Cosmetologist Education Requirements and Career Information

Cosmetology involves the study and practice of beauty treatments, including hairstyling, nail care, skin care and makeup. Depending on his or her interest, a cosmetologist can choose to specialize in one or more of these areas.

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Cosmetology Career Information

A cosmetologist may wear a number of different professional hats. For example, a cosmetologist may be a hairstylist, barber, perm or hair color specialist, manicurist, pedicurist, make-up artist, esthetician or combination of these roles, sharing the goal of enhancing clients' appearance and style.

A cosmetologist's typical day may consist of any number of duties, including cutting and styling hair, performing scalp massages, applying hair color and other chemical treatments, doing makeup and teaching clients how to perform these treatment and techniques in their own homes.

Experienced and successful cosmetologists with additional administrative skills can go on to work as a salon owner or manager, sales representative or cosmetology school instructor. Other career options for cosmetologists include becoming an image consultant, makeup artist or an independent stylist working with photo shoots, movies, advertisements and fashion shows.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the majority of hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists work 40-plus hour weeks with an average salary of $11.13 per hour (May 2008). Most cosmetologists worked in salons or barbershops, although many practice in spas, resorts, hotels or fitness centers. The BLS predicts the field of cosmetology to grow by 20% between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for most career fields.

Education Requirements

Specific educational requirements to become a cosmetologist vary by state, but every state requires cosmetologists to hold valid licenses. Generally, graduation from an accredited barber or cosmetology school satisfies the requirement for licensure as a cosmetologist.

Sometimes an apprenticeship may be substituted for graduation from a cosmetology school for the sake of licensure. In either case, cosmetologists usually need to prove that they have satisfactory knowledge and skills in cosmetology by passing an exam.

During a cosmetology training program, which typically lasts from nine months to a year, students receive instruction on haircutting and styling, chemical texture services, hair color and scalp treatments, manicures and pedicures, acrylic nails application, facials, massages and eyebrow shaping.

Typical courses may include hair and scalp analysis, scalp disorders and diseases, color application techniques, haircutting tools and implements, principles of hair design, chemistry and safety for nail enhancement, massage benefits and techniques, hair removal, safe work practices and cosmetology law. Many curricula also include in-depth instruction on salon management.

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Cosmetology Instructor Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Admissions Requirements Vary By Campus
    School locations:
    • Arizona (4 campuses)
    • Colorado (2 campuses)
    • Connecticut (3)
    • Florida (4)
    • Illinois (3)
    • Massachusetts (1)
    • Maryland (1)
    • New Jersey (2)
    • Nevada (1)
    • Pennsylvania (2)
    • Texas (2)
    • Utah (2)
    • Virginia (1)
    • Washington (2)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Esthetics (Skin Care)
        • Massage Therapy

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics