Esthetician Apprenticeships: Hands-On Learning for Skin Care Specialists

An esthetician apprenticeship lets you learn on the job from an approved sponsor instead of attending esthetician school for training. Read on to learn about esthetician apprenticeships—including how to become an esthetician apprentice, relevant laws, pros and cons of esthetician apprenticeships, and more.

What Is an Esthetics Apprenticeship?

An esthetics apprenticeship lets future licensed estheticians train in salons or spas. In an esthetics apprenticeship, a sponsor or mentor (sometimes called a "journeyman") covers everything taught in regular esthetics programs but in a real-world hands-on environment.

Not all states offer esthetics apprenticeships, and among the states that do allow them, several require apprentices to take a few traditional classes as part of the training.

Which States Allow Esthetics Apprenticeships?

Currently, 19 states allow esthetician licenses through apprenticeships. Each state sets requirements for curriculum and hours.

States that allow esthetician apprenticeships:

2,000 hours

350 hours

1,200 hours

2,000 hours

1,200 hours

1,200 hours

1,000 hours

12 months (20 hours/week)

600 hours in six months

1,500 hours

600 hours

1,200 hours

New Hampshire
1,200 hours

1,200 hours

800 hours

750 hours

2,000 hours

2,144 hours

450 hours

This data is accurate as of February 2023.

Some states also allow cosmetology apprenticeships.

If your state doesn't allow apprenticeships, you should enroll in an esthetician school or program instead.

You could consider going to a different state to complete an apprenticeship. However, not all states readily accept licensure reciprocity or transfer from other states, or there may be additional stipulations or uncertainty on the license transfer process. Some even won't accept a license from apprenticeship training without at least a year or so of licensed practice afterward.

How Do I Become an Esthetics Apprentice?

Becoming an esthetics apprentice may involve more legwork than enrolling in a program. Instead of just applying to a school, you need an approved apprenticeship sponsor and apprentice license lined up. Only then can you start learning.

An esthetician sponsor could be an individual, salon, or apprenticeship training program.

Finding an Esthetician Apprenticeship Sponsor

You might find a sponsor through your network, job sites, or state board of esthetics or cosmetology.

Ask local estheticians, cosmetologists, or other beauty professionals you know about potential sponsors. People you trust could help you find a sponsor who matches your needs and personality. Plus, they may put in a good word for you.

But not everyone has friends in the industry. In that case, searching local job boards may be the easiest way to find a sponsor. Sponsors often post apprenticeships online, and you apply for them like any other job. Be sure the employer is state-approved before taking any position.

Beyond local listings, ApprenticeshipUSA, run by the federal government, sometimes has esthetician apprenticeship opportunities listed on its site.

Finally, some state boards keep a list of esthetician apprentice sponsors. These include names, contact information, and more information about the sponsor. After reading some reviews, reach out to those who interest you.

Finding a Good Apprenticeship Sponsor Match

Your gut could be the best indicator of if an apprenticeship sponsor or mentor is a good fit. But you should also read reviews, talk to estheticians, ask questions, and tour the physical space:

  • Reviews from former apprentices and even clients can give you an idea of your possible work environment. It can also offer insight into the types of clients they work with.
  • Talking to estheticians who know the potential sponsor. Understanding how liked and respected they are may give you an idea of how your experience could be.
  • Apprenticeships often begin with interviews. Remember, you interview them as much as they interview you. Make sure you vibe well and that you can see yourself working with them for months.
  • Touring the space is essential. Does the business offer all the services you want to learn? Is the space packed with clients, or are things running at a slower pace, and which is better for your own learning? Is it a place you would want to get treatments?

Esthetician Apprenticeships vs. Esthetician Programs

Apprenticeships happen in businesses, while esthetician programs are in schools. But, there's more to it than that.

How Esthetics Apprenticeships Approach Written Exam Subjects

Esthetician apprentices typically learn written test topics in classes or off-the-floor mentor training. Mentors should reinforce esthetics written exam topics while you work.

You might need to take some classes in an esthetician school before starting an apprenticeship. Or, sponsors may hold lessons away from clients for a certain number of hours.

How Long Do Esthetics Apprenticeships Take?

Esthetics apprenticeships require more training hours than an esthetics school program. Double the number of hours required by esthetics school is common in many states.

Completing your apprenticeship hours may also take more total time because your sponsor must operate within employment laws, which could restrict the number of hours you can complete in a short amount of time.

Are Esthetics Apprenticeships Paid?

Your sponsor should pay you for your work as an apprentice. Any classroom-style training is typically tuition-free to the apprentice, though this time may not be compensated. While apprentices must earn at least minimum wage, often with potential increases, some states are in legal limbo around this. Whether apprentices can be tipped varies by state and sponsor.

Some larger apprenticeship programs may require an upfront fee. As an apprentice, you may also need to cover your license application and exam fees out of pocket, as well as essentials like your kit.

Pros and Cons of Esthetics Apprenticeships

Pros of Esthetics Apprenticeships

  • Real client experience, fast. Look into apprenticeships if you enjoy "trial by fire" and one-on-one training. "Trial by fire" refers to apprentice estheticians working with clients soon after beginning to learn their craft. Typically, esthetician school programs have students spend a lot of time practicing on mannequins and each other before meeting with customers. This could be stressful—or it could be a thrill. It could also mean you enter the workforce with more confidence, though that's subjective.
  • More customized supervision. A sponsor can have very few apprentices at once. For example, many states only allow them to have one apprentice at a time. This means you'd get a great amount of attention while you grow your skills.
  • Getting paid for training. Because you are working as you receive training, you get paid—though it may not be much.
  • Possible employment upon graduation. While this isn't guaranteed, you may be able to immediately have a job upon graduation at your apprenticeship location or with one of your mentor's peers..

Cons of Esthetics Apprenticeships

  • Potentially less structured learning. If you learn well in a classroom setting and need to walk through concepts before trying them out, the immediately hands-on and less predictable day-to-day of apprenticeships may not be for you.
  • Sponsors who may be less used to instruction. Esthetician apprenticeship sponsors may not have much teacher training. Even the best estheticians in town might not communicate with learners well. Make sure to ask about their teaching experience during your interview.
  • Length of time required. Apprenticeships can often take double the required hours of esthetician school. If you want to be done with learning in a short amount of time, an apprenticeship may not be the best option for you.

Do I Have to Take Exams if I Do an Esthetics Apprenticeship?

Esthetics licensure almost always requires exams. A few states accept sponsor sign-offs on career readiness, but that's rare. Your apprenticeship mentor should prepare you for exams in addition to keeping an eye on your hands-on work.

Esthetician License Transfer Between States When You Train as an Apprentice

States will frequently accept esthetician licenses from other states, especially if the state's required training hours are similar to less than what you earned. This may or may not include apprenticeship training, though. Every state is different, and if you earned your original esthetician license through an apprenticeship, you may need to take some extra steps.

Depending on the state, you might need to:

  • Take some additional classes
  • Earn an exemption using recommendations or work experience
  • Take the state's exams

However, if you only have an apprentice esthetician license, not a full license, and move to a new state, chances are it won't be accepted. You might need to restart your apprenticeship or switch to esthetician school and start over. So, if you plan to move states soon, don't start an apprenticeship yet!

Becoming an Esthetics Apprenticeship Sponsor

Esthetician sponsors need state approval before taking on apprentices. While some national requirements exist, states tend to have more legal hurdles.

Across the U.S. and in every vocational field, apprenticeship sponsors must:

  • Have an active license
  • Create an approved curriculum
  • Keep track of apprentice hours and types of work
  • Follow all labor laws, including equal opportunity and working hours regulations
  • Not take on too many apprentices at once

Beyond that, states often establish rules about things like:

  • Number of years working as an esthetician
  • Number of learners sponsored at once
  • Frequency of timesheet submission
  • Facility requirements
  • Curriculum approval
  • Training, up to the level of instructor training
  • Inspection requirements
  • Amount of training and observation an apprentice must do before working
  • History of disciplinary action

The application process and costs vary by state. Check your state's board for more details.

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