Private Beauty Schools vs Public: Which Is Best For You?

private or public school

Choosing the best beauty school for you will depend on several different factors. The easiest way to narrow down your options is to ask yourself these key questions:

Questions You Need To Ask Yourself

What’s my budget?

The cost of private and public cosmetology programs can differ dramatically. Be realistic about these costs, evaluate the quality and reputation of the programs beforehand to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, and find schools that offer financial aid (payment plans, loans, scholarships, etc.) if you need it.

Do I plan to specialize?

Many people entering this field have very specific goals in mind. Some focus on one discipline, which can quicken the learning pace and help you achieve levels of mastery faster.

Others prefer a more diverse and well-rounded curriculum to increase their utility and qualifications in the job market. If you plan to specialize, programs and often entire schools are dedicated to certain specialties.

What is my schedule?

For many prospective students, finding a school that works with their schedule is extremely important. That’s why many cosmetology schools offer night and weekend classes. Whatever your other commitments might be (work, school, family, etc.), you’ll need to find a school that offers classes at the times you have available so you can determine your own pace and stay within your budget. Often hybrid beauty schools can help with scheduling.

Check what schools are close to you by entering your ZIP below:

Different Types of Cosmetology Licenses

Licensing requirements for different cosmetology specialties vary by state but can include separate licenses for hair stylists, electrologists, manicurists/pedicurists, and estheticians (skin care). Depending on your location, each license can require different amounts of schooling and/or apprenticeship.

Different Cosmetology Fields

An extensive background in cosmetology can lead to employment in an amazing variety of fields. So there are the obvious careers as hair stylists, barbers, waxing specialists, electrolysis, makeup artists, manicurists, pedicurists, skin care, and so on.

But the more you learn and apply your skills, the more qualified you are to become an overall stylist in fields like fashion, advertising, film/theater, marketing, and photography.

You can even hone your personal expertise, vision, and style into a brand and start your own salon or spa, become an artistic director for other salons/brands/projects, develop products used in cosmetology fields, become a teacher yourself, or any combination of the above.

Differences Between Hair Stylists and Cosmetologists

While both hair stylists and cosmetologists can wash, cut, color, and style hair, cosmetologists are more versatile because they offer additional services like manicures and pedicures, makeup and makeovers, wigs and wig-styling, skin care, hair removal, eyebrow shaping and more.

So if you’re looking for a cut and color, a hair stylist will suit your needs. If you need additional services for a more complimentary, head-to-toe result, a cosmetologist is right for you.

Average Cost of Beauty School Tuition

Generally speaking, beauty school costs about $15,000. When choosing between schools, you’ll likely find accredited programs that range from $10,000 to $18,000. You’ll want to thoroughly research these schools because sometimes you get what you pay for, and other times you might be paying more for less.

Be sure to ask about additional costs like “kit fees,” which are starter kits of supplies and tools required to participate in the program. Some schools will allow you to supply your own, and others may require you purchase their kits, which can range from $500 to $2,500, depending on the contents and quality.

Also, keep in mind that a full cosmetology program often only requires a year to complete, whereas vocational and tech schools often take two or more, and college can be 4+ years. So the total cost to get your license at a private school may seem greater at first glance but actually be cheaper than a public school overall.

Cosmetology School Interview Questions

The questions they’ll ask you will mostly be about your background and any experience you might have.

Some will evaluate your philosophy and motivations, so give some real thought to why you’re pursuing this and what your goals mean to you.

Some interviewers will test your perspective and confidence — “Who is in charge, you or the client?” — to make sure you have your head on straight. (You are in charge, by the way. At its core, cosmetology is about what you will or won’t do for the person trusting you.)

The questions you should ask the school representatives while you’re interviewing and evaluating the program are:

  • Why this school? Don’t be afraid to ask them what they think of other schools in the area, too, but they should definitely be able to speak at length about the benefits of their program and results.
  • How do we practice? Mannequins or real people? If it’s mannequins, ask to see some and be mindful of the quality and maintenance. If it’s actual people, who are they? How you study is just as important as what you study.
  • Do they have financial aid? This is important to most applicants, and you should fully understand how the interest rates, payment schedules, and penalties work before making a decision.
  • Do they offer references from recent graduates? This can be a great resource, so you can ask all the same questions and more from people that actually went to school there.

Do they take an active interest in your future employment? How willing are they to stand behind their graduates? Is the school and/or its faculty willing to provide references for skilled students? Have they ultimately hired any of their own graduates?

Requirements to Get Into Cosmetology School

A high school diploma or GED is required for cosmetology school in most states. You’ll also have to be at least 16 years of age. Some states have vocational technology classes in high school that allow you to get a head start on a career in cosmetology.

In Which State Should I Attend Beauty School?

There’s really no reason to relocate or travel to another state to attend beauty school. While certain schools can be considered more prestigious than others, that is rarely determined by location.

Most states have very agreeable rules allowing for the transfer of school credit and licenses in cosmetology, so even if you study in Montana and end up wanting to work in Georgia, it’s ultimately just a matter of paperwork.

The location of your school is far less important than your thorough evaluation of their programs and reputation and how comfortable and excited you are to study there.

Pursuing a career in cosmetology is no different than any other field.

The more realistic, pragmatic, informed, and prepared you are to make the decision to enroll, the better your learning experience will be.

Every student is different. Many enter beauty school with a lot of knowledge and ability and others are armed only with their passion for the field.

The bottom line is that if you take the time to learn everything you can about the schools available, you will absolutely find the one that’s right for you, whether it is public or private.