How to Become a Cosmetologist

Medical Specialties


What is a Cosmetologist? 

From ancient times where slaves were expected to keep their master looking fabulous, cosmetology has been a job designed to produce fantastic results for skin, hair and nails. Those of higher social stature used to also spend time in classy bathhouses, enjoying the relaxation and pampering.

Since then, the advancements made in cosmetology have made it one of the most popular career options today. In this field there are career options such as makeup artistry, hairstyling, pedicurists and manicurists and skin care specialists.

To help you further understand the various career fields, here is a list of the popular options with a brief summary of what they do:

1.  A cosmetologist is an expert in many factors such as beauty, hair-care, skincare and makeup. Because of this knowledge, they'll be able to provide services like hair extension and coloring, as well as straightening or perming. These professionals are also great at helping their customers to achieve and maintain their desired looks through their abilities and teaching.

2.  A hair stylist is someone who can help you to create a specific look for your hair for a wide variety of events including prom, weddings, family events and anything else you may want to look your best for. They may also assist with things like hair removal, nail services or the application of makeup to keep clients feeling fantastic.

3.  A hair colorist is someone who can make adjustments to your hair color including things like highlights, full color, and other additions to make your hair stand out. To achieve this, they rely on a variety of professional products and methods. Professional colorists are often certified by the American Board of Certified Hair Colorists to show that they are going to be highly competent in the field. Those who go through this certification are typically tested with both physical and written exams to display their knowledge. Largely, hair colorists will be responsible for darkening or lightening your natural color, covering grays and more. They are also fantastic for when you need something to correct your color or design unique effects using a wide variety of advanced professional techniques.

4.  A shampoo technician is typically considered a position that is designed for an apprentice to hold. This person will be in charge of shampooing and conditioning a client's hair to prepare them for the services of a hair stylist.

5.  An aesthetician is a legal and licensed individual, who is an expert or professional in maintaining and improving skin.  An aesthetician has a general scope of practice that has to do with the epidermis. However, because it focuses mainly on that outer portion of skin it can be somewhat limited. You can find an aesthetician in day or med spas, salons or skin care clinics, but you may also be able to find them practicing privately. Often, they can offer services like cosmetic electrotherapy, microdermabrasion and non-surgical face lifts as well as high frequency LED treatments, ultrasonic and mechanical massage and more!

Duties of Cosmetologist

  • Cutting hair.
  • Treating hair chemically.
  • Changing the texture of hair chemically.
  • Hair removal without using a sharp blade but through a chemical means.
  • Caring for the skin and nails.
  • Analysis of clients’ skin and hair.
  • Discussing clients’ hairstyles options.
  • Aroma therapies.
  • Offering clients with relaxation techniques from the head, neck, scalp, hand and basic feet massage.
  • Makeup applications in a professional manner.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting all the tools used in working and the work areas.

Cosmetology as a profession, is majorly for females which are mostly in a reproductive age. On average, you can find over a million women in the United States who are licensed and registered cosmetologists, as well as millions of hairdressers all over the country. In cosmetology, hairdressing and nail technicians make up a substantial majority of the working population.

Though some cosmetologists started their careers right before an age of reproduction age and family planning, they might be at risk for which may affect the reproductive health due to their exposure to commonly used chemicals for cosmetology.

Bonuses and Benefits of Cosmetologist

By seeing a cosmetologist, you can have access to a multitude of services such as manicures, hairdressing and quality skin treatments. Through programs that are state-approved both in high schools and after, they build up their skills to meet the expectations of state licensing exams. In some cases, students may choose to aim for licenses in skin and nail care as a suitable alternative to hairdressing or general cosmetology. Depending on where they work and what specific qualifications they have, the salary can vary a bit.

Typically, hairdressers and stylists and general cosmetologists make up the biggest groups within the cosmetologist profession. In the U.S, there are around 357,030 people within these groups, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011. For the most part, cosmetologists are known to provide nail and skin services on top of hair care. On an average basis, the wage of these workers tends to be around $12.72 an hour, or about $26,460 per year. On the lowest end, the annual wage can be around $16,710 while the highest-earning people in this field can make about $41,490.

Most general cosmetologists tend to work in the personal care area. These often include beauty shops that can have a full-time wage of about $26,550 yearly, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, those who work in department stores can reach an average of $22,880 yearly. These tend to be on the lower range of earning capability. At the other end of the spectrum are those who work in the film industry, where cosmetologists can earn up to $69,780 annually.

The amount you can make as a cosmetologist can also depend on location. For example, those who work in the District of Columbia can average about $48,720 yearly, which is more than other areas. For state-specific information, Washington and Hawaii tend to offer the best pay, which can sometimes be greater than $34,000 annually. With regard to metropolitan areas, there are around 15,700 cosmetologists in New York City making an average of $32,380 on a yearly basis.

For those interested in the electrologist and aesthetician fields, it can help to know that the average annual pay is around $32,080 for full-time workers. In other words, this is around $15.42 hourly. Those working in doctor's offices tended to make the most, at around $38,680 yearly.

Work Environment of Cosmetologist

In 2012, barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists occupied 663,300 jobs and nearly a fraction of them were self-employed. In the occupations, employment was made up of barbers, hairdressers, cosmetologists and it was given as follows:

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists (611,200) and Barbers (52,100).

General Environment


Most of the barbers, cosmetologists as well as other types of employees in this field work full time and they tended to work 40 hours or more weekly. Meanwhile, longer hours became less common among workers who were self-employed.

Their work schedules might sometimes weekend and evenings, which tend to be when barber shops and beauty salons are the busiest.

Office Environment


Hairstylists tend to work indoors in a brightly lit, clean environment, based on the type of work they do. Those who work in these kinds of fields are often found in a lively environment with good ventilation and lighting.

While many stylists work in salons or barber shops, others may work in hotels or spas, while some professionals can rent space from other salons. With enough experience in the Cosmetologist industry, a hairstylist can become a manager or choose to open and a business.

Cosmetologists work mostly in a barbershop or salon with other barbers and hair stylists and the salon is expected to be clean and well lit. Some resorts, cruise ships and hotels can employ the services of a hairdresser as a guest amenity.

Physical stamina is very important in an office environment as professionals are expected to be on their feet throughout the day.  There can be a case or cases of skin irritation in the workplace as prolonged exposure to some kinds of chemicals can cause skin irritation and so it is important that a cosmetologist should wear protective clothing like disposable gloves or aprons.



Some hairstylists offer their services to the homebound or hospital patients or nursing home residents, but they are limited in number.

Work Schedules of Cosmetologist

Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists usually work part time while some self-employed workers usually work for long hours.

Stylists that start very early and leave before evening spend most of their shift standing and walking.

Cosmetology requires the cutting or styling of the client’s hair constantly and this can tire or wear the arms and hands out.  Their workstation should be kept clean, for instance, in most salons, the stylist sweeps the booth area between the customers, cleans the chair at intervals and sterilize tools when needed.  

Some self-employed stylists, like those who rent spaces in booths or those who own their spaces, usually work for long hours in order to accommodate the customers’ schedules.

Important Qualities of Cosmetologist

A good cosmetologist can help a client create a new look by changing the client’s hair style, hair color, makeup, and other procedures. The cosmetologist is given a lot of trust in order to make them look attractive, better and more fashionable than they appeared before. Professional and most successful cosmetologists often share some certain qualities that gives them an edge in the industry.



A skilled cosmetologist is ever ready to adjust to the constant changing techniques and he or she gets accustomed with the different rising in the technologies in cosmetology industry. A professional cosmetologist must be ready to incorporate these changes into his or her work as this will make the market or industry less competitive.

A perceptive quality about style and color

Having a sharp and keen sense for the sort of hairstyles and hair colors that work for each client.  A good cosmetologist must be able to suggest on how best to fix a client’s look by making them look their best.


A cosmetologist should have a sense of creativity and should be able to think outside the box when it comes to new and totally cool, yet, different ways of styling his or her clients hair, applying makeup and performing other procedures.

Customer Service

You know a cosmetologist is a professional not only by the creativity, a fantastic perception about style and more but by displaying fabulous customer service skills. We don’t mean eye-service but being friendly and able to assist all clients -new and old-fashioned and by creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Grooming Habits

A cosmetologist is and should remain impeccably groomed. When the style a client’s hair, it should be in the latest fashion and when makeup is being applied, it should be neat.


A cosmetologist should be abreast of the standards applicable in the industry when it comes to safety and health concerns. For this, their work equipment should be kept clean, sanitized or sterilized, if need be, at all times.

Manual Dexterity

He or she should be pretty good with using hands.  As a talented cosmetologist, honor she should be able to perform intricate maneuvers for a period of time, whether he or she is giving a client a cut or performing a facial or manicuring. They are good at handling a scissors, brushes, files, and other equipment.

Pleasant Personality

Making their clients feel good should be one of the top priority of a cosmetologist. They should have an engaging personality in order to make clients feel welcome and comfortable.

Ideas visualization

A good cosmetologist must be ready and able to share with his or her client a vision about a goal so as to get a better end result. By clearly visualizing the goal, and skillfully performing the work required, the goal will be reached.

Similar Occupations

Here is a list of similar or closely related jobs:

  • Hair Stylist
  • Manicurist
  • Pedicurist
  • Esthetician
  • Electrologist
  • Laser technicians 
  • Salon managers
  • Massage therapists

Projected Future of a Cosmetologist

Job Outlook

Many consider the future for cosmetologists to be rather bright.  Over the years, there has been a great demand for coloring a client’s hair or styling and other types of hair services, especially in the generation of baby boomers who are set on looking young and younger people who want to make sure they stay in fashion. The job outlook for manicurists and similar service providers looks even brighter and better considering the constant increase in the number of spas as well as nail salons that we have. This will lead to a creation of more cosmetologist jobs.

            Potential Increase

Job opportunities in cosmetologist field will remain more plenty and trendy than the boring usual most especially now that new graduates seek for entry level positions. If you want a career in cosmetologist, now is the right time as you may be going to something better. Cosmetology could have been one of the handful of recession-proof careers. In plain words, just as anxiety and stress about the economy increases, there will be an increase in business at spas and salons due to clients feeling the need to seek out services to help them relax.

There can be a high level of competition in the cosmetology field, particularly at upscale salons and other places with higher-paying clients. This is because there is often a large pool of potential employees competing to earn the positions. Like with many other careers, the best opportunities are more likely to go to those who have professional experience and quality licensing to offer a wider range of services.

      Career Prospects

The demand for cosmetologists is expected to grow by 20% between 2008 and 2018. This growth is expected to be the result of an increasing population, which will in turn lead to greater demand for the services of cosmetologists.

How to Become a Cosmetologist

Here are the basic steps to be followed in order to become a cosmetologist:

Almost all states require that an aspiring cosmetologist should have a license. This license has factors that must be met like:

  1. Holding a GED or high school diploma
  2. Being 16 years of age at a minimum
  3. A completion of a state-approved program
  4. Passing all necessary cosmetology exams

A cosmetologist in the making must have completed a training program as offered at a variety of schools such as vocational schools, community colleges and specialized cosmetology schools. These programs run and must be completed within 9-24 months.

He or she must have received training in personal appearance, hair care and skincare, as well as things like marketing and sales.

The programs often used for obtaining certifications include components of practical training that allows you to provide beauty treatments in salons.

Be an apprentice in a cosmetologist shop.

Cosmetologists do need to be licensed in the state they plan to practice in. Licensing includes testing applicant's knowledge using a tactile examination and a written test. Separate licenses can be required for manicurists, pedicurists and other areas in some states.

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