Hair Dresser Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a hairdresser. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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No matter where you want to work as a hairdresser in the United States, you'll need a license to do so, and obtaining that license requires some training. There are different training programs available, and more advanced courses will help you learn salon management or specialized styling techniques. You might choose to complete additional training if you hope to work at a high-end salon, since those jobs are limited and competition is fierce.

Essential Information

Hairdressers are responsible for styling and maintaining the appearance of a customer's hair. They may own a business or work as employees and independent contractors in beauty salons, spas and nursing homes. Every state requires that hairdressers be licensed, which usually calls for completing a training program at a vocational school or private cosmetology school and passing competency examinations.

Required Education Certificate in cosmetology
Licensing License required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) * 10% (hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologists)
Median Salary (2015)* $23,660 (hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Education Requirements for Hairdressers

Postsecondary public vocational schools and private beauty schools have certificate programs in hairstyling and other forms of personal appearance training, sometimes offered as cosmetology programs. High schools may also offer classes in styling. A hairstyling program is typically completed in nine months. Introductory courses teach techniques for coloring, cutting, styling, as well as covering styling chemicals and sanitation. More advanced courses go into greater depth, and add courses in laws, regulations and salon management. However, relatively little class time is spent on desk work. Students spend much of the training time working with artificial hair.

Duties and Skills

Hairdressers cut, shape and style hair with tools, including scissors, combs, curling irons, curlers and hair driers. They also apply gel and coloring for additional effects. During or after a styling session, hairdressers may advise clients on caring for their hair at home. Hairdressers who run their own businesses also need to manage employees, order supplies and maintain billing and inventory records. A hairdresser needs an eye for personal aesthetics, manual dexterity to implement a hair design and good verbal communication skills both to discuss with customers what they want and establish a rapport that brings repeat business.

Licensing Requirements

All states require hairdressers and most other personal appearance workers to be licensed. Licensees must have a high school diploma or GED, complete a state-approved educational program and pass a licensing exam. The licensing exam may include a written portion and either a practical skills test or oral exam.

Career Information for Hairdressers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salary for hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologists was $23,660 in May 2015. The BLS foresaw favorable prospects for personal appearance workers as a category and hairdressers specifically, projecting employment growth of 10% over the years 2014-2024, driven by increasing demand for hair coloring, hair straightening, and other advanced hair treatments. Job competition at high-end salons was expected to be more intense.

Hairdressing is a field with many options for practitioners: you can cut, colour, style, or all three, and you can work for yourself or as an employee or contractor in a salon. But before you can get your license to work as a hairdresser, you'll need to complete some education, either at vocational or beauty school, and pass a licensing exam. This can be a competitive field, but employment is growing in the sector as demand for services increases.

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