Cosmetic Laser Training Programs and Requirements

Cosmetic laser procedures, such as hair removal and laser peels, are performed by professionals trained in use of laser technology and equipment. These technicians typically work under the supervision of a medical doctor in a medical spa or physician's office. Specialty laser or cosmetic schools are the most common source for training, and are commonly followed by voluntary certification.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Cosmetic laser programs are generally open to physicians, medical aestheticians, certified nursing assistants and registered nurses. State regulations differ on who can perform these types of treatments, so students should research their state's requirements before beginning a training program. Ideal job applicants have at least one year of experience and knowledge of laser equipment and procedures. Individuals who are energetic, friendly and have existing clientele are preferred.

Formal Education

Most cosmetic laser training programs vary in length and have flexible daytime and evening schedules. Students enrolling in a cosmetic laser training program should find out if the equipment that they will be using is up-to-date, what types of procedures will be learned and if there is a staffed physician to provide supervision.

Certificate Program

The goal of a laser training certificate program is to teach students how to use and repair lasers, assess patients for laser procedures, perform procedures and follow up with clients. Each of these steps is explained in-depth through homework assignments, hands-on practice sessions and demonstrations. While every laser program differs in terms of curriculum, most teach the use of commonly used lasers, including the intensive pulse light (IPL), carbon dioxide, light emitting diode (LED) and fractional (Fraxel). Laser safety, physics, pigmentation, flash lamps and pulse technology are typically covered. Graduates learn how to follow pre- and post-procedure treatments, determine the correct procedure for an intended outcome, and follow through by using lasers on various parts of the body.

Job Experience

Students entering a laser training program are typically either experienced medical professionals, such as nurses and doctors, or non-medical professionals, such as licensed aestheticians. Initial daily duties of a laser technician might include following up on inquiries and leads, conducting skin analyses, cleaning work areas and taking before-and-after photos. With more experience, cosmetic laser technicians can begin performing chemical peels and microdermabrasions, treating facial lesions and resurfacing skin under the supervision of a physician.

Licenses and Certifications

According to the National Council of Laser Excellence, certification is available for those who want to operate lasers, but it is issued based on competency in laser usage and is not a medical certification. Most states don't require certification for laser technicians, but it is recommended by most employers. Licensing regulations should be researched by students, because state medical board requirements differ on education and training hours. There are two applicable certifications for prospective laser technicians:

Certified Laser Hair Removal Provider

As the name suggests, this certification is for individuals who plan to use a laser to remove hair. Candidates must be 18 years or older, have at least 16 hours of laser hair removal courses and have experience in 20 cases where laser hair removal was performed. In addition, the student must have had ten cases of direct supervision and ten cases of indirect supervision. If more than one type of laser was used under direct supervision, that additional device must have been used ten times. A 100-question multiple-choice examination is required and covers areas such as regulations and standards, laser hazards and procedural controls.

Certified Laser Operator-Aesthetic

The CLO-A certification allows graduates to perform all cosmetic procedures using a laser, whether under direct or indirect supervision, as granted by state law. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have one year of experience in a cosmetic or aesthetic office and at least 24 hours of medical laser courses. With experience in laser safety and operation, candidates with a bachelor's degree or dermatology nurse certification qualify for certification, as do those with a medical credential or degree. Candidates must take a 125-question multiple-choice examination testing areas such as non-beam hazards, tissue interactions and administrative controls.

Workshops and Seminars

The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery hosts an annual conference for individuals in the medical laser industry. This 4-day meeting discusses a range of laser topics, including pigment removal, legal issues and hair removal. Photodynamic therapy and skin resurfacing are common luncheon meeting topics.

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