What's the difference between a dermatologist and an esthetician?

By: Charles W. Bryant

Dermatology vs. Esthetics

Facials are something you might get from an estchetician.
Facials are something you might get from an estchetician.
Richard Ross/Getty Images

The most important difference between a dermatologist and an esthetician is the schooling that's required for each profession. If you go see a dermatologist, you're seeing a doctor. This means that he or she completed four years of undergraduate work, three years of medical school and one to two years of residency and internship at a medical facility. He or she may also have received additional specialized training and education.

In contrast, an esthetician attends a trade school to learn the craft of skin care and has passed the state board exam. Passing this test gives the person a license to work in that state only as a standard or medical esthetician. The length of time that an esthetician puts into school is a fraction of what medical school entails. Most standard esthetic programs take between three and six months to complete anywhere from 250 to 1,500 hours of training, depending on the requirements of the state. Another difference is that an esthetics school candidate need only be at least 17 years old and have a high school diploma or GED certification.


Aside from the schooling, there are some major differences in the work itself. A dermatologist is trained to:

  • Diagnose and treat all skin disorders, abnormalities and diseases
  • Write prescriptions based on knowledge of skin care pharmaceuticals
  • Perform surgery on skin abnormalities
  • Detect and aid in the treatment of skin cancer

Training and study in esthetics school prepares a student for work with:

  • Facials
  • Body wraps
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Makeup application
  • Aromatherapy
  • Skin analysis

Masters licensing requires a little more schooling, but allows estheticians to perform procedures in laser hair removal, some forms of chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing. Many times master estheticians work under a doctor in a medical facility. There are also medical estheticians who work specifically with patients in treatment and recovery, helping them adapt to changes in their physical appearances. Cancer patients and burn and accident victims are typically assisted by a medical esthetician to help them overcome scarring and other procedural side effects like skin irritation and hair and eyebrow loss.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Bad acne in teens Linked to Suicide Attempts." Nov. 13, 2006.
  • "Dermatology." 2010.
  • "Skin Conditions: Assessing Your Skin Type." 2010.
  • "What is a Medical Esthetician?" 2010.
  • "Your Esthetician Education." 2010.
  • Green, Kathleen. "You're a what? Medical aesthetician." 2010.
  • LaGuardia, Gina. "Got an Eye for Beauty? Consider a Career as an Esthetician." 2010.