Both certificate and associate's degree programs in cosmetology teach hair cutting, coloring and styling techniques. Students also learn about cosmetics application, manicures and skin treatments.
Associate's degree programs are generally more in-depth and include business instruction that might help aspiring beauty consultants who want to run their own businesses. These degree programs can take up to two years to complete, while certificate programs take as little as a year.
These programs also qualify students to earn licensure, which usually requires completing an approved training program and passing a series of exams.
Both certificate and associate's degree programs require that applicants have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Certificate in Cosmetology
Budding beauty consultants can enroll in a cosmetology certificate program to gain experience working with a variety of products while learning the science behind hair and skin care. Programs also give students the opportunity to gain practical experience in salon environments. Accelerated and traditional programs are available.
The curriculum of cosmetology certificate programs covers everything from salon techniques in make-up and chemical relaxants to how to hold hair when cutting it. Programs incorporate other skills relevant to working as a beauty consultant through coursework in:
- Chemical treatments
- Nail care
- Hair coloring
- Hair styling
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Aesthetician and Skin Care
- Barber and Hair Cutting Services
- Beauty Salon Management
- Cosmetology, Hair, and Nail Instructor
- Facial Treatment Specialist
- Hair Design
- Make-Up Artist
- Nail Technician - Manicurist
- Permanent Cosmetics and Tattooing
Associate's Degree in Cosmetology
In addition to qualifying students for licensure as cosmetologists, some programs prepare graduates to manage their own salons. While honing their practical skills, students learn about hair removal, product lines, manicuring, first aid, bleaching, skin care and computer skills. Associate's degree programs also incorporate general education courses into the curriculum.
Courses help students develop interpersonal communication skills and teach them to change the texture, color and cut of clients' hair. In addition to learning about personal appearance industry trends, commonly included topics of study include:
- Hair styling
- Hair cutting
- Hair coloring
- Chemical perms
- Business management
Popular Career Options
Of the 348,010 hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists employed as of May 2015, almost half found employment in the personal care services industry, according to the BLS. In addition to finding work as beauty consultants, salon managers and stylists, program graduates are able to secure positions as:
- Color technicians
- Make-up artists
- Wig specialists
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 10% increase in employment opportunities is expected for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports for that as of May 2015, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists took home a median annual wage of $23,660.
Licensure, Continuing Education and Certification Information
All states require that hairdressers and cosmetologists are licensed. For most states, completion of a state-approved cosmetology training program is required of potential licensees. Licensure examinations are administered by the state board of cosmetology, and can include written, practical and oral sections, depending on state requirements. Once licensure has been earned, further certifications are available in specific techniques and product line knowledge.
Since there are no training programs available specifically for beauty consultants, a certificate or associate's degree in cosmetology can provide the knowledge in skin, hair and nail care needed to enter the industry. Associate's degree programs also include business and general education requirements as a part of the curriculum. Regardless of training, all aspiring cosmetologists must pass a state licensing exam before practicing professionally.