Cosmetologist University Program Overviews

Aspiring cosmetologists can enroll in certificate and associate's degree programs that offer training in hair care, skin care and salon management. Learn about these programs' requirements and explore employment options for graduates.

Essential Information

Most cosmetologist training is offered through certificate and associate's degree programs offered by community colleges, junior colleges and extensions of universities. There are not many university programs in cosmetology available to students. Some classes offered within a cosmetologists' program are provided through lectures and cover the basic theories behind personal grooming care and salon management. Most, however, are hands-on technical courses offered directly in a salon setting.

Cosmetologists must be licensed in every state, and students should ensure that any program they are considering meets state standards. Most cosmetology programs require applicants to have a high school education or GED. Applicants must also be at least 18 years of age in order to apply for the majority of cosmetology programs.

Cosmetology Certificate Program

Cosmetology certificate programs take about one year to complete and provide students with the technical proficiency and skills needed to become licensed cosmetologists. Students learn about the theories and techniques behind hair, skin and nail care. They also gain the hands-on skills necessary to cut and color hair, buff and paint nails, perform facials and more. Courses may include:

  • Cosmetology theory
  • Scalp treatment
  • Chemical rearranging
  • Salon business operations
  • Management and leadership
  • Color theory

Associate's Degrees in Cosmetology

To take cosmetology credentialing a bit further, many students pursue an associate's degree in the craft. These programs usually award Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degrees in cosmetology. Hands-on coursework in these programs is generally no different from that of certificate programs, though the associate's degree programs include general education coursework. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, though some associate's degree-granting universities offer them as well.

Popular Career Options

A cosmetology program can prepare individuals for several jobs in the cosmetologists' field. Some of these include:

  • Hair stylist
  • Shampooer
  • Nail technician
  • Manicurist
  • Pedicurist
  • Salon manager
  • Salon owner
  • Cosmetologist
  • Barber

Continuing Education

All 50 U.S. states require that cosmetologists gain licensure before they can legally practice their craft. Most, but not all, states require that individuals must first complete a cosmetology certificate program before they can apply for licensure. To gain licensure, individuals must pass a written exam and complete a practical demonstration of their cosmetology skills.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In 2014, there were 656,400 barbers, hairstylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Job opportunities in the industry are expected to increase 10%, faster than average, between the years of 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologist was $23,660 as of May 2015.

Though cosmetologist university programs are rare, plenty of 2-year schools offer certificate and associate's degree programs in this field. These programs prepare graduates to pass the state licensing exams required to legally work as a cosmetologist.

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