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Make Up Artists: Job Outlook & Career Info

Discover what training is needed to work as a makeup artist, as well as what types of places employ these workers. Learn about the skills needed, potential salary and related work paths.

Career Information for Becoming a Makeup Artist

Artists select and apply make up in accordance with the principles of light, color and the human form to achieve the desired objective and vision of their art director, costumer or client. Makeup artists apply the proper foundation, concealer and colors using various brushes, airbrushes and tools to shade, highlight or de-emphasize features. A makeup artist may be asked to produce a natural look that only enhances the features, counteract the harsh effect of studio lights and High-Definition TV or to create a completely different character. Makeup artists may be required to use makeup to produce special effects such as aging, illness or even wounds or deformities, and may use and design prosthetic devices such as noses or scars.

Makeup artists often combine the application of makeup with sales and work at department store cosmetic counters where they instruct clients in makeup application or demonstrate the newest products.

Required Education Undergraduate degree in related area recommended
Job Skills Strong sense of fashion, artistic nature, time management, interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2015)* $53,230 (for all hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 10% (for all hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Makeup artists have backgrounds as varied as their clients. Many have undergraduate-level degrees in theater, art or film, while others have studied cosmetology. There is a surprisingly strong technical component to this field. Makeup artists must have a solid understanding of lighting and the photographic process, so they may find it helpful to supplement their knowledge with specialized classes offered by local colleges or via distance learning courses. Industry experience, whether paid or unpaid, is crucial to honing skills, building a reputation and ultimately developing a client base. Aspiring makeup artists should volunteer their services to local theater troupes and charity fashion shows to get a foot in the door.

Job Skills

Skills vary by specialty. However, all makeup artists must have a strong sense of fashion, an artistic nature and a willingness to work all hours. Good interpersonal skills are a must for working with clients and models.

Career and Economic Outlook

Compensation of makeup artists varies dramatically, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual income for makeup artists in 2015 was $53,230. However, those working on large-budget films or with high-profile people can expect much more. The greatest job opportunities can be found in media-heavy cities, like New York or Los Angeles.

Alternative Career Options

Some skills necessary to work as a makeup artist will allow you to work in another profession as well.

Cosmetologist

In addition to styling, coloring and cutting hair, some cosmetologists offer makeup application services. Cosmetologists must complete an accredited program and pass a licensing exam. The BLS reported a 10% rise in jobs for cosmetologists for the 2014 to 2024 decade. While income varies by location and skill, cosmetologists in general had a median salary of $23,660 in 2015, per the BLS.

Skincare Specialist

These professionals specialize in the care and treatment of the skin and often prepare the skin prior to the application of makeup. Like cosmetologists, skin specialists must obtain licensure after finishing an accredited program. At 12%, the job growth for these workers was faster than average than other occupations for the BLS' 2014-2024 reporting period. Skin specialists made a median salary of $30,090 in 2015.

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