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Cosmetology covers a variety of related occupations involving attention to general beauty and beauty products. Those who choose among the many cosmetology schools may also choose to study a particular discipline, such as hairdressing, nail care, or makeup and skin care.
The time expected to obtain each certification varies depending on many factors. However, those considering a career in beauty should gain an understanding of the profession and the path to getting a job within the field — that’s what this page is all about!
On this page:
• U.S. and Canada School Listings
• What Are The Requirements To Study Cosmetology?
• What Are The Different Types of Places to Study?
• How Much Does School Cost?
• Best Schools for Your Cosmetology Training
• Cosmetology Scholarships and Financial Aid
• Beauty Careers
• Cosmetologist Salary
See What Schools Are Available in Your State
Beauty Colleges & Schools State Listings
Where can I study Cosmetology? Are Schools and Colleges the Same Thing?
No matter what they are called, these schools are a place for those who want to work in the beauty field to learn how to perform a variety of services. Salon schools offer both classroom instruction and an opportunity to have hands-on experience with the topics students learn in their lessons. Participants in training study in the following areas:
- Hair care and cutting
- Makeup application
- Nail care
Graduates often choose an area in which to specialize. For example, a student may want to become a hairdresser, so she may take several more hours of hair care courses to become licensed. Similarly, many students will further delve into makeup in order to improve their airbrush technique if the particular school offers it. Other students may want to keep their experience general, obtaining a general cosmetology degree. This may be helpful for those who wish to open their own salon and offer a wide range of services. One discipline that isn’t touched upon in most beautician training is massage; for that, it is necessary to go to a massage therapy school.
Most areas have their own places to train as a cosmetologist. However, some students find it difficult to manage in-person classes into their busy schedules. For those students doing night classes or studying at an online school may be the best option. Students who go with online schooling may have to mail in assignments for their instructors to grade and will need to do some in-school coursework.
Regardless of the type of training a student chooses, the courses serve as preparation for both the licensing process and the student’s future career in the beauty industry.
The Requirements and Preparation Needed To Study To Be a Cosmetologist
Some colleges have specific requirements that relate to their program, but most adhere to similar regulations. Therefore, before you enroll in a particular program, you should make sure you understand the requirements of the school you have chosen. Several factors go into making such a big decision, and there is more to the process than simply asking, “What are the schools near me?”
Age – Some institutions have an age requirement for their students. Many require students to be at least 16 years old, while others want their students to be older. High schools, on the other hand, may have an upper age limit because the courses are intended for those still in high school. The school should have this information listed within the application paperwork. In addition, prospective students should ask about age restrictions if they are still a minor to be on the safe side.
Educational Requirements – In most cases, a high school diploma or a GED is required to enroll. Schools may sometimes allow students to take classes while still in high school. In addition, some schools do not have any requirements for prior education. This information should also be available within the application paperwork. If students are unsure about requirements, they can contact either the state board or the school itself to determine their next course of action.
Cost – The fees for attending schools for a cosmetology certificate can range from as low as $1,000 to $2,000 or as high as $30,000 and up. Besides tuition and fees, students can expect to purchase textbooks and supplies to participate in their classes. Students may also need to factor living expenses into the total amount of money needed, particularly if they intend to attend classes full-time. Online study greatly reduces these fees, but at least part of your training must be done in person. Financial aid may be available from various sources to help offset online or other school costs.
Length of Study – The amount of time it takes students to achieve a certificate varies. It depends on the school they choose and the discipline they choose to specialize in. Other factors — such as licensing requirements from the state board — can also dictate how long the course of study may take. As a result, the length of study can be as low as a year or as long as two to three years.
Licensing – Individual academies do not provide licensing for their students. The individual state boards of cosmetology instead accredit them because their curricula match the requirements set forth by the board. Students must pass licensing exams to obtain a license to operate in their location. Some academies offer practice exams for students to try before taking the official licensing exam. However, if this is unavailable, students can locate practice exams via the internet. Sometimes the state board itself offers practice exams.
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What Are the Different Types of Cosmetology Schools?
Beauty is a field that offers students a wide range of ways to obtain their education. While some fields require a degree in their course of study, beauticians must follow the licensing requirements set by the state board.
Students may choose from online courses, high school classes, or even full degree programs. These choices depend largely on the individual circumstances and desires of every student.
Online Schools – Online classes offer a big advantage for students who cannot attend school in person. Students can complete their coursework where they live via video and testing or correspondence courses. However, it is important to realize that only part of your credits will be available via online training. Most classes will still need to be done in person; the nature of the training is that hands-on experience will be necessary.
Some schools require students to learn at a set pace. Others allow students to work at their own pace. It would help if you made sure that the classes for any courses meet the requirements of the state regulators before committing to a course of study. Again, it is important to know that in almost all cases, some in-school training will be required. Often night cosmetology classes can be taken if you can’t do day times.
High Schools – Some students know at an early age that they want to pursue a career in the beauty industry. Those students can often take technical center training offered by their school district.
Students should ask their guidance counselor or school district representative if such a program is available in their area. If such a program is unavailable, some high schools can offer credit for online courses. Again, students should make sure that this is available through their district before getting too far in planning. High schools can provide the perfect fit for budding cosmetologists. It’s also possible to train after hours at night school.
College vs. School – A common question for those wanting to study the beauty arts is the difference between studying at a college versus a school. The short answer to this dilemma is that schools often only offer certification rather than a degree. However, local beauty or technical colleges frequently offer an Associate’s degree in cosmetology.
For some students — especially those who wish to continue their education and receive a Bachelor’s degree in a related field — getting an Associate’s degree can help that goal along. For those who simply want the certification, hours, and salon experience needed to take the licensing exam, an actual degree may not be as important a factor.
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The Best Schools
When students decide to study beauty, they want to attend the best school they can afford. Some schools only offer training to local students. Others have distance learning programs that allow students from all over to attend. It pays to research more than one place before committing to a course of study.
Choosing the top or best school to study is a personal matter — relying on school reviews from outside sources can be a good start, but it can’t replace visiting the school to check it out.
What may be an excellent fit for one student can be not so good for another. For example, one person may prefer a school with small class sizes founded and run by locally born, raised, and trained professionals. Another might prefer a school with many branches in different states and partly rely upon a school’s good reviews.
No matter what schools you’re interested in, checking them out before you give them the chance to examine you is essential! Again, what may be the best academy or college for someone else may not be the best for you; it is important to do your own research.
Many schools offer prospective students the chance to visit and take a tour — this is highly recommended! If you visit a school and talk to everyone there, you will get a good feel for the school. Some questions you might ask yourself are:
- Do people seem engaged and happy?
- When you speak to instructors, do they seem passionate about their work?
- Are the students enthusiastic about what they are learning?
- Are there night classes or part-time programs?
Some of these questions are hard to answer without an actual school tour. The “feel” of a school is one of the most important considerations when you are searching for your own personal top place to study.
Note: Recently, beauty school chains Marinello and Regency closed doors permanently. Marinello closed during the middle of their term, leaving thousands of students with a big hiccup in their training. Unfortunately, federal authorities alleged the school’s allocation of students’ financial aid was questionable. In Regency’s case, they voluntarily closed due to financial problems, and all their students suddenly had their classes stopped. Moral of the story? Even the apparently best schools can’t 100% guarantee you anything.
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How Much Does It Cost To Get Training?
Much of the financial end of attending classes depends on the type of school the student wishes to attend and the course of study. When students ask, “How much does school cost?” they may not know what to include within that total. Tuition is just the beginning of the school cost, with other variables being more under the student’s control.
Cosmetology Tuition – Depending on the school, students may face a lump-sum tuition bill, or they may be able to pay by the course or semester. Attending a smaller community college is less expensive than attending a larger school with a big reputation. Some schools offer scholarships or financial aid, but there are other options as well. If a student is employed already, it is a good idea to see if her current employer offers tuition reimbursement, just on the chance that she can take advantage of that benefit. School Supplies – One factor many students overlook when investigating the question “How much does it cost to train?” is the additional supplies needed for practical application.
Some schools offer kits to their students as part of the tuition. Others offer supply kits for individual purchase. Still, other places provide a list of necessary materials and allow students to purchase those items independently.
Regardless, hairstyling and makeup skills do require practice, and the cost of supplies at school can add up quickly. Many supply stores offer discounted rates to students, so it pays to ask about that option.
Textbooks – Brick and mortar colleges may require students to purchase specific books. Not all schools require this, but it is something for students to consider. Online schools may only necessitate reading the school’s materials and watching video courses, but textbooks are handy for reference later. Textbook pricing ranges from cheap manuals to larger books that can cost a lot.
Licensing – Each state regulator in the U.S. charges a fee to take the licensing exam. Usually, there’s an additional fee for the license itself. Unfortunately, financial aid often doesn’t cover these charges, so students must pay these on their own.
Some states also charge fees for renewing licenses. Students may also be required to provide proof of continuing education hours. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a license can range up to several hundred dollars.
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Cosmetology Scholarships and Financial Aid
Paying for any education is expensive. However, students who cannot pay for the school of their choice all at once have more options available than they may think. Students should check into options available through the school itself, professional organizations, and state and federal options. All may help to reduce some or all costs.
Loans – The downside to loans as a means of financial aid is that they must be repaid after a certain amount of time. Often a loan is paid directly to the school rather than the student, and there may be conditions about how the funds can be used.
Students may be able to secure a loan through various organizations. For example, they may be able to take out a personal loan through a bank, which may get them better repayment terms.
Scholarships and Grants – Scholarships are more common than students may believe. Professional beauty organizations are a good place to start — a web search will find you many. Students must apply for these scholarships, and the application requirements vary according to the organization and the specific scholarship. Grants, which work similarly to scholarships, may also be available. The ACE Grant, or the Access to Cosmetology Education Grant, is just one of these grants. Students must repay neither scholarships nor grants. This makes them an attractive method of financing.
Individual academies may also offer scholarships or grants to students. These can be based on merit, financial need, or other factors. An application for a specific scholarship or grant is required, and students may need to submit several applications for each available option. In addition, beauty students who want to attend a specific school should contact the school directly to inquire about financial aid offerings. Often, students miss out on these aid packages because they are unaware they exist.
Federal Financial Aid – Many students are aware of federal financial aid for traditional colleges and universities. Few know that these methods can also help them pay for cosmetology certification. Grants such as the Pell Grant cover tuition and books based on eligibility requirements.
Students must fill out a FAFSA form or a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive federal financial aid. Much of the federal financial aid granted to students is based on financial need; applicants will need to provide financial information along with the form to determine if they qualify.
State Financial Aid – Some states may also offer financial aid to students hoping to study in hair and makeup-related fields. This works in much the same way as federal financial aid, and students may be required to submit a FAFSA simply because the states are familiar with this federal form.
State financial aid is often lower than federal amounts but is typically also based on financial need. Students who do not qualify for state financial aid may be referred to specific state grants that can help them to defray the costs of schooling.
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The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers in cosmetology overall will grow by approximately 13 percent by the year 2022. However, individual disciplines show different degrees of growth. Examples include:
- Hair stylists and hairdressers increasing by 12 percent.
- Makeup artists increasing by 40 percent.
- Estheticians increasing by 34 percent.
- Nail technicians increasing by 28 percent.
This growth is mainly due to the fact that consumers are willing to pay specialists in skin care, hair care, and nail care for their skills. These services are a way for consumers to pamper themselves and relieve stress. The fact that estimates show growth in these areas rather than loss means that those with any beauty license may be able to provide quite well for themselves once their business is established.
Fields of Specialty – Those choosing the field of cosmetology are educated in a wide range of skill sets. Those who choose to specialize undergo more intense training to develop specific skills in hair, skin, or nail care. Those who choose not to specialize may prefer to manage a salon or own their own. Specialty career options can include:
- Hairdressers and stylists
- Nail technicians and manicurists
- Electrolysis experts
- Makeup artists
|Hair Dressers||Barbers||Nail Technicians||Estheticians||Theatrical Makeup Artists|
Salaries vary depending on factors such as location, specialty, and experience. Many people who work in salons also receive tips, which are counted separately from their regular average wage. Other variations in yearly salaries can trace back to variables such as employer bonus structures and whether the beautician is an employee or an independent contractor. The chart details some information about hourly salaries from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those wishing to start a career in beauty can expect their hourly wages to increase as they gain experience and clientele. The location also has quite a bit to do with expected salary ranges. Those in smaller or more rural areas may not be able to command the same rates as their sisters in big cities.
Growing the client base is a consistent goal across all the specialties — whether makeup, nail, hair styling, or esthetics — since this is one way to increase the pay rate. Other methods of making more can include working for employers who offer commission-based salaries and starting your own business.
Overall, the field of cosmetology, and its related professions, can provide a good income. The key is to choose good schooling and to continue learning and growing in the field. The industry is constantly evolving and changing in terms of styles and trends. Those who prefer can even turn their beginning success with their career into even more advanced jobs, such as training new cosmetologists or owning their own salons. The possibilities are endless, and the career options opened up by becoming a licensed professional continue to grow year after year. It all starts with a good education.