and peels of the epidermis
    • Jessner and modified Jessner peels
    • Light treatments, LED, intense pulsed light devices
    • Lymphatic drainage
    • Trichloracetic acid peels


Initial Esthetician License Requirement: 500 hours

Master Esthetician License Requirement: 500 additional hours that consists of 280 hours of theory, 195 hours of practical work (that must include at least 110 procedures), and 25 discretionary hours from an accredited program in advanced esthetics.

Master Esthetician Exam Requirement: Passing score on the American Board of Laser Surgery (ABLS) Oregon Written Examination for Aestheticians (must be completed within two years of applying for advanced licensure).

Master Esthetician Licensing Resource: Oregon’s Health Licensing Office, Board of Certified Advanced Estheticians

Master Esthetician Curriculum Requirements:


  • Anatomy, physiology and histology
  • Diseases and disorders
  • Safety, sanitation and infection control
  • Oregon Revised Statutes and Oregon Administrative Rules
  • First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Blood Borne Pathogens
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers (ANSI)
  • Technologies
    • Intense pulse light
    • Lasers
    • Plasma
    • Nonablative fractional collagen induction
    • Esthetic radio frequency
    • Esthetic ultrasound
    • Cryolipolysis
    • Microwaves
    • Emerging technologies
    • Light energy hair removal
    • Photo rejuvenation and dyschromia reduction
    • Skin rejuvenation
    • Cellulite reduction
    • Body contouring
    • Nonablative tattoo removal

Practical Training:

  • Light energy hair removal
  • Photo rejuvenation and dyschromia reduction
  • Skin rejuvenation
  • Cellulite reduction
  • Body contouring
  • Nonablative tattoo removal

The 25 Discretionary hours may consist of either theory or practical training.

Oregon’s Board of Certified Advanced Estheticians operates under the Health Licensing Office (HLO) and oversees the safe practice of advanced non-ablative esthetics and ensures that anybody practicing advanced non-ablative esthetics are qualified to do so.

Licensing in advanced esthetics does not fall under the Board of Cosmetology, although individuals interested in pursuing an advanced esthetician license must first hold active esthetics certification through the Board of Cosmetology.


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