Associate of Cosmetology: Degree Overview

Oct 10, 2019

Two-year cosmetology associate's degree programs are typically available at vocational schools and community colleges. Courses teach aspiring cosmetologists how to style and cut hair and how to give skin care treatments, manicures and pedicures.

Essential Information

In addition to common cosmetology techniques and tools, cosmetology associate's programs include courses in state regulations. These programs also include practical training in student salons or clinics. Graduation from an approved cosmetology school is often required in order to become a licensed cosmetologist, along with successfully completing a state exam.

Students typically need a high school education to gain acceptance into a cosmetology associate's degree program. However, some institutions accept current high school students.

Associate of Cosmetology

Curriculum for an associate's degree in cosmetology includes instruction on beauty services, as well as information on identifying hair and skin disorders, sanitation and business skills. Business classes are valuable for cosmetology students because, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many cosmetologists are self-employed ( Some even go on to start their own personal care businesses. Typical cosmetology classes include:

  • Hair cutting and styling
  • Nail and skin care
  • Make-up application
  • State regulations
  • Salon management
  • Health and safety

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS forecasts a 8% growth rate for cosmetologists and other personal care jobs from 2018 to 2028. This faster-than-average increase is thanks to population growth and a rising demand for hair care services and treatments. Entry-level cosmetologists should find some ease in gaining employment, although competition for positions with the highest paying employers is fierce and usually acquired by the most experienced.

In May 2018, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists earned an annual median salary of $24,730, reported the BLS. The industries that employ a large number of cosmetologists are health and personal care stores, department stores and personal care services. Cosmetologists are often responsible for acquiring and retaining their own clients. Experience plays a vital role in a cosmetologist's salary, as do the location and size of the cosmetologist's employer.

Licensure Information

All cosmetologists must obtain state licensure to practice. Each state sets its own qualifications for licensure, but the BLS stated that, in general, cosmetologists need a high school diploma or equivalent, be of a minimum age and graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school. In addition to the written examination, some states include an applied or oral examination. Students should check with their state for more detailed licensure requirements.

Students enrolled in a cosmetology associate's degree program learn how to style and cut hair, perform skin care services and give manicures and pedicures. Coursework is taught both in a classroom and in a hands-on salon environment. After graduation, professional cosmetologists must pass a state examination in order to become licensed.

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