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01. An Introduction to Cosmetology

Cosmetology is the study of beauty and styling techniques. It covers the arts of makeup application, hairstyling and nail care. Because cosmetologists work in the beauty industry, you should have an eye for aesthetics and a service-oriented personality if you want to study this subject.

It does not take long to complete cosmetology training, because most programs in this field take less than a year to complete. And while you can earn an associates degree in cosmetology, you will have a difficult time finding a bachelors cosmetology degree program or an advanced degree in cosmetology, such as a masters in cosmetology. In addition, because cosmetologists practice hands-on skills, an online cosmetology degree is impractical. You should not expect to be able to earn your credentials through online cosmetology programs.

Finally, keep in mind that if you want to become a cosmetologist, earning a degree is not enough to qualify you for a job. You will also need to earn your professional license, which is issued by the state. For that reason, it is important that you attend a state-approved cosmetology school to earn your education.

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02. Cosmetology Defined

A cosmetologist is someone who is trained to help people improve their personal appearance. Cosmetology jobs require dedication to customer service, an understanding of the current trends in beauty and technical skills as a stylist. Most cosmetologists work in salons or spas, although some are self-employed. Some cosmetologists practice all areas of cosmetology, while others specialize in certain fields like nail care, skin care or hair care. They work very closely with their clients, so they need to be active listeners who can help their clients tailor their physical appearance to fit their personal style. And they need to have technical skills and a sense of style so that they can help their clients look and feel their best.

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03. Things to Consider

In addition to the length of cosmetology training programs and your personality, you should think about the licensing requirements for cosmetologists.

Licensing

All cosmetologists must have a state license in order to provide clients with beauty services. The only exceptions to this rule are shampooers and some makeup artists. Everyone else who holds a cosmetology job, including skin care specialists, hairstylists, manicurists and pedicurists, must hold a state license. To do so, students must graduate from state-approved cosmetology colleges, earn several hundred hours of training and pass written tests. Depending on their state, students may also have to demonstrate their skills in a practical exam. And in order to keep your license current, in some states you may be required to complete continuing education courses.

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04. Types of Cosmetology Professions

Some of the most common careers in cosmetology include:

Cosmetologist

Job Description
Cosmetologists are comprehensive beauty experts. Instead of focusing on a particular aspect of personal style, they are knowledgeable about the care and presentation of hair, skin and nails. They consult with clients to gain an understanding of their personality and style so that they can offer services like makeup application, haircutting, hairstyling, hair removal, manicures and pedicures.
Average Salary
$22,500
Education Required
License (9 months)
Work Environment
Salons, corporate businesses, private practice

Skincare Specialist

Job Description
Skincare specialists, or estheticians, help clients to improve the health and appearance of their skin. They meet with clients to evaluate their skin care needs and suggest products like lotions and cleansers, which can improve their skin quality. They also teach clients how to care for their skin and remove unwanted facial hair with methods like waxing and laser treatment.
Average Salary
$28,920
Education Required
License (9 months)
Work Environment
Salons, spas, medical clinics, private practice

Hairstylist

Job Description
Hairstylists cut, color and style hair for men, women and children. They make appointments with clients and help them decide what type of hairstyle would fit their personality, style and appearance best. They also clean their workspace and sanitize their tools, which include scissors, razors, combs and hairstyling products.
Average Salary
$22,500
Education Required
License (9 months)
Work Environment
Salons, private practice

Nail Technician

Job Description
Nail technicians give manicures and pedicures, which means that they clean, shape and groom fingernails and toenails. They use tools like nail clippers, nail files and cuticle tools. As part of a pedicure or manicure, they may massage the hands and feet with lotions and oils. In addition, they promote and sell nail care products to their clients.
Average Salary
$19,650
Education Required
License (9 months)
Work Environment
Nail salons, spas
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05. Career Outlook

The job outlook for cosmetology careers is expected to be about average compared to all jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 627,700 cosmetologists, hairdressers and hairstylists employed in the United States in 2010. However, the number of people working in a cosmetology career is expected to increase by approximately 16% in the next decade, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. That means there will be about 726,100 hairstylist and cosmetologist jobs available in 2020.

Questions about job prospects in this field naturally lead to curiosity about the average cosmetologist salary. Although there is reasonable demand for cosmetologists and hairdressers, that demand is not necessarily balanced by a strong cosmetology salary. In fact, most people working in this field earn cosmetology salaries in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Since most cosmetology pay is dispensed on an hourly basis rather than a yearly salary, it may be helpful to know that you can expect to make about $11.00 per hour at the average cosmetologist job. However, some people are able to make up for the relatively low salary of a cosmetologist by building a strong client base. If you have a lot of loyal clients, the salary for cosmetology jobs can increase due to tips and repeat customers. You may also be able to transition into self-employment, where you can set your own rates for services and make more money than the average salary for cosmetologist jobs.

The graphical charts below display further information on careers in cosmetology as a whole.

Cosmetology Professionals Employed Nationally

2010
712,200
2020
813,000

Average Salary growth

2007
$27,073
2008
$27,445
2009
$28,793
2010
$29,775
2011
$31,865

Salary by Percentile

10th Percentile
$17,412
25th Percentile
$20,212
50th Percentile
$27,817
75th Percentile
$39,283
90th Percentile
$51,987
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06. The Educational Timeline

The amount of time that is required to become a cosmetologist depends on how long you want to stay in cosmetology college. No matter what, it takes at least 9 months of training in cosmetology to qualify for jobs in this field. But if you choose to earn an associates in cosmetology, you will need to spend 2 years in college.

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07. Studying Cosmetology

You will gain the following knowledge and skills in your cosmetology program:

KNOWLEDGE

Hair Care

Cosmetologists must know how to provide and promote proper hair care to their clients. This subject addresses personal habits that people can adopt to keep hair healthy and clean. It also discusses techniques for safely applying chemicals and coloring agents to hair, as well as how to shampoo, condition and dry hair to keep it in good shape.

Nail Care

Courses in nail care teach students how to do manicures and pedicures. Students learn to clean and file both natural and artificial nails. Classes in nail care will also involve discussion and practice of hand and foot massage techniques as well as the use of different nail grooming products and tools like nail clippers, polishes and cuticle tools.

Skin Care

Classes in skin care train cosmetology students in the proper steps to maintain a healthy facial care regimen. Students understand the physiology of the layers of skin and understand the benefits of regular cleansing and exfoliation. Skin care classes also teach how to give facials and facial massages and to remove unwanted facial hair.

Infection Control

Infection control is a crucial skill for cosmetologists. Courses in infection control emphasize the need to sanitize equipment and workspaces between clients in order to maintain a hygienic and sterile environment. This subject also teaches students to identify common scalp diseases and disorders so that they are not spread between clients.

Business

Business classes are important for cosmetologists who want to run their own salon. Through business classes, cosmetology students will learn to market their product to targeted audiences. They will also learn how to manage employee payroll and business accounts.

SKILLS

Hair Cutting Methods

As you study cosmetology, you will take several classes that teach you different methods for cutting hair. You will learn how to safely use tools like scissors, shears, razors and hair clippers to create different effects. You will also learn how to choose the best hairstyle for different clients and how to cut hair according to current style trends.

Hair Styling Techniques

Hairstyling is one of the primary functions of cosmetologists. In your cosmetology curriculum, you will learn how to use tools like curling irons, blow dryers and straighteners to style hair. You will also learn to use chemicals to create or relax wavy hair. Finally, you will learn to safely apply both permanent and temporary hair color.

Makeup Application

Through your cosmetology courses, you will become an expert in the use of cosmetics. You will be trained to consult with clients and teach them best ways to apply makeup to suit their personal style. You will also learn about the differences between types of cosmetics so that you can help clients choose the right products.

Salon Management

Many cosmetologists are self-employed, so good cosmetology programs will include classes in salon management. For instance, you will learn how to keep records of repeat customers, to perform administrative duties like scheduling and confirming appointments and to communicate with your employees and clients.

Customer Service

Cosmetologists provide personal care services to their clients. Therefore, your cosmetology program will emphasize the importance of customer service skills. You will understand the needs of your clients so that you can give them prompt and cheerful service. You will also learn to listen actively to the concerns of your clients and to respond fairly to customer’s complaints.

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08. Types of Cosmetology Degrees

You only have a few options when it comes to earning your cosmetology credentials. Upper-level cosmetology degrees are rare, but you can earn an associates degree in cosmetology. But keep in mind that you do not have to earn a degree in order to become a cosmetologist. Instead, you can complete shorter cosmetology programs from state-approved cosmetologist schools, which take about 9 months of study to complete. And remember, even though the idea of attending cosmetology school online is appealing, you cannot earn your certificate or degree through cosmetology programs online. Therefore, you should plan to study on campus instead.

  • Certificate
  • Associates Degrees
  • Bachelors Degrees
  • Masters Degrees

Certificate

A certificate in cosmetology is the shortest way to prepare for your cosmetology certification exam, which leads to a state cosmetology license. As you are looking at colleges for cosmetology, keep in mind that some programs award students with diplomas instead of certificates. These programs are included here because it does not matter whether you earn a diploma or certificate. The most important thing about a non-degree cosmetology program is that it prepares you to take your state licensing exam.

Types of Cosmetology Certificates

You can earn undergraduate cosmetology certificates and diplomas, which means that you do not need to have a college degree in order to apply to and be admitted to these programs.

Length of Cosmetology Certificate Programs

Most cosmetology certificate and other non-degree programs take 9 months to a year to complete, depending on the depth of the program.

Common Courses in Cosmetology Certificate Programs

If you decide to enroll in a cosmetology certificate program, you can expect to take classes that teach you both theory and practical skills that you will need in the profession. For example, you will take classes about hair care that will teach you techniques for cutting, styling and coloring. You will also take classes about skin care, makeup application and nail care. And since many people earn their cosmetologist certificate in order to open their own salon, you can expect to take some classes about salon management and administrative duties.

Jobs That You Can Secure With a Certificate in Cosmetology

When you have completed your cosmetology certificate, you will be qualified to take the state licensing exam. Once you become licensed, you can work as a hairdresser or stylist, makeup artist, manicurist, pedicurist or skincare specialist.

Choosing a School to Attend for a Certificate in Cosmetology

There are a couple of points to keep in mind when you are looking for a cosmetology school. First, remember that you cannot earn your credentials through a cosmetology online school, so you need to look for a campus-based program to attend. Second, you must make sure that the school you choose to attend is licensed by the state. If your cosmetology school is not licensed, you will not be able to earn your personal cosmetology license. And since you cannot legally work without your license, you will not be able to find a job if you do not attend a cosmetology school that has been approved by your state.

Studying Online for a Certificate in Cosmetology

The idea of earning a cosmetology certification online is appealing to many students. However, as of 2012, there are no online schools for cosmetology that offer a cosmetology certificate online. Courses in cosmetology do teach some theory, but the vast majority of your training will involve hands-on skills like coloring hair, which you cannot learn in online cosmetology classes. Since the nature of this job requires that you work directly with clients, taking your cosmetology courses online would not give you the chance to get practical experience.

However, even though you cannot earn your online cosmetology certification, there are some cosmetology schools online that allow licensed cosmetologists to complete certain continuing education classes online. It is important to note that these cosmetology classes online are only available to professionals who are already licensed to practice cosmetology, so they won’t give you basic training in the field. No matter what level you are at in your education or career, you should check with your state board of cosmetology before you enroll in any cosmetology online courses to make sure that they will help you meet your state’s licensing requirements.

Associates Degree

If you want to earn a degree in cosmetology, the associates degree is the most popular option. In fact, higher-level degrees in cosmetology are rare. The associates degree in cosmetology will teach you about haircutting and styling techniques and will also provide you with a general education.

Types of Cosmetology Associates Degrees

Associate of Arts (AA)

The AA in cosmetology has classes in the humanities to give you a broad educational background. This degree is a good choice if you want to transfer into a bachelors program or start a career.

Associate of Science (AS)

The AS in cosmetology technically has more science and math classes, but it is very similar to the AA. It is also a good option if you want to start working or transfer into a bachelors program.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

The AAS in cosmetology has a career focus, so it teaches technical job skills. This degree is preferable if you know that you want to start a cosmetology job as soon as you graduate.

Length of Cosmetology Associates Degree Programs

Associates degrees in cosmetology generally require students to complete about 60 credits. Students are usually able to complete their associates degrees in about 2 years.

Common Courses in Cosmetology Associates Degree Programs

Regardless of the cosmetology university that you attend, you will take many classes to help you build your skills. Some of the classes that you are likely to take include hair cutting, hair styling and hair coloring. And if you attend a general college for cosmetology, rather than a school that only focuses on hair, you will also take classes about nail care and skin care.

Jobs That You Can Secure With an Associates Degree in Cosmetology

The jobs that you qualify for with an associates degree in cosmetology include hairstylist, manicurist, pedicurist or skin care specialist.

Choosing a School to Attend for an Associates Degree in Cosmetology

The most important consideration when you are looking at cosmetology universities is whether they are approved by the state. You must attend a state-approved school for your cosmetologist training in order to earn your license. Before you enroll in classes, check with your state board of cosmetology to make sure the school that you want to attend is licensed by the state.

Studying Online for an Associates Degree in Cosmetology

Many students are interested in earning an associate degree in cosmetology online through cosmetology online schools. But earning a cosmetology online degree is not a good idea. In fact, as of 2012, you could not earn an online associates degree in cosmetology. Even if it were a possibility, it would be impractical to earn your cosmetology degree online because nearly all of your courses will focus on helping you to build hands-on skills. You cannot learn how to color hair or give a manicure without actually practicing these tasks, so attempting to earn your initial cosmetology training online is not a good idea. But some states have continuing education requirements for cosmetologists. If your state requires continuing education, you may be able to complete some of these courses through cosmetology online classes. Check with your state board of cosmetology to see if that is an option where you live.

However, you do have some options for getting related degrees through online cosmetology schools if you already have your cosmetology certification or license. You can earn your online cosmetology degree at the associates level in salon business or management, which is useful if you would like to start your own salon. But keep in mind that this online cosmetology program is designed exclusively for people who already have their cosmetology certifications. It teaches you the principles of running a small business through online cosmetology courses, but you will not learn hair or nail care skills through this business-oriented online cosmetology school.

Bachelors Degree

Many students are curious about earning an online bachelor degree in cosmetology. However, you have very few options if you want to pursue a bachelor in cosmetology, whether you want to pursue online or offline study. Experience is valuable in this field. Therefore, if you want to be a cosmetologist, it would be better to earn an associates degree in cosmetology and start working right away rather than spend the extra time and money to earn a bachelors in cosmetology online or through a traditional program.

Masters Degree

Similar to the bachelors degree level, you do not have many options when it comes to earning a masters degree in cosmetology. As of 2012, no schools offered a cosmetology masters degree. Although this could change, it is unlikely that cosmetology masters degrees will be offered in the future since most of the skills that you learn as a cosmetologist are taught at the undergraduate level.