Online courses and career training programs in beauty, make-up, cosmetics, spa operations, esthetician training, manicures, pedicures, beauty salon management, beauty therapy and more.

Cosmetology is a blanket term covering the various roles that fall under barbering and hairdressing. Far from just being haircutters, cosmetology workers can also perform a variety of other tasks. The description provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes washing hair, coloring hair and conditioning hair in addition to inspecting clientele and recommending the sorts of treatments they should opt for.

In a similar capacity, estheticians, or skin care specialists, provide treatments for skin maintenance and enhancements, including facials, massages to the head and neck and the application of treatments like peels and scrubs, according to the BLS. Additionally, someone in an esthetician role might apply laser and/or wax techniques to a client's skin.

Below is a breakdown of the information a prospective student should know when considering a cosmetology program. That includes skills and career training; styles, tools and techniques; state cosmetologist licensing and related expos and trade shows.

Table of Contents

  1. Barber Skills and Training
  2. Esthetician Skills and Training
  3. Nail Salon Skills and Training
  4. Hair Stylist Skills and Training

Barber skills and training

Full-time barbering programs at cosmetology schools, available at public and private institutions, can last anywhere from nine months to two years. Programs generally include both academic work and practical work. According to the BLS, basic skills that barbers learn include cutting hair, trimming beards, giving shaves and developing habits of safety and sanitation.

In addition to instruction in basic services, barber training can include classes such as instrument care, hygiene, anatomy, chemistry, and physiology. Online courses in cosmetology and barbering may also be available, to help those with busy schedules prepare for a career or stay on top of the latest trends in the industry.

Barbering styles, tools and techniques

Every student of barbering at a cosmetology school needs essential supplies for a successful experience. Here's some of the essentials used during barber training, as described by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology:


  • Talcum powder
  • Neck strips
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mannequin heads
  • Towels
  • Applicators

Durable items

  • Spray bottles
  • Picks and combs
  • Electric clippers
  • Hair and beard trimmers
  • Thinning shears
  • Cutting shears
  • Blades (of various sizes)
  • Blow dryer

Acquiring high-quality barber tools can save time and money. Superior equipment may require more of an investment, but it can reduce the risk of broken or faulty tools and leave students more time to focus on developing technique.

How to get a barber license

Barber LicenseStudents who graduate from cosmetology school with a concentration in barbering must then pass written and practical state board exams in order to become a licensed barber. The written exam is a multiple-choice test and varies in content from state to state. The practical exam typically consists of a hair cutting and styling demonstration, using either a mannequin or a live model.

All states require practicing barbers to be licensed, and certification requirements vary. When choosing a barber program at a cosmetology career training school, one should take into account that licenses earned in one state may not be valid in another. Paying attention in school and taking the time to learn exactly how to get a barber license after graduation can put a graduate on the right track to becoming a professionally licensed barber.

Barber expos, trade shows and conventions

Graduates with a barber or cosmetologist license can potentially enhance their abilities by attending trade shows, expos and programs, which are typically designed to keep practitioners up-to-date on the latest methods and products in the industry.

  • The International Beauty Show: This Las Vegas show focuses on new and advanced tools, cutting-edge techniques and the latest styles and trends in barbering and cosmetology. This is an exclusive event for industry insiders and certified barbers only.
  • The Texas International Hair and Trade Show: This Dallas show features product exhibits, demonstrations and styling and cutting competitions. The show is attended by a variety of people and companies in the beauty and barber industry.

Barbers and other cosmetology license holders can check with local beauty schools or trade organizations to find the latest and nearest expos and shows that feature topics relevant to the barbering profession.

Esthetician skills and training

The various areas of esthetician practice each require their own particular set of skills. Here's a quick breakdown of the skills typically required according to the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), the largest association for skin care workers:

Facial treatments

  • Cleansing: Dissolving makeup and grime from the surface of the face
  • Toning: Freshening the skin and closing the pores
  • Exfoliating: Removing dead skin cells for brighter appearance of the skin
  • Moisturizing: Lubricating the skin and helping it feel fresh and flexible

Facial Massage

  • Effleurage: A light, continuously stroking movement that begins and ends massages
  • Petrissage: Kneading of the muscles, lifting and squeezing them
  • Tapotement: Tapping, slapping, or hacking movements with the edge of the hand
  • Vibration: Using your fingertips to rapidly shake a body part

Paramedical & medical procedures

  • Botox: Botulinum toxin, known by its product name Botox Cosmetic, is a bacterial neurotoxin that can erase facial lines
  • Dermal fillers: Collagen, both human and bovine, can be injected into the skin to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and lines
  • Sclerotherapy: Also known as vein therapy, sclerotherapy is an injected treatment for varicose and spider veins
  • Medical peels: Medical peels use stronger products than typical chemical peels to reduce the signs of aging or skin pigmentation

Esthetician tools and techniques

Having the right supplies can be important in both school and on the professional level. Students on their way to an esthetician license will typically have the following items in their supply kit:

  • Bowls
  • Cosmetics such as blush, foundation, eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss
  • Cotton swabs
  • Eye pads
  • Eyebrow shapers
  • Foam wedges
  • Sanitizer/disinfectant
  • Spa headband
  • Tweezers
  • Vinyl gloves

Professional estheticians also make sure that proper sanitation and safety techniques are followed for all available services. The state board could visit for inspection at any time, and code violations could endanger the cosmetology license status of individuals working in unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

How to get an esthetician license

Esthetician LicenseCandidates for an esthetician license usually have to take a multiple choice exam furnished by the state board of cosmetology. License-specific subject matter may vary, but the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors & Associations (NCEA) states many tests cover questions on skin care, sanitation and salon etiquette.

Esthetician license exams can also include a practical portion, which requires students to perform esthetics techniques on a live model or a mannequin. Typical exam procedures include facial treatment, waxing and makeup removal according to the ASCP.

The level of licensure necessary for any beauty profession is determined by state law. Students who are unsure about the details of how to get an esthetician license in their state can contact the state board of cosmetology for specific information.

Esthetician certifications, expos and trade shows

Advancements in the technologies available to professionals with a cosmetology license have created a need for advanced esthetician training. Candidates who complete 1,200 hours or more of training can test for the NCEA's certification to demonstrate their level of skill.

In addition, a European counterpart called Comité International d'Esthétique et de Cosmétologie (CIDESCO) has set educational standards for esthetician training on five continents. There are more than 200 CIDESCO schools around the world but only seven in the United States. Some call CIDESCO the esthetics industry's most prestigious qualification.

Trade shows and expositions can also help estheticians complement their cosmetology license with cutting-edge products and techniques. The International Congress of Esthetics and Spa is one such expo, with quarterly shows that take place in various cities around the country, and the similarly named International Esthetics, Cosmetics and Spa Conference (IECSC) puts on three shows a year.

Students interested in nearby or upcoming trade shows or expos can contact their local beauty school, cosmetology organization or esthetician training center.

Nail Technician Skills/Training

Cosmetology school students typically learn a variety of skills that apply to how to get a manicurist license. For example, they learn about the science behind the chemical reactions used in their trade as well as the art of applying, sculpting and decorating nails. Customers want to not only feel safe, they want personable manicurist who listens to their needs and preferences.


Basic acrylic nail application procedures include the following steps:

  • Push back the cuticles gently with an orangewood stick
  • Use a file to gently roughen the surface of the nail for better adhesion
  • Apply artificial tips to the end of the nail before adding the acrylic
  • Mix the monomer and polymer together in the prescribed quantities. These vary according to the brand of product used
  • Dip brush into the mixture and drop the small bead that forms on to the nail. It is not brushed on: the bead is allowed to spread naturally, to create a thicker foundation
  • Repeat the bead-dropping process until the entire nail has been covered
  • Add the catalyst to help the acrylic set faster

As taught in nail tech courses, part of a manicurist's duty is to advise clients on how to care for their acrylic nails. Nail tech students may also learn how to apply other types of artificial nails. Manicurists must also learn how to care for their equipment and keep their workstation and tools clean.


Nail Technician LicensingAfter graduating from a nail technician program in beauty school, you must take your state board written and practical exams in order to earn the cosmetology license in your trade. The written exam for the state boards in nail design is a multiple-choice test encompassing topics like sanitation, artificial nail application and nail polish design. Your instructors may provide you with practice tests, and there are a number of online resources where you can order them.

Depending on the state where you reside and plan to work as a nail technician, you perform the practical exam on either a live model or mannequin. Students are graded by a proctor, and he or she will evaluate based on techniques learned in school.


Conventions, expos and exhibitions present opportunities to train in the latest methods, observe cutting-edge practitioners demonstrate new styles and trends and to showcase talents for an audience of cosmetology professionals. Conventions that may interest manicurists include:

  • The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) Annual Convention & Expo
  • The Cosmetology Educators of America (CEA) Annual Convention
  • The International Salon and Spa Expo, offered in association with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA)

There may also be local or regional events providing training and other opportunities for networking and professional growth.

Hair Stylist Skills/Training

Cosmetology school is usually the way to go for prospective students wondering on the best way to get a hair stylist license. Cosmetology schools offer courses in haircutting that instruct students how to:

  • Section and distribute hair relative to the skull's bone structure
  • Section and distribute hair relative to its growth patterns
  • Properly use tapering scissors, shaping scissors, razors and electric clippers
  • Customize basic cutting patterns and styles according to each customer's hair type

In addition to haircutting, cosmetology school students may also learn styling techniques including perms and hair braiding. Perm training courses teach how rod sizes and types produce different styles of perm as well as various methods for rolling a perm. Hair braiding courses typically offer instruction in:

  • Cornrow designs
  • Interlocking
  • Pinch braids
  • Tree braids
  • Undetectable cornrow extensions


A haircut can be characterized according to four different features that define it and make it unique. Each cut has its own form, line, structure and texture. Courses that focus on haircuts and styles in beauty school will typically teach the following subjects:

  • Form is a function of the length, width and depth of the haircut. It represents the outer edges of each of these measurements.
  • Line is not a single characteristic of the hairstyle, but many. Lines can be straight or curved, may differ from one side of the head to the other and may come together to form angles.
  • Structure, also known as layering, describes the way the lengths are arranged across different curves of the head.
  • Texture is determined by your client's individual hair type, and by the micro-structure of the cut.

Cutting clients' hair in a controlled way can be easier when using the seven-section part. One of the basic lessons at hair academy, this procedure involves sectioning the hair into seven distinct areas before starting the cutting process.


Hair Stylist LicensingAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require hairdressers and cosmetologists to earn the appropriate cosmetology license. In order to qualify for a license, a student has to graduate from a state-approved cosmetology program and take a state licensing exam. The exam includes a written test and may also include a practical test of styling skills or an oral exam. Be aware that state licenses do not always transfer to other states, so if a practitioner plan on relocating, it is important to meet the requirements in their new state.

A hair braider, as defined by state licensing entities like Illinois' Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, is a beautician who only offers hair braiding services and does not cut, color, or otherwise style hair. For hair braiders, licensing and regulations vary considerably by state.


Conventions, expos and exhibitions present opportunities to train in the latest methods and observe cutting-edge practitioners demonstrate new styles and trends. Organizations hosting events that may interest hair stylists include:

  • The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS)
  • The Cosmetology Educators of America (CEA)
  • The Professional Beauty Association (PBA)

There may also be local or regional events providing training and other opportunities for networking and professional growth.


"Professional Beauty Association," Professional Beauty Association, August 28, 2014, http://www.probeauty.org/

"CIDESCO - The International Link to the World of Beauty and Spa Therapy," CIDESCO, September 16, 2014, http://www.cidesco.com/

"American Association of Cosmetology Schools," American Association of Cosmetology Schools, August 28, 2014, http://beautyschools.org/

"Barbers, Hairdressers, and Cosmetologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/barbers-hairdressers-and-cosmetologists.htm#tab-1

"California Barber Practical Examination: Candidate Information Bulletin," California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, March 3, 2008, http://www.barbercosmo.ca.gov/applicants/nic_barber.pdf

"International Beauty Show Las Vegas," IBS Las Vegas, September 15, 2014, http://www.ibslasvegas.com/

"Texas Hair Shows," The Texas International Hair and Trade Show, September 15, 2014, http://www.texashairshows.com/

"State of Illionois: Department of Financial and Professional Regulation," Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, September 17, 2014, http://www.idfpr.com/PROFS/Info/HairB.asp

"Esthetician's Guide to Client Safety and Wellness," Judith Culp, Toni Campbell, 2013, http://books.google.com/books?id=WcYJAAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA4&ots=mJ1Zi8ggkX&dq=esthetician%20tools%20guide&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q=esthetician%20tools%20guide&f=false

Get more information on Cosmetology today…