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Do your friends compliment you on your beauty savvy and knowledge of skincare? Do you find yourself doing their hair and makeup before a big date? If you enjoy doing hair and makeup and have a knack for the work, why not make a career out of it?

You can begin by earning your diploma in cosmetology. There are countless schools that offer vocational programs in cosmetology, providing an education in such areas as hair styling, makeup, manicures, pedicures, and skin care. If attending school doesn't fit into your busy schedule, online certification and degree programs may qualify you for a state license or give you the necessary education to take your state's licensing exam.

Cosmetology Career Training

All states require a license to work as a cosmetologist, whether as a hairdresser, nail technician, or skin care specialist (some states issue barber's licenses for all hairdressing professionals and cosmetology licenses for nail or skin care, though others lump all specialties under cosmetology). The exception is for shampooers and makeup artists who don't do skin care treatments. The licensing requirements vary, but generally you need to have a high school equivalency diploma, be at least 16 years old, and graduate from a beauty, barber or cosmetology school. After graduation, you must then pass your state's cosmetology licensing exam.

Generally you pass separate exams to be licensed in hairdressing, nail care, and skin care. Some cosmetology schools also offer a business-based associate degree program which provides the know-how for students who want to open their own salons. Once licensed, you may have employment opportunities in salons, either as an employee, owner, or by leasing space from a salon owner. You may also seek employment in residential hospitals, resorts and spas, retail stores, and in the entertainment industry -- with theater companies or behind the scenes on TV and movie sets. For those who prefer to work in a less social atmosphere, there is a demand for cosmetologists in the mortuary business.

Career Success in Cosmetology

A career in beauty or cosmetology is likely to remain popular as long as Americans continue to value personal appearance and skin, body, and hair care (in other words, forever). In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in the beauty industry will remain in high demand throughout the next decade -- an almost 10 percent job growth rate is projected for 2014-24. The mean annual wage for cosmetologists was $28,770 in 2015.

As with most industries, the more versatile your education, the more desirable you'll be to employers (and the more money you'll make). A distance learning program offers a range of courses in theory, technique and salon skills to best prepare you for the beauty workforce, and may qualify you to take your state's licensing exam. It may also be the first step towards career independence, as 46 percent of cosmetologists are self-employed.


  • Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central,
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