Make Up Artist: Education Requirements & Career Summary

Makeup artists require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and salary potential to see if applying make up is the right career for you.

A career as a makeup artist may be ideal for an artistic individual who wants to do special effects and prosthetics for film, theater, or television, or improve someone's appearance. Most makeup artists complete a cosmetology or related program, where they can obtain the skills they'll need. Some work for big production companies, while many work freelance.

Essential Information

Makeup artists may work in a variety of entertainment or personal beauty service careers. Those seeking formal training in the application of makeup and related cosmetics typically enroll in a cosmetology program. Theater degree programs are another option for aspiring makeup artists, since they typically include stage makeup courses. Makeup artists who are also cosmetologists must be licensed in all states.

Required Education Associate's degree or training program in cosmetology is typical; bachelor's degree in theater is another option
Licensure Required for cosmetologists in all states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% for theatrical and performance makeup artists
Average Salary (2015)* $66,560 for theatrical and performance makeup artists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Makeup Artists

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most beauty professionals complete formal training through programs that require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. All states require cosmetologists and makeup artists to have a state license, especially when they also work with hair. Licensing requirements vary for each state.

Cosmetology Program

Makeup artists can receive professional training through a cosmetology associate's degree program offered at a community college. Cosmetology students learn a broad range of beauty services including makeup application, hair cutting and styling, skin care treatments and nail care. Students also learn state regulations, sanitation, bacteriology and business skills. More concise programs, without general education stipulation, are prominently available through privately owned beauty schools.

Theater Degree

Those who aspire to work as makeup artists for film and theater can earn a bachelor's degree in theater. Many of these programs incorporate makeup into the curriculum, and some offer concentrations in makeup. Students learn basic makeup application, special effects (like wounds and aging) and corrective makeup. Students may put their knowledge to the test during school productions.

Career Overview

Job Description

Makeup artists start out by discussing and planning the clients' desired end result. They may directly apply make up to models and actors or work with a team who helps implement the look. In some cases, the talent may be taught to apply some of the product on their own face and body as well.


Makeup artists analyze the skin to figure what type it is and to study the face's natural curves and shape. They prep the skin for makeup application by cleansing and moisturizing to prevent any adverse reactions. Using various cosmetic substances like powders, creams, gloss and lipstick, makeup artists create the client's preferred results.

For clients who are actors, makeup artists use make up to transform them into a different character. Makeup is used to age someone, make them a different race, create mock-up wounds and create other special effects. Wigs, false eyelashes and prosthetics are also used by makeup artists. Theatrical makeup artists sometimes research time periods and settings, read scripts, and consult with directors to ensure the makeup is appropriate for the character.


Performance and theatrical makeup artist jobs are expected to exponentially grow 19% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. For comparison, cosmetologist, hairdresser and hairstylist jobs are expected to increase 10% between 2014 and 2024.


In May 2015, theatrical and performance makeup artists brought home an annual mean income of $66,560, stated the BLS. The same source revealed that cosmetologists earned an annual mean income of $28,770 in 2015.

Makeup artists get to transform somebody to look like a monster, give them an extra touch of beauty, or age their skin twenty years. Makeup artists generally must complete a cosmetology training program and become licensed in order to work, and makeup artists for film and theater often hold college degrees. Plenty of jobs will be available for them to choose from, as a 19% job growth is expected over the next few years.

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