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California Cosmetology License Options with School Info

California has 141 schools that offer cosmetology programs. Learn about the courses, tuition info and program options for nine of the largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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  • Aesthetician and Skin Care
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Essential Information

While California has many schooling options for students looking for cosmetology programs, not all of them are public or private not-for-profit schools. However, these programs often culminate in an undergraduate certificate or an associate degree. In addition to studies in general cosmetology, students could pursue programs offering specialized training in esthetician work, nail technology or cosmetology business administration. Cosmetology instructor programs are also available, but these may only be undertaken by licensed cosmetologists. Keep reading to learn about nine of the largest California schools that offer cosmetology programs, all of which prepare graduates for the appropriate licensing exams.

Cerritos College

Cerritos College in Norwalk has cosmetology programs in the following formats: a Certificate of Completion in Esthetician, an Associate in Arts in Esthetician, a Certificate of Completion in Cosmetology and an Associate in Arts in Cosmetology. Students who pursue an associate's degree must complete general education requirements, but the esthetician and cosmetology core curriculums are the same for both the certificate and associate's degree programs. Out of the necessary 1,600 clock hours in the cosmetology program, the school reports that 75% of that time is spent acquiring hands-on experience in areas like hair coloring, hair braiding, hair straightening, perms and hair cutting. Cosmetology majors can pursue a daytime scheduling option on a full-time basis, or they can pursue the nighttime option on a part-time basis. Esthetician students can choose a day or nighttime program.

El Camino Community College District

By completing the necessary coursework, students enrolled at El Camino Community College District in Torrance can graduate with a Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology or an Associate in Science in Cosmetology. Students can pick between evening and daytime options for these programs. They start off with cosmetology introduction classes before moving on to intermediate cosmetology courses, advanced cosmetology classes and a course on cosmetology applications. Students who have a 3.0 GPA or higher can graduate with honors from the certificate program, while high honors for the certificate program and honors for the associate's degree program are reserved for students with a GPA of 3.5 or greater.

Fullerton College

Cosmetology certificate and associate's degree programs are available in Fullerton at Fullerton College. The core cosmetology curriculum here is 50-52 units spread out amongst five cosmetology classes. Bleaching, hair tinting, nail tips, nail wraps, corrective makeup, permanent waving and comb outs are just a few of the cosmetology techniques taught at this school. By taking a couple of 10-unit esthetician courses, students can graduate with an Esthetician Certificate. Alternatively, for students who already have completed a cosmetology program and earned licensure, there is an Associate in Science in Cosmetology Instructor program that goes over Pivot Point instructor, stage makeup and instruction techniques.

Riverside City College

Located in Riverside, Riverside City College offers a 42-unit cosmetology certificate program. By meeting general education requirements, students can instead earn an Associate in Science in Cosmetology. The cosmetology core curriculum consists of five courses on hair care, nail care and skin care. Riverside City College also offers a 600-hour esthetician certificate program. Licensed cosmetologists may enroll in a cosmetology instructor certificate program that goes over oral presentations, evaluation methods, lesson planning and test construction. Alternative cosmetology programs here include cosmetology business administration certificate and associate's degree programs. The cosmetology business administration major is available to students who have graduated from the cosmetology program and consists of courses in computer information systems, business and accounting. An esthetician certificate program is also available.

Sacramento City College

Students residing in Sacramento can choose between certificate and associate's degree programs in cosmetology at Sacramento City College. After a foundation course, the cosmetology curriculum moves onto intermediate and advanced classes. At each level of cosmetology study, students take a theory and a laboratory course. For students who're just interested in nail technology, there is a Certificate of Achievement in Art and Science of Nail Technology. In addition to a cosmetology introduction course, students in the nail technology certificate program take 11 units on nail technology and 5.5 units in laboratory requirements.

Saddleback College

Cosmetician and cosmetology programs are pursuable at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. The cosmetician program is a 16-unit course that takes 600 hours to complete. It can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. The cosmetology program can also be pursued part-time or full-time, and it is a 48-unit program consisting of four 12-unit courses. Local beauty schools teach the courses off-campus.

San Diego City College

A cosmetology certificate or associate's degree can be earned in San Diego at San Diego City College. While the lecture hours vary, there are day and evening classes. In addition to the normal course offerings, there is a summer session for interested cosmetology students. Cosmetology graduates from this school are expected to be able to conduct practical cosmetology applications; follow sanitation, health and safety procedures; and contrast and compare various practices and procedures in cosmetology. Additionally, students have the option of completing introductory and advanced esthetician classes to earn an 18-unit Certificate of Achievement in Esthetician. A 12-unit Certificate of Performance in Cosmetology Teacher Training program offers the chance for licensed cosmetologists to learn how to instruct others in cosmetology studies.

Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara is home to Santa Barbara City College, and students there can pursue an Associate in Science in Cosmetology degree or a cosmetology certificate. Shampooing, scalp and hair analysis, hair lightening and coloring, sanitation and safety procedures and artificial nail techniques all comprise the issues found in this school's cosmetology curriculum. Alternatively, students have the option to enroll in a 600-hour esthetician program. Two program levels are offered awarding a Skills Competency Award in Esthetician, Level 1 and a Skills Competency Award in Esthetician, Level 2. Students willing to complete 12 units of a manicure-training module can obtain a Skills Competency Award in Manicure.

Santa Monica College

Students at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica have an opportunity to earn a cosmetology certificate or associate's degree. Adults can pursue these program options at the postsecondary level. Alternatively, high school students can take the program concurrently during their 11th and 12th grade years. The cosmetology courses go over hair cutting, hair coloring, permanent waving, curly hair, hair styling, nail care and skin care. Students interested in a more specialized cosmetology certificate can earn a Department Certificate in Nail Care or a Department Certificate in Skin Care. The skin care option is 16 units, while the nail care option is 14 units. Both of these programs offer courses in salon management.

Career Requirements

Cosmetology careers require state licensing. In California, students have to complete 400 educational hours to become manicurists, 600 educational hours to become estheticians and 1,600 educational hours to become cosmetologists. Before receiving a state license, applicants must pass a state board examination in their subject area.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Cosmetology Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)
Cerritos College 2-year, public; large suburb Certificate of Completion in Cosmetology,
Certificate of Completion in Esthetician,
Associate in Arts in Cosmetology,
Associate in Arts in Esthetician
$1,346 (in-state); $7,926 (out-of-state)*
El Camino Community College District 2-year, public; large suburb Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology
$1,142 (in-state); $5,678 (out-of-state)*
Fullerton College 2-year, public; large suburb Cosmetology Certificate,
Esthetician Certificate,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology Instructor
$1,138 (in-state); $6,010 (out-of-state)*
Riverside City College 2-year, public; large city Certificate in Cosmetology,
Certificate in Cosmetology Business Administration,
Certificate in Esthetician,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology Business Administration,
Certificate in Cosmetology Instructor Training
$1,426 (in-state); $7,366 (out-of-state)*
Sacramento City College 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Art and Science of Nail Technology,
Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology
$1,104 (in-state); $7,440 (out-of-state)*
Saddleback College 2-year, public; large suburb Occupational Skills Award in Cosmetician,
Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology
$1,326 (in-state); $5,750 (out-of-state)*
San Diego City College 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology,
Certificate of Achievement in Esthetician,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology
$1,142 (in-state); $4,670 (out-of-state)*
Santa Barbara City College 2-year, public; small city Skills Competency Award in Esthetician, Level 1,
Skills Competency Award in Esthetician, Level 2,
Skills Competency Award in Manicure,
Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology,
Associate in Science in Cosmetology
$1,374 (in-state); $8,086 (out-of-state)*
Santa Monica College 2-year, public; small city Department Certificate in Nail Care,
Department Certificate in Skin Care,
Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology,
Associate of Arts in Cosmetology
$1,136 (in-state); $8,078 (out-of-state)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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