Job Spotlight - Cosmetology

If you have a strong interest in style and helping others look their best, you should look towards the steps necessary to work in the field of Cosmetology. Working as a cosmetologist can be an exciting and wonderful career. The pay is good, the education required isn’t extensive, and you may have the opportunity to work for yourself by opening your own salon. Imagine being your own boss!

Quick Facts: Cosmetology
2015 Median Pay (Annual)$23,710
2015 Median Pay (Hourly)$11.40
Entry Level EducationPost-secondary certification
2014-2024 Projected Outlook10% growth (faster than average)
2014 Number of Jobs656,400
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains64,400

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cosmetology FAQs

On this page you will find the answers to many questions you have about the field of Cosmetology. We have worked with the experts in the field to help create an easy to use resource for those looking for more information of the cosmetologist field. If you have any questions we have not covered or have a suggestion on how to make this page better, please contact us.

What is Cosmetology?

The field of Cosmetology is one that focuses on the treatment and study of beauty and improving the physical attractiveness of an individual. This is done by various means such through hair, makeup, nails and skin care. Cosmetology also covers a wide range of newer technology treatments such as electrolysis, micro-dermabrasion, permanent makeup applications and more.

There is a slight misconception that you do not need a formal education to work as a cosmetologist. You’ve probably even heard people say that they have been applying makeup or can cut hair without going to school. While it is possible to do some treatments without going to school, the fact remains that Cosmetology is a skilled art that takes hours of supervised practice in order to perform it professionally.

In fact, in order to work as a cosmetologist in any of the 50 states you will need to go through a formal program and become licensed by the state board of Cosmetology. Within these classes you will learn the right and safe way to work as a beautician along with the newest technologies and best ways to access the needs of your clients.

How Can I Work as a Cosmetologist?

If you have decided that you want to work as a cosmetologist, then you will want to know how to make it happen. As you might have guessed, you will have to undertake some schooling to become qualified to work in the Cosmetology profession. The good news is that the path you will need to take is fairly straightforward. You shouldn’t have to guess on what is the next step or find yourself unprepared.

Quick Info: Path To a Job as a Cosmetologist
• Must meet state licensing requirements – requirements vary from state to state
• Contact your state board of Cosmetology for list of regulations and requirements
• Common requirements include at least 16 years old and a high school degree or GED
• Enroll in an accredited Cosmetology or vocational school
• Cosmetologist programs may last 9 to 15 months or more
• Coursework is a combination of classroom and hands-on lab work
• Check with school to see if internships are available
• Intern at a local salon for credit and experience
• Every state requires licensing for cosmetologists
• Must complete the required number of hours for training before taking the exam
• The licensing exam is a combo of multiple-choice questions and skill demonstration
• Must at least get a 75% to pass exam and receive a license

Before you can enter a beauty program, you will need to meet some basic requirements. These requirements can be set by either that state board or the by the school itself. Since these requirements may vary by state, you may want to check with the Cosmetology board of your state for list of things you will need to do.

You will find that typically most cosmetologist programs require that students be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree such as a GED for enrollment. However, the requirements for enrollment may differ from school to school so it is highly recommended that you discuss what is necessary to complete with the admissions office of any Cosmetology school you are interested in attending.

If you are still in high school, talk with your guidance counselor. A growing number of high schools offer vocational programs for a wide range of trades, including Cosmetology. If your school has such a program, we suggest that you get involved so that you can get a head start in your education by gaining some invaluable experience that may count towards your work at a beauty school.

Cosmetology School

After you have met the specified requirements for enrollment you will next want to start your search for a Cosmetology program. These programs can be found at most technical or vocational schools as well as beauty schools. Most likely you will find lots of schools around your area so you will need to cut the list down and pick the Cosmetology school that best fits you and your goals.

Make sure you do some research on each school to see if it will provide you with the right type of curricumlum. Check to see if they offer programs on hairstyling, makeup, skincare and nails as well as any other specialty areas you may want to become involved in.

You will want to check the credentials of any of the schools or programs you are interested in. We highly recommend that you try to find programs that have been accredited by National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS). The NACCAS accreditation is only given to schools and programs that have met the strict guidelines of quality and proper curriculum for those looking to enter the Cosmetology profession.

Getting prepared to challenge your state license exam may take anywhere from 9 to 15 months or more. The type of classes or courses you will take will be a combination of both classroom instruction and lab or practical experience. The main goals of these schools are to properly train students to excel as a cosmetologist as well as being able to pass the licensing exam.

You should also know that many Cosmetology programs require you to wear a specific uniform to each class. In most cases you will have to provide the uniform but some schools include it as part of the program. Due to sanitation requirements, uniforms must be clean and in good repair.


Towards the end of your studies, you may want to see if you can find an internship at a local beauty parlor – especially one that will can help you get credit for your schoolwork. An internship is a great idea since you will be able to get some real world experience that is not possible in one of your labs. You will most likely be paired with an experienced cosmetologist which will help you better understand the business.


As previously mentioned, a typical Cosmetology program may take 9 to 15 months or more to complete. You will also need to complete your state sanctioned work hours which can be anywhere from 1000 to over 2000 hours. The number of hours and other requirements are set by your state’s board of Cosmetology. Once you have completed the necessary requirements, you should be eligible to take the licensing examination.

The licensing exam is required by all 50 states. It must be passed in order to become a licensed cosmetologist which allows you to work in the state. These exams are both written or multiple choice and practical test. The practical test is a demonstration of the skills you have learned which you will be performing either on a real person or a mannequin. You will need to pass both the written and demonstration parts of the exam to qualify for licensing.

Get a Job

This step seems very obvious. After you have spent all that time in school, taking exams, practicing on mannequins or your friends and family, you will now start the job hunt. If you want to have a better chance of landing the best jobs we recommend that you look for a beauty salon that offers an apprenticeship program.

By joining an apprenticeship program you will be able to gain much needed practical experience. This experience gained through an apprenticeship may be leveraged either in to a full-time position or making you a more desirable applicant. The good news on apprenticeships is that you often get paid to help boost your skills, although it will not be as high as a regular cosmetologist.

Something else that can help is by becoming specialized in one area of Cosmetology. While in school you can specialize in certain niche areas such as hairstyling, nail technology, makeup or skin specialties. By giving yourself more options, you can make yourself more marketable when hunting for a long-lasting position.

Where Can I Find Cosmetology Schools?

Quick Info: Looking for a Cosmetology School
Easy Ways to Find Schools
• Internet search
• High school guidance counselor
• Ask a cosmetologist or call a salon
Things to Look for Before Enrolling in a Cosmetology School
• School or program is accredited
• Types of courses taught
• Tuition cost
• Graduation rate
• How long program takes
• Percentage of former students passing licensing exam
• How far from your home
• If classes fit in your schedule

Since Cosmetology is one of the fastest growing fields in the country, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a ton of school and colleges that offer courses. You should be able to find a Cosmetology school at most public and private technical or vocational schools, beauty schools and there are even some four-year colleges that offer programs.

One of the easiest ways to find a Cosmetology school is by searching the internet. Today’s search engines help provide more localized results so it is much easier to find schools in your area. Plus, an internet search can give you a long list of local schools that will be the starting point to picking the best program for you.

Another way to find a Cosmetology school is through references. Talk to your high school guidance counselor on which program they recommend. Ask your beautician or call local salons for their insight on programs in the area. You can even call the local employment office to find their take on Cosmetology programs.

Think Before You Enroll

Before you enroll, you should make sure you are going to attend a program that will best serve you and your goals. Keep these things in mind when you are trying to narrow down the list of potential schools you might want to attend. The following are areas of interest that you may want to discuss with the admissions office when looking at any specific school.


You will want to make sure that any school you are looking to attend has been accredited by a third-party or national organization. This accreditation should ensure that you are receiving quality education. There are a number of accrediting organizations out there so you will want to do some research on which group is on the up and up. Even though you can find some great Cosmetology or beauty schools that do not have the accreditation seal, we recommend that you place this near the top of the list when deciding which program to attend.

Some the most trusted organizations that provide accreditation to schools and colleges include:

Courses Taught

This seems like a no-brainer. If you have desire to learn all aspects or just some specialty areas in Cosmetology, you will want to make sure that the school offers the subject. Find out if they have a comprehensive curriculum that includes everything you want to learn. If you want to specialize as a nail technician or an Esthetician, the school you pick should offer courses in these areas. Sounds simple enough but some students forget to ask beforehand and regret it later.


If you happen to be a person with a full-time job, parental responsibilities or any other responsibilities that make going to school during normal class hours an issue, you may want to find out how flexible the school’s schedule is. You will find some Cosmetology schools offer courses at night or even have part-time status for students who cannot attend full time. This could be a deal-maker when you looking for which school to attend.

Other Areas

Besides accreditation, flexible schedule and the curriculum, there are some other areas that can help you pick the right school. With that said, everyone’s priorities may be slightly different. Remember you are picking a program that will help you fulfill your dreams of working as a cosmetologist. You need to find the right and best school to help you achieve your goal.

Some other areas to consider when picking a school include:

  • Cost of tuition
  • Length of the program
  • Graduation rate
  • Success rate on licensing exam
  • Internship placement opportunities
  • Distance to home
  • Percentage of former students who found jobs
  • Reviews posted online

Can I Attend Online Cosmetology School?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are classes and training programs available for you take online for Cosmetology. However, as of right now all of your studies cannot be completed online. This is due to the amount of practical or hands-on experience you will need to acquire.

It is possible at a growing number of Cosmetology schools that you can take the classroom portion of the program online but you will need to head to campus for the hands-on portion of the program. This may change over time as technology continues to advance and more students are going the internet route for education.

The online portion is a great way for those with extremely busy schedules to learn a new trade. The very flexible schedules and other benefits of online learning can be a great help for some. But just know that you will still need to perform a large amount of your studies at a campus.

How Long is Beauty School?

Quick Info: Cosmetology Program Length
Typically programs take at least 9 to 15 months depending on certain factors
Four Main Factors That Determine Program Length
• State regulations and requirements
• Program curriculum
• Part-time or full-time status of student
• Emphasis in specialist areas

There are several factors that can play in to the amount of time it takes finish the training program. These factors include state regulations, school or program you are enrolled in, any specialty training you may want and whether or not you go full or part-time. One other factor that you may have to consider is if you are looking to earn a certificate or an associate’s degree. An associate’s degree in Cosmetology can take at least two years to complete.

State Regulations

This is probably the main factor when it comes to figuring out how long it takes to complete your schooling. As previously mentioned, each state has their own guidelines when it comes to the number of hours you need before you can become licensed. Even if your state has the highest amount of required hours (2300) it can take at least 15 months to complete if you go full-time.


The type of school and the curriculum they offer can play a part in hour long it takes to complete the program. A full-comprehensive Cosmetology program can take over a year to complete. This includes working esthetics and nails. Other programs may be shorter since it only covers one specific area of interest. Talk with school’s admission office for more details on how long their courses may take.

Specialty Programs

Tacking on specialty programs such learning the art of cosmetic laser treatments or makeup artistry normally adds on time to your studies. Same goes for those who take business classes or management classes so they can one day own their own salon. In the long run adding these classes may open up bigger and brighter opportunities but know in the short-term you may attend school a little longer.

Student Status

As you might expect another big factor in the length of school is how much time you are devoting to school. A full-time student can expect to spend six to eight hours a day in school while a part-time student may only spend two to three. It is easy to figure out that if you need to complete X number of hours, it is faster if you go to school full-time rather than part-time.

What Types of Classes are Taught at Beauty College?

Cosmetology is a very big field that covers everything from hair styling to makeup, so it is no wonder that students take a wide range of classes. Most schools offer the types of classes that are necessary for licensing. Some classes may seem strange since you may not see a direct correlation between Cosmetology and the class, but there is a reason for it that you will soon figure out.

Some of the classes you may take in Cosmetology school include:

  • Sanitation
  • Safety
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Hair Care
  • Hair Styling
  • Hair Cutting
  • Coloring and Bleaching
  • Hair Removal
  • Aesthetics
  • Nail Care
  • Makeup Artistry
  • Message and Facials
  • Organization
  • Etiquette

Are There Any Specialties for Cosmetologist?

Quick Info: Types of Specialist Study Options
Students can specialize in certain areas of cosmetology such as:
• Salon Stylist
• Makeup Artist
• Barbering
• Nail Technician
• Esthetician or Skincare Specialist
• Cosmetology Instructor

As we have mentioned, Cosmetology is a very wide field so it would make sense that there are certain aspects within the field that one can become an expert in. The idea behind becoming a specialized expert in one or more niches of Cosmetology is that so you can advance or have more or better opportunities open up for you and your expertise. Some of the most common specializations for a cosmetologist include:

Salon stylist

This is a person who specializes in care and styling of one’s hair sometimes on the higher end. They are considered an expert in helping choose the right hair color for clients and having a forward thinking artistic vision to create hair styles. Typically these types of hairstylists work in salons or spas.

Makeup Artist

Makeup artists work in a variety of different venues from the entertainment and fashion industry to makeup counters are larger department stores. These professionals have the expertise to make their clients look their absolute best through makeovers or providing tips on how best to apply makeup. Some makeup artists even work with hospitals to help provide makeup help for those who need corrective makeup procedures.


Much like a salon stylist, a barber is a specialized professional working mainly on men’s hair. Most attend barber school to learn their craft including how to properly shave facial hair using a straight razor. They provide advice on hair care, scalp treatments and more. Traditionally they work in barber shops with the candy cane colored pole on the outside but can sometimes be found high end salons catering to men.

Nail Technicians

Nail techs or sometimes called manicurists work on the hands and feet of their customers. They can be found working in salons, spas and even specialized nail salons. They not only work on the nails of the hands and feet but also color the nails, give messages to feet and hands and give advice on how best to take care their fingers and toes.


Esthetician is a fancy word for skin care professional. Their job is to create a treatment to keep their client’s skin healthy and radiant through such processes as facials, microdermabrasion and message. They must design each regime to the individual due to the differing skin types. Normally estheticians work in full-service salons and spas.


There are those who have decided that they would rather teach Cosmetology to help train future generations of cosmetologists. It takes a person with a special desire to teach as well as have the expertise to cover all the areas necessary for the students to succeed. As you might guess these specialists work for Cosmetology schools and beauty colleges around the country.

What Does it Take to get a Cosmetology License?

Each state has their own rules and regulations to qualify for Cosmetology licensing. Below we have provided a listing of the required hours per state and link to each states’ board of Cosmetology. Some states allow apprenticeships to replace formal classroom training, which we’ve included below where applicable.

Required Hours By State for Cosmetology Licensing
Alabama Board of Cosmetology1,500 hours (3000 hours apprenticeship)Montana State Board of Cosmetology2,000 hours
Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers1,650 hours (2,000 hours apprenticeship)Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Cosmetology2,100 hours
Arizona Board of Cosmetology1,450 hoursNevada State Board of Cosmetology1,800 hours
Arkansas State Board of Cosmetology1,500 hoursNew Hampshire State Board of Barbering, Cosmetology & Esthetics1,500 hours (3,000 hours apprenticeship)
California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology1,600 hours (3420 hours apprenticeship)New Jersey Board of Cosmetology & Hairstyling1,200 hours
Colorado Division of Professions and Occupations – Office of Barber and Cosmetologist Licensing1,800 clock hours = 60 credit hoursNew Mexico Board of Barbers & Cosmetologists1,600 hours
Connecticut Department of Public Health – Cosmetology & Licensing1,500 hoursNew York Department of State Division of Licensing Services1,000 hours
Delaware Board of Cosmetology & Barbering1,500 hours (3,000 hours apprenticeship)North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners1,500 hours (1,200 hours apprenticeship)
Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation – Board of Cosmetology1,200 hoursNorth Dakota State Board of Cosmetology1,800 hours
Georgia State Board of Cosmetology1,500 hours (3,000 hours apprenticeshipOhio State Board of Cosmetology1,500 hours
Hawaii Board of Barbering & Cosmetology1,800 hours (3,600 hours apprenticeship)Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology and Barbering1,500 hours
Bureau of Occupational Licenses – Idaho Board of Cosmetology2,000 hours (4,000 hours apprenticeship)Oregon Health Licensing Agency – Board of Cosmetology1,100 hours
Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation1,500 hoursPennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology1,250 hours
Indiana Professional Licensing Agency – State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners1,500 hoursRhode Island Department of Health – Cosmetology and Beauty Licenses1,500 hours
Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences2,100 hoursSouth Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – Board of Cosmetology1,500 hours
Kansas Board of Cosmetology1,000 hoursSouth Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation – Cosmetology Commission2,100 hours (18 months apprenticeship
Kentucky Board of Hairdressers & Cosmetologists1,800 hoursTennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance – Board of Cosmetology1,500 hours
Louisiana Board of Cosmetology1,500 hoursTexas Department of Licensing and Regulation – Advisory Board on Cosmetology1,500 hours
State of Maine Professional & Financial Regulation – Barbering and Cosmetology Licensing1,500 hours (2,500 hours apprenticeship)Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing – Cosmetology/Barbering1,600 hours (2,500 hours apprenticeship
Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – Board of Cosmetologists1,500 hours
(24 months apprenticeships)
Vermont Department of Professional Regulation – Board of Barbering and Cosmetology1,500 hours
Massachusetts Board of Registration of Cosmetologists1,000 hoursVirginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation – Board for Barbers and Cosmetology1,500 hours (3,000 hours apprenticeship)
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs – Cosmetology Department1,500 hours
(24 months apprenticeship)
Washington State Department of Licensing – Cosmetology1,600 hours (2,000 hours apprenticeship)
Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners1,550 hoursWest Virginia Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists1,800 hours
Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology2,000 hoursWisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services – Cosmetology Examining Board1,800 hours (4,000 hours apprenticeship
Missouri Division of Professional Registration – Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners1,500 hours (3,000 hours apprenticeship)Wyoming Board of Cosmetology2,000 hours

What Is The Cosmetologist Job Description?

For the most part, every day is slightly different for those working in Cosmetology. New customers, styles and opportunities can present itself throughout the day. It is a bit exciting wondering what will come next. However, if you were to try to make a list of the typical job description of a Cosmetologist it may include some of the following duties such as:

  • Schedule appointments
  • Greet customers/clients
  • Keep work area clean
  • Sanitize tools including scissors, combs, brushes, etc…
  • Maintain and update record of customer visits including likes and dislikes
  • Style hair including the cutting and coloring of hair
  • Offer suggestions for new styling techniques for clients
  • Suggest hairstyles according to the customer’s appearance
  • Tint, bleach or dye hair
  • Inspect face and scalp of client and recommend treatment if necessary
  • Shampoo hair and message scalp
  • Provide advice for dry hair or scalp issues
  • Remain up to date on the latest technologies or styles in the industry
  • Ring up customers on cash register take their payment
  • Help sell hair care products and shampoos
  • Provide demonstration of new products for customers to try

What is the Outlook for Cosmetology Jobs?

The overall outlook for Cosmetology jobs is very bright for the next decade. The overall demand for cosmetologists is partly related to the various trends of hair coloring and other hair treatments which have grown extremely popular. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of new jobs in field of Cosmetology will grow by 10% through 2024. This is faster than the estimated average increase of all occupations.

Cosmetology Estimated Job Growth

A majority of these new job opportunities will be replacement jobs due to retirement or those switching vocations. Cosmetologist positions at higher end spas and salons will still be very competitive. Solid experience and good training may be a big boost for those looking to work in these higher paying positions.

What is the Median Cosmetologist Salary?

Those working in Cosmetology can still be well paid for their services. The latest BLS report shows the median wages for cosmetologists in May 2015 was $23,710 a year, or $11.40 per hour. This is fairly good pay for a job that does not require a post-secondary degree. It should also be mentioned that a large number of cosmetologists are only working part-time so this can slightly skew the actual numbers downward.

Cosmetology Salary

The median salary listed above is not a guarantee of what you will make in the Cosmetology field. There are a number of factors which can play in to your actual realized salary. Some of these factors include:

  • State or City you work
  • The type of business you work for
  • Experience
  • Training
  • Full-time or Part-time work
  • Specializations
  • Client list

Depending on your situation, goals and work ethic, you may be able to bring up your salary considerably. Cosmetology can be a great and rewarding position that allows you the freedom to be both artistic and enjoy the comforts of life. But like most jobs, you will need to work to make it a successful venture.

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