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Esthetician vs. Massage Therapist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you enjoy working with people and helping them feel relaxed and rejuvenated, then a career in esthetics or massage therapy may be for you. Both of these professions offer the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and with a diverse clientele. In this article, we compare and contrast estheticians and massage therapists, including job duties, education requirements and average salaries.

What is an Esthetician?

An Esthetician is a skincare specialist who provides treatments to improve the appearance and health of their client’s skin. Estheticians cleanse and exfoliate skin, extract comedones, perform microdermabrasion, give facials, and apply chemical peels and topical treatments. They also advise their clients on how to properly care for their skin at home. Estheticians must be licensed in order to practice, and they must complete a training program at a cosmetology school.

What is a Massage Therapist?

Massage Therapists are responsible for providing their clients with a range of massage services aimed at promoting relaxation and improving physical well-being. They may work in a spa, clinic, or other healthcare setting, or they may be self-employed. Massage Therapists use their hands, elbows, and forearms to manipulate the muscles and soft tissues of their clients. They may also use massage oils or lotions to lubricate the skin and reduce friction on the muscles. Massage Therapists typically work with their clients to determine the best massage techniques to use based on the client’s specific needs.

Esthetician vs. Massage Therapist

Here are the main differences between an esthetician and a massage therapist.

Job Duties

Both estheticians and massage therapists work with clients to help them feel more comfortable, less stressed and healthier. They may perform similar duties, such as cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing skin, as well as providing treatments like applying lotions or creams, massaging muscles and removing unwanted hair.

Estheticians typically focus on the cosmetic aspects of a person’s health, such as their skin, hair and nails. An esthetician may use facials, waxing, makeup application or other techniques to enhance a client’s appearance. Aestheticians also commonly provide services for brides and other special events.

Massage therapists typically concentrate on a specific part of the body—the muscles—and how it affects a person’s overall health. Massage therapists can perform many of the same tasks as an esthetician, but they may do so in order to treat a medical condition rather than improve a person’s looks.

Job Requirements

To become an esthetician, you need to complete a state-licensed cosmetology or esthetics program. These programs typically take about nine months to a year to complete and include both classroom instruction and hands-on training. You must also pass a state licensing exam to earn your license. Some states require continuing education credits to renew your license as well.

Massage therapists must complete an accredited massage therapy program. These programs typically last about six months to a year and include both classroom instruction and hands-on training. You must also pass a state licensing exam to earn your license. Some states require continuing education credits to renew your license as well.

Work Environment

Both estheticians and massage therapists work in a variety of environments. They may work in salons, spas or other locations that offer beauty services. Estheticians often work in private homes as well. Massage therapists typically work in hospitals, physical therapy centers, chiropractic offices and rehabilitation facilities.

Estheticians usually work indoors, but they may travel to clients’ homes or businesses for appointments. Massage therapists can also work outdoors when providing massages at beaches or parks.


There are several similarities in the skills used by estheticians and massage therapists. Both need to have excellent customer service skills to build relationships with clients and ensure they have a positive experience. They also need to be able to listen to clients to understand their needs and preferences.

Both estheticians and massage therapists need to have physical strength and stamina, as they will be standing for long periods of time and performing manual labor. They also both need to have good hand-eye coordination and dexterity to perform their tasks accurately.

There are some differences in the skills used by these two professionals. Estheticians need to have knowledge of skincare products and how to apply them, as well as how to perform various skincare treatments. Massage therapists need to have knowledge of human anatomy and how muscles work in order to provide effective massages.


Estheticians can earn an average salary of $44,359 per year, while massage therapists can earn an average salary of $53,256 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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