NCEA Esthetician Certification: What It Is and How to Get It

The NCEA, or National Coalition of Estheticians Association, offers a nationally recognized professional certification for estheticians who want to establish a certain level of achievement and knowledge in their line of work.

Read on for more information about the NCEA certification, including why estheticians get it and the process to do so.

What Is NCEA Certification?

NCEA Certification is a national credential requiring candidates to show impressive skill and dedication to a code of ethics.

There are several pathways to gaining an NCEA Certification. This is true whether you're finishing your esthetician training or already a licensed skin care professional.

What Is the NCEA?

The NCEA is a professional skin care group. It comprises estheticians, schools, distributors, and manufacturers. It started in June 2000 to further the knowledge and skills of esthetician practitioners across the U.S.

Why Should I Get NCEA Certification?

A typical esthetics program in the U.S. comprises around 600 training hours to fulfill requirements for state licensure. The NCEA evaluates knowledge that would be expected to come from 1,200 training hours in esthetics. That's the amount of training usually required to become a master esthetician in the states where such a designation is offered.

Being NCEA certified may show you're head and shoulders above the competition. It could open the door to new opportunities or even make getting licensed in a new state easier.

NCEA Certification Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for NCEA certification, you must be one of the following:

  • Licensed esthetician
  • Licensed cosmetologist
  • Another licensed beauty professional
  • Another licensed beauty professional with an employer recommendation

Esthetics students within 100 hours of graduating can apply. After passing exams and obtaining your license, you’ll need to provide verification of your new license.

All candidates must also have proof of the following:

  • Current CPR/AED/first aid certification
  • Current NCEA individual membership certificate
  • Proof of insurance

NCEA Certification Application Procees

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can start the NCEA application process, which can take as few as four to six weeks.

First, order the Training Manual and fill it out. Then, submit your application forms and pay your first set of fees.

After the NCEA accepts your application, you get an Authorization-To-Test (ATT) from NCEA. This means you can schedule your exam. You need to do this within 15 days of receiving the ATT, and you may need to pay an exam fee.

Finally, you'll take your exam. You may do this from the comfort of your home via the internet or at one of NCEA's approved testing centers. You must achieve a grade of at least 75% to pass. At this point, you'll be NCEA Certified.

You find out whether you passed or failed as soon as you finish the test. If you pass, your credential packet will arrive within two weeks. If you fail, you can re-test.

What You Need to Know for the NCEA Certification Exam

The NCEA exam process is based upon a 1,200-hour industry-driven Job Task Analysis over four years.

To be eligible for NCEA Certification, you need to prove knowledge of the following:

  • Disinfection and Infection Control
  • Human Physiology and Anatomy
  • Skin Histology, Diseases, and Disorders
  • Hair and Its Growth Cycle
  • Basic Chemistry
  • Cosmetic Ingredients
  • Factors That Affect the Skin
  • Skin Analysis, Consultation, Documentation, and Treatment
  • Cleansing Procedures
  • Towel Steaming Procedures
  • Exfoliation Methods
  • Safe and Proper Methods of Extractions
  • Massage Movements and Their Effects
  • Contraindications for Massage
  • Masks
  • Electricity and Use of Electrical Equipment
  • Methods of Hair Removal
  • Color Theory and Makeup Application
  • Scope of Practice/Regulatory Rules
  • Advanced Skin Sciences
  • Advanced Professional Skin Treatments for Face and Body
  • Advanced Hair Removal or Permanent Hair Reduction
  • Advanced Business Management and Operations
  • Other Advanced Modalities

Several esthetics mentors offer NCEA prep classes. These should let you brush up on your knowledge before sending your application.

Cost of NCEA Certification

When paid for in three separate steps, the NCEA certification costs $664. The cost breaks down into $114 for the NCEA Training Manual, $175 for record verification, and $375 for the exam. But, there are ways to spread the cost.

Candidates paying in installments over six months owe $600. But, they have to submit their applications within five months of starting payments.

Those who pay for the NCEA certification in a lump sum via credit or debit card can also pay $600. But, they must submit their applications within 90 days of payment.

The NCEA also lets members spread their payments over 10 months, with $100 as an initial down payment. This also brings the cost to $600.

Renew Your NCEA Certification

Getting the NCEA Certified credential isn't a "one-and-done" situation. You need to maintain it by completing Advanced Recertifications.

Advanced recertifications are like the original NCEA Certified qualification in many ways. Essentially, you prove your continuing commitment to improvement, high standards, and industry advancement.

Do I Have to Be NCEA Certified to Be an NCEA Member (or Vice Versa)?

You don't have to be NCEA Certified to be an NCEA member. But, you do have to be a member to gain certification. There are several tiers of membership, including the following:

  • Individual membership: $65 per year
  • Individual plus directory: $95 per year; includes publishing your details in the NCEA's online directory
  • Three-year membership: $160 total

There are also membership options for schools, associations, and manufacturers.

Membership comes with perks. These include apps, magazine subscriptions, and discounted certificate and code of ethics framing.

NCEA Certification vs. Master Esthetician License

"Master esthetician" is a license in several states to recognize higher learning and skill in the esthetics practice. NCEA certification is separate from a master esthetician license, and being NCEA Certified doesn't automatically give you master esthetician licensure, where that license is recognized.

However, a handful of states have legislation recognizing NCEA Certified estheticians as having fulfilled the requirements to apply for a master esthetician license. In some other states (Virginia, Utah), NCEA Certified estheticians can apply to be considered case-by-case for a master esthetician license.

NCEA vs. CIDESCO Certification

The NCEA and CIDESCO are similar in that they're both well-respected certifying bodies in the beauty industry. But, they're also very different.

For starters, CIDESCO started over 40 years before the NCEA. It also covers more skill sets and job titles than NCEA.

The NCEA focuses on esthetics, while CIDESCO offers recognition in makeup, massage, nails, aromatherapy, spa management, and more.

While the NCEA is based in the United States, CIDESCO has more recognition worldwide.

CIDESCO's standard for an aesthetics (esthetics) diploma is the completion of an approved training course of 800 hours. This is 400 fewer hours than NCEA Certified programs are meant to represent. But CIDESCO’s esthetics exam is more intensive and is split into three parts:

  • Theoretical examination
  • Practical examination
  • Project with case histories
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