How to Become a Cosmetologist: A Career Guide

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 17, 2020

Jun 17, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Do you have a keen eye for beauty? Is it easy for you to work with people? Do you enjoy making others feel their absolute best?

If your answer to any of the above questions was yes, you might be able to thrive in the colorful world of cosmetology. When you think of cosmetology your mind probably goes to cutting hair but that’s not the only role in this career field. Some specialize in doing nails or makeup.

It takes hard work to learn how to become a cosmetologist but it will be more than worth it in the end. Think you may have what it takes? Keep reading to find out how to get started.

How to Become a Cosmetologist 

Before you can start a career in cosmetology, there are a few basic requirements that you have to meet. You'll need to be at least 16 years old to start a program. You must also have either a high school diploma or a GED. 

Some states and cosmetology schools have a few additional requirements for you to get started. You'll have to do some research to make sure that you're able to meet them all. 

If you're still in high school and want to begin your cosmetology education a little bit early, talk to an administrator. A lot of high schools allow their seniors and even juniors to seek out vocational programs. 

Finding the Right Cosmetology School

Before you can get your license and set out on your career, you've got to gather a certain amount of knowledge in the field and get a little hands-on experience. At cosmetology school, you'll learn skills such as how to cut and style hair, apply makeup, and do nails. You'll also be taught basic sanitation steps so you can perform your job safely. 

When trying to figure out which cosmetology program you want to attend, start your search with the community and private colleges in your area. There's probably quite a few for you to choose from so you'll have to narrow the field down a little bit in order to find the best program for you. 

First, you'll need to decide how much you can afford to spend on school. Look at the prices of each program along with how long you'll have to attend. In the case of most schools, you'll have to do at least 1,600 hours but it varies from program to program.  

If you can't narrow it down based on that, talk to the administrators at the college. Find out what their program offers that others do not. 

Decide on a Specialization

If you're okay with taking a little extra course work, specializing while you're in school might make your job hunt a little bit easier on down the line. For example, if you think you would feel great joy in helping women get ready for the biggest day of their lives, you could become a wedding stylist. 

If you want to primarily work on nails, a nail technician will be the way to go. If you prefer being in charge and want to run your own place, you may enjoy being a spa manager. The possibilities are endless.  

Take Business Training if Desired 

Many people become a cosmetologist with one goal in mind. They want to open up their very own shop one day. If this is something you want to do, you'll benefit from taking a few business classes on top of your cosmetology ones. 

Taking business classes will give you a taste of the bookkeeping side of things. You'll learn how to keep up with your business finances and receive a few marketing tips so you can get your name out there. 

Get Your License 

Now that you've finally fulfilled all of your cosmetology school requirements, you can go take your licensing exam. This exam contains a series of written questions as well as a practical section. 

You'll have to prove that you know all there is to know about skincare, doing hair, and putting on makeup. Be prepared to pay a licensing fee when you pass to make everything official. 

Getting a Job

You've got your license in your hand and are ready to start applying to positions in your area. At least you thought you were ready. Getting a job can be harder than it looks.  

Doing an Apprenticeship

It may be hard for you to find a job as soon as you leave school. This is true for any career field. You can make things easier on yourself by doing an apprenticeship for two years or so. 

Participating in an apprenticeship can give you the resume buff you need to get a job at another salon in your area. It's great hands-on experience but you might not get paid that much to do it. 

Applying for Jobs 

When you're applying for jobs, there's a common misconception that you should avoid. Not all cosmetologists work in salons. Salons are the most common place you'll find work but you can branch out by applying to spas, hotels and resorts, retail beauty shops, and even nursing homes. 

So, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Send out your resume to every cosmetology position in your area that you qualify for. From there, it's pretty much the same as applying and interviewing for a job in any other career field. 

Becoming a Cosmetologist 

There is a lot of time and effort that goes into becoming a cosmetologist. You have to get into a program that will help you succeed and gather up the knowledge necessary to pass your licensing exam. 

Once you have your license in your hand, however, you'll get to venture into a career field that is both enjoyable and high in demand. We hope you're able to use these tips on how to become a cosmetologist to get started on your journey. 

Want to keep up with the latest cosmetology job openings in your area? Start your search by creating a job alert