Cosmetologist University Program Overviews

There are few university programs in cosmetology, but there are many certificate programs and associate's degree programs that teach future cosmetologists not only the basics of hair and skin care, but also the methods for running and managing a salon. Most academic programs for cosmetologists are offered either through community colleges, junior colleges and extension divisions of universities.

Essential Information

Cosmetologists must be licensed in every state, and students should ensure that any program they are considering meets state standards. Most cosmetology programs require applicants to have a high school education or GED. Applicants must also be at least 18 years of age in order to apply for the majority of cosmetology programs. Some classes offered within a cosmetologists' program are provided through lectures and cover the basic theories behind personal grooming care and salon management. Most, however, are hands-on technical courses offered directly in a salon setting. Students learn hair cutting and styling, safety and sanitation and participate in a clinical component.

  • Program Levels: Certificate program, associate's degree
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED and 18 years of age
  • Program Length: 1-2 years

Cosmetology Certificate Program

Cosmetology certificate programs take about one year to complete and provide students with the technical proficiency and skills needed to become a licensed cosmetologist. Students learn about the theories and techniques behind hair, skin and nail care. In addition to classroom learning, they must also clock a significant amount of hours working under supervision in a salon-type setting. They must gain the hands-on skills necessary to cut and color hair, buff and paint nails, perform facials and more. Courses may include:

  • Cosmetology theory
  • Scalp treatment
  • Chemical rearranging
  • Salon business operations
  • Management and leadership
  • Color theory

Associate's Degrees in Cosmetology

To take cosmetology credentialing a bit further, many students pursue an associate's degree in the craft. These programs usually award Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degrees in cosmetology. Hands-on coursework in these programs is generally no different from that of certificate programs, though the associate's degree programs include general education coursework. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, though some associate's degree-granting universities offer them as well.

Popular Career Options

A cosmetology program can prepare individuals for several jobs in the cosmetologists' field. Some of these include:

  • Hair stylist
  • Shampooer
  • Nail technician
  • Manicurist
  • Pedicurist
  • Salon manager
  • Salon owner
  • Cosmetologist
  • Barber

Continuing Education

All 50 U.S. states require that cosmetologists gain licensure before they can legally practice their craft. Most, but not all, states require that individuals must first complete a cosmetology certificate program before they can apply for licensure. To gain licensure, individuals must pass a written exam, as well as completing a practical demonstration of their cosmetology skills.

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