Cosmetology Programs

Start this amazing and satisfying career! Find the best cosmetology schools near you and begin your training. 

Cosmetology is the practice of beautifying skin, hair, and nails. There are a number of cosmetology specialists available, such as hairdressers, nail technicians, or estheticians. While the majority of cosmetologists work in a salon, some makeup specialists work in studios. Cosmetologists use multiple techniques and products to take care of their clients.

Cosmetologists either work for themselves or as part of a group. Typically, if you work for yourself, you rent a space in a salon to treat your clients. There are several important skills to succeed as a cosmetologist. You must stay up to date with the latest fashion trends and understand how these trends apply to your clients. Customer service is an important part of being a cosmetologist as well. Cosmetologists make different amounts depending on their salary, as well as whether they work for tips. On average, you can expect to make between $25,000 to $30,000, but some specialists earn closer to $50,000 or $60,000.

Education Requirements

To become a cosmetologist, you must complete cosmetology school. There are minimal education requirements to enroll in cosmetology school. In most states, you can enroll in cosmetology school if you are at least 16 and have either graduated high school or completed your GED. There are even some programs that allow you to take classes while you are attending high school, but these are only available in select areas.

Cosmetology programs are commonly taught in community colleges and vocational schools. There are also private instructors who host their own classes. How long you spend in the classes varies based on preference and your chosen profession. Many cosmetologists take shorter classes to get certification, while others enroll in a longer program to get an associate degree. Even if you enroll in a shorter program, you can always return to school later to get a degree.

Certification programs typically take nine months to complete, while a degree program is two years, with some expedited programs finishing sooner. Cosmetology school covers multiple subjects, such as anatomy, customer service, bookkeeping and hair coloring and cutting techniques. You also learn how to safely use and maintain cosmetology equipment, like hair irons, rollers and razors. At the end of the program, you must complete both a written and practical examination.

Picking a Specialty

Many cosmetology schools allow you to pick a specialization. Hairstylist is one specialty with several subcategories. Hair braiding specialists focus on adding extensions, weaving cornrowing, micro and tree braiding and twisting hair. Natural stylists only use hair styling techniques and do not rely on chemical treatments. Barbers are a generalized hair stylist. Barbers shampoo, cut, style and shape hair. Many barbers have male clients, who also pay for shaves or beard trims.

Nail technicians perform manicures and pedicures. They also provide general nail repair, polishing, wraps and filing. Other nail technicians apply artificial nails or specialize in airbrushing and nail painting. Some salons also require nail technicians to give foot or hand massages or perform hot-oil therapy.

Esthetician is a skincare specialty, which typically requires the longest training, but gets paid more than other cosmetologists. Estheticians focus on facials, body masks, scrubs, detox, exfoliation and chemical peels. Advanced estheticians also administer light and laser skin treatment or oxygen and ultrasonic therapy.

The last type of cosmetologist is a makeup specialist. Makeup artistry is largely focused on the face. You must understand how to use applicators, eyebrow shapers, sponges, lip liners and brushes to administer and remove makeup. Some makeup specialists work in salons or spas, while others travel to meet clients for important events, like weddings or fashion shows. Some performance venues always keep several makeup specialists on staff.

Getting a Cosmetology License

To work as a cosmetologist, you must get licensed. Licensing requirements may vary slightly depending on your state. No matter where you live, you must complete a number of training hours. Training hours apply to both class hours and practical experience. In most states, you need between 1,400 and 1,600 hours. In addition to taking classes, some cosmetologists work as an apprentice to prepare for the license exam.

The licensing exam is divided into written and practical portions. The written section is 110 questions, covering scientific concepts, hair, skin and nail care services. The practical exam takes place in a mock workspace, where you work on mannequins. Both your techniques and how you handle equipment are judged in the practical exam. You must renew your license at set periods, based on where you live. In most states, it is four years. 

Top Cosmetology Schools

One of the most respected cosmetology schools is the Aveda Institute. The founders were inspired by Native American beauty techniques, with the lessons focusing on organic skin and hair treatments. The institute is located in Ohio, but instructors run cosmetology programs throughout the United States.

Paul Mitchell is another popular cosmetology school. The founder, Paul Mitchell, is best known for producing professional hair products. There are over 100 school locations, making it one of the largest cosmetology schools in the United States. The school offers a number of specializations, but it is best known for nail technicians and makeup specialists.

In terms of experience, it is hard to find better instructors than the ones at the Empire Beauty School. Empire first opened in 1934. The school offers general lessons, as well as advanced classes for esthetics and makeup artistry. Empire also includes a greater emphasis on starting and managing your own salon or spa, with additional classes available to teach the basics of business and retail training.