Become a Certified Make-Up Artist: Certification and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified make-up artist. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in cosmetology.

Do I Want to Be a Make-Up Artist?

Make-up artists can be found in the entertainment industry, beauty salons and many other areas that require professionals with advanced cosmetic skills. These professionals spend many hours standing to perform their duties. Tact and empathy may be needed when dealing with clients who might have unrealistic expectations of make-up's potential results.

Job Requirements

While there is no professional certification available for this career, state licensing is required for all cosmetologists. Individuals generally must complete approved training programs and pass exams to gain licensure. The following table contains the main requirements for make-up artists:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Educational requirements for make-up artists vary; certification and associate's degree programs are both available*
Degree Field Cosmetology or a related field*
Licensure State licensure is required for all cosmetologists*
Experience Experience requirements vary by job; several years of experience in the field may be preferred or required**
Key Skills Make-up artists must be highly creative; additionally, customer service, listening and time-management skills are important*
Technical Skills Expertise with various beauty techniques, such as make-up, skincare and hairstyling, and tools of the trade may be required*
Additional Requirements Physical stamina is helpful since make-up artists often spend long periods of time working on their feet; they may also work irregular hours*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** job postings in September 2012

Step 1: Complete Necessary Formal Training

Formal cosmetology education is typically required for state licensure, and several training options are available to aspiring make-up artists. Some technical schools and community colleges offer certificate programs specifically focused on make-up artistry. A high school diploma or a GED is often required for admission into one of these programs. Coursework may include bridal make-up, character creation and make-up techniques for the fashion industry.

Students may also choose to earn an associate's degree in cosmetology, which covers a more broad selection of beauty topics. These programs allow students to build a solid foundation in the theoretical concepts of cosmetology; students also gain valuable practical experience by putting their knowledge to use in real-world settings. Associate's degree programs in cosmetology typically offer training in make-up artistry, as well as a variety of related topics, such as hairstyling, hair coloring and skincare.

Step 2: Become Licensed

All cosmetologists are required to possess licensure. State licensing requirements vary, but often include graduating from an approved cosmetology program and passing a skills-assessment examination. Aspiring make-up artists should consult their state's specific licensure requirements when planning their careers.

Step 3: Gain On-The-Job Experience

Many employers require some level of experience in make-up artistry for employment. Some educational programs may offer internship opportunities working in local salons or spas. Aspiring make-up artists may also seek work as assistants or behind a make-up counter in a department store, assisting customers with their selections.

Success Tips:

  • Network with other professionals in the field. Some professional organizations offer make-up artists networking and career opportunities. The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) offers opportunities for members pursuing careers in make-up artistry to connect with employers and other professionals in the field. Networking could facilitate important connections for make-up artists looking to advance in their careers.
  • Keep a neat and clean workspace. For make-up artists working in spas or salons, keeping a tidy workspace is essential. A sanitary workstation not only helps avoid any health risks, but also makes clients feel comfortable and more likely to return or recommend services to others.
  • Stay aware of current trends in the field. It is important for make-up artists to stay informed of new advances and trends in the market to provide the best services to clients. They may do so by reading industry publications or joining professional groups.

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