Choosing a Medical Esthetics Career: What you need to know
By Ashley M. Heidi Carter
Medical Esthetics is centered on the improvement of people’s appearance, and is more closely allied with the treatment of disease and disfigurement than traditional cosmetology. The French Society for Esthetic Medicine held its first conference in 1973 and was the first organization devoted to the discipline. Esthetic medicine is a relatively new Industry in the United States and even internationally, has only been recognized since the early 1970’s. The practice and procedures utilized by Medical Estheticians have been derived from what were formerly services provided by physicians practicing in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Both these fields of medicine are 20th century developments in modern science and in this way are distinct from the cultural practices and traditional conception of beauty treatments as practices of personal adornment or cosmetology.
The International Union of Societies of Aesthetic Medicine (UIME) was created to represent a variety of national interests in Esthetic Medicine. The UIME represents 27 different countries; Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Italy, Spain, France, Morocco, Poland, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United States of America, Mexico, Russia, Romania, Kazajistan, Algeria, Canada, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Turkey, South Africa, China and the Ukraine. This organization holds a bi annual European conference every two years and a World Congress every four years. There are also new terms being floated in the Industry to describe Medical Estheticians such as Paramedical Esthetician. This is a shift in how the Health Care Industry is redefining the term to try and reposition not only Health Care but Science as the focus of the profession.
Job Description and Responsibilities
Typically, Medical Estheticians have a two or four year degree in a Health Science profession such as Nursing and perform their duties under the direction of physicians, dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Typical job duties involve providing pre and post-operative care, working with cancer patients who have lost their facial hair, burn patients who need to learn new makeup techniques to minimize the appearance of trauma, providing facial massages to promote dermal healing, providing laser treatments and skin exfoliation, maintaining patient records and suggesting product options patients may utilize at home. A detailed listing of topics and medical conditions that the Dermatological Nurses Association cites as common Medical Esthetics procedures includes such diverse conditions as:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Body adornment (tatoos, piercings, etc.)
- Camouflage cosmetics
- Contact dermatitis
- Cosmetic dermatology
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Epidermolysis bullosa
- Evidence-based practice
- General dermatology
- Home care
- Laser procedures
- Occupational dermatology
- Pain management
- Radiation therapy
- Skin cancer and prevention
- Wound Care
Education and Training
Given that Medical Esthetics is not a profession with a universally accepted regulatory body close attention should be given to career aspirations before choosing a program of study with any school, public or private. Ask yourself what your goals are and what you want to specialize in. The options are diverse! Keep in mind, that in an unregulated field, the kind of education you choose will determine what kind of Professional license you will acquire after graduation and that licensure will determine the course of your professional growth and development, what career paths will be available to you to specialize in and what degree of career advancement you can expect to achieve.
The term Medical Esthetician is actually misleading so be aware: it is a term that denotes a type of work and NOT a formal Profession at this time in the United States. Currently, there is NO standard education or licensing procedure to become a Medical Esthetician offered by any Medical or Cosmetology Board Nationally or at the State Level. There are no standardized core competencies that form a universally accepted education curriculum, although there are a number of organizations with various philosophies and views on education, economics and industry that offer privatized certifications and professional membership under the name Medical Aesthetics. Presently, esthetics procedures are performed by all kinds of physicians, not just dermatologists or plastic surgeons. This gap in health care delivery practice has not yet been forcefully regulated by the health care industry. As career specializations grow, the projected outlook for Medical Esthetics is very positive although the industry is fragmented.
In such a fragmented state, what is the best approach to choosing an educational path in Medical Esthetics? There are two basic approaches to this question for the prospective student to consider. The first is traditional academia and a two or four year degree in a health science discipline and then acquiring specialized certifications. The second is to take a more vocational approach, and to seek out a certification program in esthetics/cosmetology and building on this skill set by pursuing specialized certifications. Each path has value and ultimately, the choice a prospective student makes, is a matter of personal choice. It is worth pointing out the value of exploring the philosophical foundations of Aesthetics when making a decision of which path to pursue. The branch of Philosophy known as Axiology deals with two different issues. These are ethics and aesthetics. Both branches of axiology deal with questions of value and how we determine, assign and perceive value. No matter what path is chosen, after initial training is completed, there is a need for further specialization in the discipline thru certification and as with any licensed profession, the type of education chosen will determine what kind of continuing education options are both available to the student based on their educational background and what kinds of specialized training the prospective student will be qualified to pursue. For example, a prospective student with a two year LPN degree will be qualified to pursue specializations in Dermatological Nursing based on education background. A prospective student who takes the more vocational route of cosmetology centered esthetics training will not have the educational credentials necessary to pursue all of the same offerings that are open to medical professionals, depending on the quality and training of the program they choose.
Some private cosmetology centered esthetics programs do train their students to deal with conditions such as Rosacea and also provide training in dermalogical peels and microdermabrasion. However, career advancement does depend on additional certifications and specializations beyond initial training, showcasing the need to fully explore educational options. The licensing requirements that result from each educational path will determine what kinds of specializations prospective students will be able to pursue after completing their education and hence will have an effect on career advancement.
The Bureau for Labor Statistics lists the median salary for estheticians at approximately $28,920 a year, or just under $14.00 dollars an hour. However, Payscale.com reported in 2013, that the median wage for Paramedical Estheticians ranged as high as $47,310. This again highlights the very different options available to prospective esthetics students based on which educational path they pursue and the specialization options available to different licensed professions.
Professional Associations with additional information
Association of Medical Aesthetic Nurses
Dermatological Nurses Association
Aesthetics International Association
American Acne and Rosacea Society
Society of Dermatology Skin Care Specialists
United Aesthetics Organization
International Spa Association