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Wig & Make-Up Technician: Job Description & Career Requirements

Wig and make-up technicians build and maintain wigs and apply make-up to performers appearing in stage, film, and television productions. They may work as part of the costume design department of a local theater company or design special effects make-up for a film crew shooting on location. Read on to learn the details about this occupation.

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Career Definition for Wig and Make-Up Technicians

Wig and make-up technicians' style and repair wigs and apply make-up to performers appearing in plays, concerts, movies, television shows, photo shoots, and commercials. They work as part of the backstage crew, often reporting to the head of the wardrobe department, ensuring that wigs are in good condition and styled according to costume design specifications. They also apply facial and body make-up, which may include the use of prosthetics and special effects artistry. Wig and make-up technicians may freelance on short-term projects or work as full-time employees of theater companies, film studios, or long-running Broadway and Las Vegas stage shows. The pool of wig and make-up technicians working throughout the U.S. is relatively small, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts little growth in the employment of workers within this field over the next several years (www.bls.gov).

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent, some employers may require a cosmetology license
Job Skills Creative and technically skilled in make-up design, teamwork skills, communication skills, ability to handle high-pressure situations
Median Salary(2015)* $53,230 (for theatrical and performance make-up artists)
Job Outlook(2014-2024)* 19% (for theatrical and performance make-up artists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most employers require wig and make-up technicians to have a high school diploma or equivalent, but many university students pursue bachelor's or master's degrees in fine arts with a focus on wig and make-up technology and costume technology. Many technical colleges also offer associate degree programs in cosmetology, including hands-on coursework in make-up application and wig styling. Theatrical wig and make-up technicians generally do not need to obtain state licensure, but a cosmetology license may be required by some employers, especially film and television studios.

Skills Required

Wig and make-up technicians must be creative and technically skilled in make-up application and wig building, styling and coloring. They must be able to work independently and as part of a team, often collaborating on wig and make-up design, and ensuring that wardrobe changes are made efficiently. Wig and make-up technicians must be able to work long hours and interact with co-workers and performers in high-pressure situations. Many employers also require computer proficiency and familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet software.

Economic Forecast and Career Outlook

The BLS predicts slower than average job growth of 19% for theatrical and performance make-up artists throughout the 2014-2024 period. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that median annual wages for theatrical and performance make-up artists were $53,230, ranging from $19,420 for the lowest-paid ten percent to $122,110 for the highest-paid ten percent. Many wig, hair, and make-up professionals are members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which negotiates benefits and salaries on behalf of its members.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options include:

Hairdresser, Hairstylist and Cosmetologist

Upon completion of a cosmetology program approved by the state and then securing their license, these professionals may seek employment in salons to provide a variety of beauty and hairstyling services. During the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS expected average employment growth of 10% and reported an annual median salary of $23,660 in 2015.

Skincare Specialist

Also known as estheticians, these specialists complete cosmetology or esthetician programs approved by their state and then earn licensure, to find jobs evaluating clients' skin, applying make-up, removing unwanted facial hair and recommending skincare products. A faster than average job growth of 12% was expected for these professionals by the BLS. In 2015, the BLS also revealed a median wage of $30,090 per year.

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