Comparitive Analysis–Are all esthetic credentials created equal?




The safety of consumers is why estheticians are licensed in the United States. An Esthetician license ensures that the licensee has met standards as required by that state. Currently bills are before legislators in several states to raise esthetician hours of training to 1200-hours, and call it a Master Esthetician license. If the legislation passes, Esthetician students will get 1200-hours of training, but those already practicing need to upgrade their current knowledge in order to obtain the Master Esthetician license. One national and two international certifying agencies are available for this purpose, however, they need to be objectively compared and analyzed in order to ensure ongoing safety of the consumer in the United States.


A Comparitive Analysis performed by Helen Lawrence, overviews the existing credentials that are currently offered in the United States by the Commite International d’Esthetique est de Cosmetologie, International Therapy Examination Council, and the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations



Commite International d'Esthetique est de Cosmetologie is an international beauty therapy association that was founded in 1946 in Zurich, Switzerland. It represents a standard in esthetics in more than 30 countries.


            CIDESCO Beauty Therapy Diploma


There are eight states currently offering the CIDESCO Beauty Therapy Diploma.


There are two ways to obtain a CIDESCO Beauty Therapy Diploma

  1. Post-graduate:
    - Current Esthetician License with
                - 3-years of salon experience
                - CIDESCO education and preparation*
  2. Undergraduate:
    - Esthetician student at CIDESCO-Accredited school
                - Total of 1200 hours – theoretical & practical

*In the United States these qualifications are offered at 8 schools found in 6 states. NOTE: CIDESCO Beauty Therapy Diploma includes 250 hours of Nail Training.


Testing is done onsite at a CIDESCO Schools or during an annual CIDESCO World Congress.




International Therapy Examination Council is an international specialist examination board founded in 1947. It provides qualifications in Beauty & Spa Therapy, Hairdressing, Complementary Therapies, Sport & Fitness Training and Customer Service/Business/Administration.

International Qualifications are available in 5 sectors:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Beauty and Spa
  3. Hairdressing
  4. Complementary Therapy
  5. Sport and Fitness


            Advanced Skincare – Level 4

            Beauty Specialists – Level 2

            Beauty Treatments – Level 2

            Body Treatments – Level 3

            Epilation – Level 3

            Facial Electrical Treatments – Level 3

            Laser and Intense Pulsed Light Treatments – Level 4

            Microdermabrasion Treatments – Level 3

            Red Vein Treatments – Level 3

            Spa Treatments – Level 3



In the United States these 10 qualifications are offered at 22 schools found in 13 states.


Testing is done onsite at ITEC Schools by an international examiner.

The National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA) was founded in the United States in June 2000. It is a coalition of associations, manufacturers/distributors, schools, and individual esthetician members. The mission of the NCEA is to define standards of practice through certification and continuing education accreditation in order to represent and advocate for the esthetic profession.


            NCEA Certified Credential 


Available in all 50 States, plus Guam & Puerto Rico.

There are four ways to meet the NCEA Certified credential candidate requirements:

1. Post-graduate:

            i) Current Esthetician License with one year full-time skin care experience, and
                50 hours of documented post-graduate education,

            ii) Current Esthetician License with two (2) years full-time skin care experience,

            iii) Current Master Esthetician License,

            iv) Employer Recommendation,

2. Under-graduate:

            i) Current Esthetician License after completion of the 1200-hour curriculum

Assessment of skin care experience, use of the self-directed interactive training manual, and online training are utilized.


Testing is available at 330 Testing Centers in the United States, and 30 Testing Centers in Canada. There are also seven NCEA Approved Training/Testing Centers (ATFs) in seven states that provide prep classes and/or undergraduate education. (NJ, OR, WA, GA, TN, CA, MN)



A licensed Esthetician who obtains the CIDESCO Beauty Therapy Diploma completed 1200-hours of training but, 250-hours were in nails, which is not an allowed task by esthetician licensees in the United States.


A licensed Esthetician who obtains an ITEC qualification, the completed hours of training could vary from an additional 338 hours–to only 50 hours falling well-short of the 1200-hour standard for a Master Esthetician license.  


A licensed Esthetician who obtains the NCEA Certified credential in an undergraduate program has a full additional 600 hours of training. If a licensed esthetician obtains the NCEA Certified credential post-graduate, they are required to pass the national examination with a 75% or higher. The examination is based upon a 1200-hour standard Master Esthetician license.

Employers assume that a Master Esthetician licensee has the skills and abilities to perform a wide variety of services. In order for this to be true, Master Esthetician job skills need to be evaluated. Only two associations have surveyed skills required in a 1200-hour Master Esthetician license–the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC), and the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA).

Master Esthetician licensing is being driven by the profession, industry; including schools, and employers. To ensure ongoing safety of consumers and licensing standards, there needs to be a thorough review of the current data that is readily available on each association’s website.  

About the Author:

The Comparitive Analysis was performed by Helen Lawrence, BS. May 2013, based upon available online data.


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