Make Up Artist: Education Requirements & Career Summary

Make up 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.

Essential Information

Make up artists may work in a variety of entertainment or personal beauty service careers. Those seeking formal training in the application of make up and related cosmetics typically enroll in a cosmetology program. Theater degree programs are another option for aspiring make up artists, since they typically include stage make up courses. Make up 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 (2012-2022)* 3% for theatrical and performance make up artists
Average Salary (2013)* $66,330 for theatrical and performance make up artists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Make Up 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 make up artists to have a state license, especially when they also work with hair. Licensing requirements vary for each state.

Cosmetology Program

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

Career Overview

Job Description

Make up 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.


Make up 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 make up application by cleansing and moisturizing to prevent any adverse reactions. Using various cosmetic substances like powders, creams, gloss and lipstick, make up artists create the client's preferred results.

For clients who are actors, make up artists use make up to transform them into a different character. Make up 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 make up artists. Theatrical make up artists sometimes research time periods and settings, read scripts and consult with directors to ensure the make up is appropriate for the character.


Performance and theatrical make up artist jobs are expected to grow only 3% between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. For comparison, cosmetologist, hairdresser and hairstylist jobs are expected to increase 13% between 2012 and 2022.


In May 2013, theatrical and performance make up artists brought home an annual mean income of $66,330, stated the BLS. The same source revealed that cosmetologists earned an annual mean income of $27,530 in 2013.

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