Education Requirements to Become a Cosmetologist

Jun 15, 2021

A cosmetologist is a person who advises others (typically women) on the best use of cosmetics and other beauty treatments associated primarily with hair, nails and skin. To become a cosmetologist in the U.S., you must meet all cosmetology school requirements and pass a state licensing exam. Here, we look at the main steps needed with regards to how to become a cosmetologist including information about the education needed to be a cosmetologist.

How to Become a Cosmetologist

The health and beauty industry is a faster-than-average growing sector in the U.S. Cosmetologists contribute greatly to this industry by advising clients on how best to utilize cosmetics, style their hair and decorate their nails. Some cosmetologists may specialize in one of these areas rather than offering advice on all areas of beauty.

Aspiring cosmetologists must complete a cosmetology training program, which generally take about a year, in order to become eligible for state licensure. Specialist beauty service programs can be completed in a shorter time period.

Required Education Cosmetology school
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 13% (hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists)
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $24,730 (hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cosmetology Education Requirements

One early step on the road to becoming a cosmetologist involves completing a cosmetology training program. All states require cosmetology school as part of their licensure process. Cosmetology education requirements will vary slightly from state to state, but trainee cosmetologists will typically undertake coursework in hair cutting and styling, make-up application, manicures and skin treatments. Additionally, many courses will provide training in retail, marketing and business administration. Training programs require 1,000 to 2,100 hours to be completed, depending on the state, before candidates are eligible to take a licensure exam and ultimately get their cosmetology license. Because this is a very hands-on field, these programs are not typically available online; however, there are some partially online cosmetology degree program options and online classes in cosmetology.

Cosmetology Specialists

Candidates that wish to specialize in specific fields of cosmetology, such as esthetics or manicurist, can complete the training requirement quickly, as some specialist programs can consist of as little as 250 coursework hours. Estheticians provide skincare services, such as facials, body wraps and services that improve the appearance of the skin by minimizing the effects of aging and sun exposure. A manicurist (sometimes known as a nail technician) will provide manicures and pedicures, apply artificial nails and color treatments and might also treat nail diseases.

Cosmetology License Requirements

Cosmetologists and specialists must comply with state licensing requirements before providing their beauty-related services. Most states have age restrictions (minimum age of 16), as well as minimum education requirements, including being in receipt of a high school diploma or equivalent, in addition to their cosmetology or specialist training program certificate. These requirements must be met in order to take the cosmetology license exam.

A number of states may offer licenses for each separate cosmetology specialty, whereas others will offer just a single license. Once you obtain your cosmetology license, you may have to renew it periodically and this will involve a fee. Additionally, if you have a license in one state and wish to provide your beauty services in another, you may have to obtain another cosmetology license for that additional state.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

At the present time, the employment outlook for cosmetologists is healthy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasted a 13% growth in jobs for cosmetologists, hairdressers and hairstylists during the time period 2016-2026. As of 2018, the BLS calculated that the median salary for workers in this sector was $24,730, with median hourly rate coming in at $11.89.

Like many other jobs in health, beauty and wellness, a career as a cosmetologist can be a highly satisfying and creative one. It offers workers opportunities to progress in their careers and shape them for their own needs, since the options for self-employment and working from home are always a strong possibility. Classroom training and licensure is obligatory for prospective cosmetologists to embark upon their chosen career. On-the-job training can further enhance their job progression prospects and further formal training can open door to becoming a cosmetology instructor.

Next: View Schools
Created with Sketch. Link to this page

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?