Every state requires cosmetologists, with the exception of shampooers and makeup artists, to be licensed before they can start working in the United States. The qualifications for a license vary from state to state, but most often a person must have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 16 years old and have a degree or certificate from a state-licensed cosmetology school. After graduation, students take a state licensing exam, which is comprised of a written section and sometimes a practical test of styling skills or an oral examination. Some states create their own test and others use a testing service. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many states allow cosmetology training to be credited toward a barbering license, and vice versa, and a few states combine both licenses. For manicurists, pedicurists and estheticians, who specialize in skin care, separate licensing examinations may be required of them in most states. All states allow licensure for endorsement, which is when a person who has a cosmetology license from another jurisdiction can earn a license with having to take an exam. In this case, the person must show documentation that the state has issued a license and the requirements are equal to the state in which they are seeking a license for. Because licensing rules vary between states, students should review the laws of an individual state before entering a training program.
The National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology is made up of licensing boards of cosmetology in all 50 states and U.S. territories. This organization has been the leading force in national cosmetology licensure and testing to ensure the protection of public health and safety in the field of cosmetology. A continuation of the practical performance exams will allow only qualified, properly trained individuals to enter the cosmetology field and uphold the ethical standards of salons. Visit the organization’s Web site to read more on NCI’s position on cosmetology issues.
See what your state’s licensing board requirements are and search the list of licensed training schools for cosmetologists at the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences Web site. Each state’s Web site has information on renewing cosmetology licenses and requirements for licensure by the state board or organization that handles licensing. Hours and minimum requirements can be varied, so it is imperative that you contact the appropriate state board licensing agencies if you have any questions.