There are nearly 200,000 estheticians licensed in the U.S., many of which are earning more than $40,000 a year, according to Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), the skin care industry’s premier membership and professional advocacy organization.
Although this is above the national average for the skincare industry, it does speak to the earning potential in this profession. Further, many estheticians throughout the country, particularly those with well-established private practices that cater to a wealthy clientele, report earning well above $100,000 annually.
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The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports earnings similar to those provided by the ASCP, showing an average annual salary for estheticians of $32,990 as of May 2013, with the top 25 percent of these beauty professionals earning an average of $39,160 and the top 10 percent earning $56,930 on average.
Of course, these reported earnings do not include the gratuity that estheticians receive from clients after each session. Tips can add an additional 10% – 25% to an esthetician’s take home pay.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a full analysis of earnings for estheticians across the United States according to earning percentile (does not include gratuity) (2013):
Esthetician Salaries by Industry
Like many other professions, the industry in which estheticians work is often indicative of their earning potential. Top industries where estheticians work include:
Salons and Spas
According to Associated Skin Care Professionals, about 71 percent of all estheticians work in a day spa or salon. The BLS reported an annual, mean salary of about $33,000 for estheticians in salons and day spas, as of May 2013.
Estheticians in salons and day spas are typically responsible for providing facials, exfoliation treatments to the face and body, pore cleansing, and waxing. Many upscale salons, particularly those in resorts or hotels, offer additional luxury treatments, such as aromatherapy, body wraps, and trendy facials that are more often associated with generous gratuity.
Medical Spas/Physician Offices
Today’s medical spas are a blend of a traditional salon and medical clinic. Medical spas are always staffed with a licensed medical doctor who operates within a specific scope of medicine, usually dermatology or plastic surgery.
In addition to advanced cosmetology procedures, such as Botox, which must be performed by a licensed medical practitioner, medical spas often provide a number of esthetics treatments, such as microdermabrasion, acid peels, and facials. In addition to providing these types of services, estheticians working in medical spas or physician’s offices may also assist the physician when performing these procedures. Estheticians in plastic surgeon offices also assist the physician by cleaning and sterilizing the equipment and providing pre- and post-operative care instructions to patients. This kind of responsibility comes with a higher salary, though gratuity in these settings isn’t customary.
The BLS reported that estheticians working in physician’s offices earned an average annual salary of $41,000 as of May 2013, while estheticians working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned an average annual salary of $47,430 during the same period.
Esthetician Salaries by Location
Because esthetics services are most often viewed as luxury services, areas of the country where higher income earners reside are also areas where estheticians often earn higher salaries. Estheticians in New Hampshire, for example, earned an average annual salary of $42,300, well above the national average of $33,000. This is likely due to the fact that New Hampshire consistently ranks among the top 10 states in terms of household income.
Higher salaries for estheticians are usually found in larger cities and resort towns where salons and spas are commonplace, which is likely why estheticians in the Hawaii/Maui/Kauai non-metropolitan area, for example, earned an average annual salary of $50,930, as of May 2013.
Esthetician Salaries by Compensation Structure
There are more than 974,000 salon and spa establishments in the United States, according to the Professional Beauty Association. Among professionals working within the salon and spa industry, skincare specialists are in the greatest demand, with job growth expected to reach 25 percent between 2010 and 2020. It comes as no surprise that the skincare marketplace has become quite competitive, with spas and salons searching for the best qualified estheticians to be a part of their teams.
As such, the compensation for estheticians has also become quite competitive, with salons and spas searching for the most beneficial pay structure that will attract the most skilled talent. The following are the most typical pay structures for estheticians in the salon and spa industry:
Independent Contracting/Booth Rental
“Booth renters” is a term used to describe estheticians that work as independent contractors and pay a salon or spa a flat rental fee, usually on a weekly or monthly basis. Estheticians working as independent contractors purchase their own supplies, set their own hours of operation, set their own fees, and provide their own business insurance. As such, skincare professionals working as independent contractors are completely in control of their earnings.
Team Member Compensation
Another common compensation structure seen in salons and spas is “team member” compensation, which means that salon or spa beauty professionals are paid a base pay, along with a commission salary package based on their position and the services they perform.
This type of compensation allows the employer to track the esthetician’s performance and pay them accordingly. Estheticians under this type of salary structure may also be tracked through their:
- Pre-booking percentage (the number of clients who booked their next appointment before leaving)
- Premium service percentage (determined by identifying service categories that come with higher prices)
- Retail sales percentage (determined by the amount of retail products sold)
The theory behind a commission-based structure is that employees perform better when the employers offer incentives for making more money. Therefore, estheticians who regularly complete pre-bookings, perform higher-priced services, and sell retail products for the salon or spa may enjoy a much higher income than their colleagues.
A straight commission salary structure is a standard for many salon and spa establishments, as it is the most straightforward. In a straight commission scenario, estheticians are paid a percentage of their gross sales for work they performed during a specific time frame. Based on IRS regulations, however, the employer also must offer straight commission employees minimum wage.
Many salon and spa owners choose to hire estheticians in a straight salary capacity as a way to encourage a more professional atmosphere and offer their employees stability. Many times, a straight salary structure is readdressed on a quarterly basis, with the employer reviewing the esthetician’s productivity and sales and coming up with a salary structure that would directly reflect their sales average during the preceding period.