Hair Stylist School and College Program Overviews

Hair styling programs can be studied in the form of certificates, diplomas or associate's degrees. In hair styling programs, students learn the various techniques, safety measures and business principles involved in the field through traditional coursework and hands-on training.

Essential Information

Those interested in receiving formal education in hair styling can enroll in a certificate or cosmetology diploma or degree program, where students learn about coloring, styling, sanitation and nail care. Certificate curricula covers shampooing, cutting, treatment techniques, wig dress and maintenance, various hair textures and safety issues. Hands-on training is offered. Duration varies by institution. Some schools have beginning, intermediate and advanced-level classes. There are usually no prerequisites. Diploma classes address manicures, pedicures, skin care and hair removal techniques, and take a year or less to complete. Direct experience is gained in campus-affiliated studios working with actual customers. Two-year associate's degree students have specialization options in related areas and are taught business principles so they can successfully operate a cosmetology establishment. At all levels, applicants must be of a certain age and have a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) equivalent.

Hair Stylist Certificate

Certificate students learn how to safely and properly handle chemicals and other hair styling products. They also get the opportunity to practice different styles, procedures and techniques through shop training sessions. Common lecture topics are:

  • Curling and straightening hair
  • Styles for short and long hair
  • Hair coloring and highlighting
  • Disinfecting and maintaining equipment
  • Shampooing and conditioning

Cosmetology Diploma

Although diploma students spend most of their class time in a practical setting, they still have traditional courses. In addition to permanents and hair coloring, typical discussion subjects are:

  • Specialty haircutting techniques
  • Chemistry and chemical products
  • Salon operations
  • Retail marketing
  • Cosmetology laws

Associate Degree in Cosmetology

Associate's curricula combine fundamental cosmetology concepts with business approaches to give enrollees an all-encompassing knowledge base. Examples of course themes include:

  • Cosmetology procedures
  • Hair care business practices
  • Ethnics of hair care
  • Advanced techniques in haircutting
  • Skin and nail care techniques

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for hair stylists and cosmetologists is predicted to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024, with a median salary of $23,660 as of May 2015 (

Continuing Education

All states require hair stylists and cosmetologists to be licensed, which normally involves passing practical and written exams. Individuals must also be over the age of 16 and complete a state-approved program.

Whether a student chooses to get a certificate, diploma or associate's degree for hair styling, depending on their career goals, they will learn the basics of hair styling. No matter what option a student chooses, hair stylists must be licensed.

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