What Do Cosmetologists Do?

Cosmetologists work in the health and beauty field, caring for clients’ skin, hair and nails. Graduates of a cosmetology school are trained to deliver safe, effective treatments for hair, skin, nails, and massage. Cosmetologists work in day spas, private salons, in-home salons and department stores. They must be able to manage a schedule, handle client billing, be skillful in the latest techniques, and have an upbeat, cheerful attitude with strong interpersonal skills. Ongoing training is also a crucial piece of a cosmetology job description.

Cosmetology Careers

Careers in cosmetology range in discipline, including the following:

  • Manicurist
    A manicurist is responsible for the well-being and design of a client’s nails. This can include massaging, managing cuticles and polishing nails.
  • Esthetician
    An esthetician manages client skin care. In this position, an esthetician may provide facials, skin care recommendations, and ongoing therapy for troubled skin. An esthetician is also trained to watch for troubling dermatology issues such as potential skin cancer, and can recommend a client see a doctor.
  • Hair Stylist
    A hair stylist cuts, colors and styles a client’s hair. They must be able to manage different personalities, hair types and hair conditions.
  • Cosmetics Stylist
    A cosmetics stylist’s job description includes working with individual clients to apply cosmetics. Some cosmetic stylists may work in film, television or other media as well.
  • Massage Therapist
    A massage therapist provides stress relief, muscle relief and general massage to clients. Not all cosmetology schools provide massage therapy, so interested students should contact their local cosmetology school before application.
  • Salon Manager
    A salon manager handles the business side of a salon, handling schedules, billing and employee benefits.

Cosmetology School

A cosmetology career path requires a high school diploma or GED and technical school. Cosmetology school typically takes 1-2 years to complete and can be attended through local community colleges or private salon programs. Classes focus on health, technique, safety, ethics and basic business classes. Common courses in cosmetology school include:

  • Principles of Cosmetology
  • Sanitation and Sterilization
  • Design Decisions
  • Trichology
  • Hair Design
  • The Study of Skin
  • Salon Success

In addition, states standards for courses and practice hours apply to all cosmetology professions. These hours can be earned in private salons or community college salons. During this time, cosmetologists work under the guidance of a mentor and practice basic skills, such as shampooing, nail polish application and shorter massage sessions to strengthen their resumes.

Upon completion of a cosmetology course and practice hours, cosmetologists earn a license in their specialty. This license will expire if the employee does not complete continuing education courses. These courses may be undertaken through local colleges or through salon trainings.

What Do Cosmetologists Earn?

Wages for cosmetologists range by specialty, place of employment and years in the field. The average salary for a cosmetologist is $23,450 per year. However, hair dressers, manicurists and massage therapists can earn significantly more through customer tips and company commission. A strong client base and positive client relationship is a crucial step toward earning a high standard of living as a cosmetologist.