Cosmetologist University Program Overviews

Find out about certificate and associate's degree programs in cosmetology. Read on to learn more about the topics that are covered, program length and state licensing requirements for cosmetologists.

Essential Information

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. Some are also offered through for-profit schools or organizations. Cosmetologists must be licensed in every state, and students should ensure that any program they are considering meets state standards.

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.

Education Prerequisites

Most cosmetology programs have minimal educational requirements, and they demand only that applicants 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.

Program Coursework

Some classes offered within a cosmetologists' certificate 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. Some examples include:

  • Cosmetology theory
  • Shampoo, rinses and basic hair care
  • Scalp treatment
  • Hair cutting
  • Hair styling
  • Chemical rearranging
  • Safety and sanitation
  • Salon business operations
  • Management and leadership
  • Color theory
  • Cosmetology clinic practice

Popular Career Options

A cosmetology certificate 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.

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. Because of the inclusion of mathematics, English composition and humanities courses, many students pursue this option to set their own personal bars to higher levels. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, though some associate's degree-granting universities offer them as well.

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