Cosmetologist Training Programs and Requirements

In order to become a licensed cosmetologist, aspiring students must complete a cosmetologist certificate or associate's degree program and fulfill state licensing requirements. Associate's degrees prepare graduates to become instructors or salon owners.

Essential Information

Aspiring cosmetologists can enroll in certificate or degree programs at cosmetology schools or community colleges throughout the United States. These schools offer associate's degrees and, more commonly, certificate programs in cosmetology. These programs prepare students for state licensing exams, which must be completed to work in every state, and provide them with the styling and business skills needed to work in a salon, spa or other personal care establishments.

Programs may take one to two years to complete, and some may allow students to select a specialization like nail technology or esthetics as a focus. Some programs require internship programs be completed for graduation.

Cosmetology Certificate Program

Cosmetologist training certificate programs typically offer students the opportunity to train in a salon setting, as well as instruction on the art and science of skin, hair and nail. Many certificate programs offer training in cosmetology specialties, like nail technology and esthetics, which may require supplementary licensure exams. Courses within the standard certificate program may include:

  • Haircutting and hairstyling
  • Manicuring
  • Scalp treatments
  • Facials

Associate's Degree Program in Cosmetology

A two-year program in cosmetology leads to an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. Some school programs provide an internship opportunity in which students work at local salons on weekends or during the evenings while attending school, allowing students to build professional experience.

An associate's degree will generally prepare cosmetologists to operate their own salon or become a cosmetology instructor. In addition to cosmetology concepts and procedures, courses offered in an associate's degree curriculum will include:

  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Business

Continuing Education

In many states, licensed cosmetologists must attend workshops and seminars to fulfill continuing education requirements. Workshops and seminars are held at several community colleges across the U.S. Participants are introduced to new styles, concepts and designs in cosmetology.

Some seminars are designed specifically for cosmetology instructors. In these types of seminars, participants learn different teaching methods and techniques.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists held a total of 656,400 jobs in 2014. Between the years of 2012 and 2024, job growth in this field will increase by 10%, faster than the average, according to the BLS. The median annual wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is $23,660, as reported in May 2015.

Aspiring cosmetologists can choose between certificate programs and associate's degree programs to receive cosmetologist training. Upon graduation, both programs provide the education needed to pass state licensing exams required to become professional cosmetologists.

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