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New Master Aesthetician program trains students for careers in medi-spa settings

Program is the first of its kind in the Wisconsin Technical College System


While many areas of campus may be a little quieter during the summer months, Waukesha County Technical College’s new Aesthetician Lab has been a flurry of activity. Clients have been stopping in for facials and other skin care services – all as part of the training for students in WCTC’s new Master Aesthetician Associate of Applied Science degree program.

Nine students began in the first cohort in January, and this inaugural group is developing skills needed to work in salon, spa and medical settings. The 60-credit program -- which includes fundamentals along with higher-level, advanced modalities -- such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and various laser treatments -- is the first of its kind (to offer a medical spa/advanced training component) in the Wisconsin Technical College System.

“It quickly became apparent that there was a real need for entry-level professionals beyond the basic state licensing,” said Joan Hader, associate dean of Education and Human Services. “While researching this program, we learned from many employers the need for advanced training to work at the medi-spa level.”

Medi-spa vs. traditional spa

What differentiates a medi-spa from a traditional spa, are the services, explained Chandra Baines Adams, lead program instructor. A medi-spa is staffed with a licensed medical professional (such as a dermatologist or plastic surgeon) and services can include chemical peels, laser treatments, dermaplaning and more. The focus is on corrective actions, such as reducing scarring, lightening pigmentation or treating acne. At a traditional day spa, the focus is on relaxation. However, she said, a medi-spa often offers a mix of both.

“What I love about medi-spas is the meeting of beauty and medicine,” said Baines Adams, who has 30 years of industry experience, both as a practitioner and spa owner. “When we do things, we need to know the facts; it’s truly based in science.”

It is also important for students to consider whole-person wellness along with how a specific treatment can provide a solution to a problem.

“I want to give students the ingredients so they can develop their aesthetic eye, but more importantly, I want to help them develop their critical thinking skills,” she said.

Basic and advanced aesthetics training

If practitioners want to work in the medi-spa field, they need advanced, specialized training outside of what a basic aesthetician programs can offer, and that can be costly. The beauty of WCTC’s program, Baines Adams and Hader say, is its comprehensive nature.

Students in the Master Aesthetician program can earn the embedded Aesthetician technical diploma after completing 29 credits, and then sit for the state licensing exam. This gives them the skillset to perform basic facials, hair removal, specialized massage and other treatments. Once this is completed, they move on to learn advanced techniques.

“This program brings it all together. Our students have a fantastic opportunity to learn all these specialties right here. From a value standpoint, there is no competition. Our program also helps students develop their soft skills, management skills and interpersonal skills, and that’s certainly something employers want,” Baines Adams said.

Additionally, she said, students are learning in a beautiful, new state-of-the-art aesthetician lab, which features six hard treatment rooms, a teaching lab with six stations, dedicated classroom, consultation room, cutting-edge equipment and tools, and modern decor.

Comprehensive offerings a draw for students

Student Ali Ludke says after exploring other aesthetician programs, WCTC’s program drew her in because of its advanced level of education, breadth of course offerings and hands-on training.

“I was interested in a career having something to do with skin care and beauty, but the other program offerings in this area of Wisconsin never seemed to completely pull me in; they didn’t have ‘enough’ of what I was looking for,” Ludke said. “The Master Aesthetician program at WCTC offered so much more, making it immensely more valuable than the others. Not only does it meet all the requirements a regular aesthetician needs, it provides another year of training and certifications that will allow me to do more in the field – right off the bat. I liked the idea of already being one step ahead.”

Ludke and her classmates have also been in a unique position to help shape the program, as they’ve been in on the ground floor as the first cohort group.

“I love that my voice and opinions are heard, and I really feel like an important part to making this program the best it can be,” she said.

Students in the Aesthetician and Master Aesthetician programs offer affordable services to clients in the community – under the supervision of licensed aestheticians and medical directors. To learn more about the services, costs and hours, visit and view the listing under “Aesthetics Academy.”

WCTC’s Master Aesthetician program is welcoming students into its second cohort, beginning in January 2020, with applications being accepted through Nov. 18, 2019. For more information on WCTC’s Master Aesthetician program, visit