Esthetician vs Medical Esthetician:

What Exactly is the Difference? 

To be fair, the term “esthetician” is already hard enough for some of us to say (OK, maybe that’s just us raising our hands in the corner, but whatevs)—understanding the distinct differences between an esthetician and a medical esthetician is a whole extra challenge.

But today, you’re in luck—we’ve dedicated this entire blog to laying out the specifics for each of these careers in hopes that it can give you some serious guidance on what type of professional does what, the main differences of each, and what type of advantages each of these careers can offer.

In other words, get ready for some serious esthetics knowledge!

Esthetics vs Medical Esthetics: Let's Talk Definitions 

We’re not going to come at you with just a vocab lesson (we’ll get to the list of pros and cons soon), but we do think it’s pertinent to lay out some basic definitions to help get the foundational groundwork figured out first.

So, let’s kick this thing off by defining each of these career paths.

Estheticians are licensed professionals who are expertly trained to perform skincare services which can include skills like (but not limited to) massage, hair removal, skin cleansing, skin toning, exfoliation, skin peels, custom skincare recommendations, microblading, lash extensions, and more.

Typically, estheticians work with people who have minor skin issues or problems, such as dry skin, breakouts, age spots, etc.

Medical estheticians, sometimes referred to as medical aestheticians, on the other hand, tend to focus on working with people who have more advanced skin ailments or pain points.

In other words, they bring their skincare expertise into a medical setting to help people learn how to care for their skin, undergo treatments for conditions, and heal and improve skin.   

While both career paths are ultimately about becoming licensed skin care specialists who are trained to analyze, cleans, improve, and heal skin, their set of services and their environments are quite different.

The Good, The Bad, & The Differences 

OK, so we’ve got the definitions on lock.

By now, you’re probably more in-tune with which career path you’d prefer to lean toward just by nailing down those defining qualities.

But don’t make up your mind just yet—first, read through this list of pros and cons (we tried to be as subjective as possible, BTW) to get a better idea of the good, the bad, and the unique about each of these career choices.

The Pros and Cons of Being an Esthetician 

Esthetician Pros

  • Consistent job security and job availability 
  • Help heal and improve skin for clients dealing with minor skin issues or insecurities 
  • Work in a salon, spa, or resort environment (as opposed to a more serious, sterile medical environment) 
  • Make impactful differences for your clients every single day 
  • Growth potential is high 

Esthetician Cons

  • Typically, general estheticians bring home a lower salary than medical esthetician (though, this is not always true) 
  • Building up a stream of clients can be tricky 
  • General esthetician hours aren't always ideal (nights and weekends are highly possible)
  • You're ultimately in the business of customer service, and dealing with customers non-stop can be challenging 

The Pros and Cons of Being a Medical Esthetician

Medical Esthetician Pros

  • Help heal and improve skin for clients who deal with serious issues, burns, trauma, or disorders 
  • You must first be licensed as a general esthetician before a medical esthetician, so once you're dual-licenses, you can offer a customized blend of both services 
  • Higher starting salary (in most cases, this is not always true) 
  • The growth potential is high 

Medical Esthetician Cons

  • Medical offices and environments tend to be more sterile and serious 
  • Because you'll be dealing with patients instead of just "clients," you'll run into more serious and potentially upsetting scenarios (i.e., trauma victims, sick patients, etc.) 
  • Sometimes your job is closer to a counselor than a cosmetologist 

See the differences between these two careers now?


Hopefully, we’ve armed you with enough information and knowledge for you to figure out which path might be right for you.

Who knows—maybe you’ll even try to tackle both of these careers at once to offer the ultimate set of esthetics services (let us know if you do).

No matter which profession you choose, it’s important to protect yourself, your career, and your finances, and your future with professional liability insurance.

At Elite Beauty Society, we can help you no matter what your esthetician journey might be—from student esthetician to part-time to full-time (medical esthetician or non), we’ve got the coverage, protection, and peace of mind you deserve!