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Associate of Cosmetology: Degree Overview

A cosmetology associate's degree program teaches students how to cut and style hair, perform manicures and pedicures and provide skin care treatments. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and private institutions offer these two-year programs.

Essential Information

Graduation from an approved cosmetology school is often required in order to become a licensed cosmetologist, along with successfully completing a state exam. Students should check with their state for more detailed licensure requirements. Students typically need a high school education to gain acceptance into a cosmetology associate's degree program. However, some institutions accept current high school students.

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Other Requirement: Practica, license

Associate of Cosmetology

Curriculum for an associate's degree in cosmetology includes instruction on beauty services, as well as information on identifying hair and skin disorders, sanitation and business skills. Business classes are valuable for cosmetology students because, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many cosmetologists are self-employed (www.bls.gov). Some even go on to start their own personal care businesses. State laws and regulations are integrated in the coursework and students usually participate in practical education through student salons or clinics. Typical cosmetology classes include:

  • Hair cutting and styling
  • Nail and skin care
  • Make-up application
  • State regulations
  • Salon management
  • Health and safety

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS forecasts a 13% growth rate for cosmetologists and other personal care jobs from 2012 to 2022. This fast as average increase is thanks to population growth and a rising number of spas and nail salons. Entry-level cosmetologists should find some ease in gaining employment, although competition for positions with the highest paying employers is fierce and usually acquired by the most experienced.

In May 2014, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists earned an annual median salary of $23,120, reported the BLS. The industries that employ a large number of cosmetologists are health and personal care stores, personal care services and nursing care facilities. Cosmetologists are often responsible for acquiring and retaining their own clients. Experience plays a vital role in a cosmetologist's salary, as do the location and size of the cosmetologist's employer.

Licensure Information

All cosmetologists must obtain state licensure to practice. Each state sets its own qualifications for licensure, but the BLS stated that, in general, cosmetologists need a high school diploma or equivalent, be of a minimum age and graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school. In addition to the written examination, some states include an applied or oral examination.

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