Hair Stylist: Employment Info & Career Requirements

Learn about a career as a hairstylist. Read the job description, education requirements, salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the right career for you.

Job Description

Hairstylists work with customers to give them haircuts, style their hair, apply hair coloring and provide scalp treatments. Hairstylists are trained to perform manicures, pedicures and eyebrow shaping. Hairstylists give hair highlights and lowlights, advise clients about hair care techniques and help to sell salon products to clients. Hairstylists can enjoy careers in the entertainment industry, at salons, spas and cosmetology schools, or as freelance stylists.

Education Requirements

Hairstylists usually need a high school diploma or GED to apply to cosmetology school and typically graduate in 9 months to a year with an associate's degree in cosmetology. Most states require hairstylists to be licensed. In some states, a license is a one-time exam or application, while others require continuing education credits or periodic re-certification. Hairstylists typically take courses like shampooing, coloring, hair care, hair design and styling. Hairstylists continue their education throughout their careers to stay current with technology and hairstyling trends.

Required Skills

Hairstylists need to be good listeners to fulfill the needs of the client. Sales skills are helpful as well, because salons often make a profit from the hair care products they sell. The ability to adapt to changing situations is important due to the variety of clients and their needs. Business and marketing skills are vital for hairstylists interested in opening their own salon or barbershop.

Employment and Salary Outlook

Hairstylists were expected to see average job growth of 13% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The BLS predicted that the rising demand for advanced hair treatments should fuel the growth of these positions. Full-time hairstylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists earned an average yearly wage of $26,790 in 2012, according to the BLS, but many hairstylists are self-employed or work part-time, so actual wages can vary widely.

Alternate Career Options

Skincare Specialist

These specialists complete esthetician or cosmetology programs and then pass state licensure exams to fulfill most state's requirements. Skincare specialists evaluate clients' skin, discuss treatments, remove unwanted facial hair, teach makeup techniques and recommend skincare products. In 2012, a median annual salary of $28,640 was reported by the BLS, and faster than average job growth of 40% was expected during the 2012-2022 decade.

Manicurist and Pedicurist

Through completion of a cosmetology or nail technician program and earning state licensure required in most states, these professionals clean and shape clients' toenails and fingernails. A faster than average employment growth of 16% was projected by the BLS. A median wage of $19,220 per year was revealed in 2012.

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