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What is a Cosmetologist

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Earn an Income Helping Others Feel Beautiful

If you're artistic and nurturing and love to help people feel beautiful, a career in cosmetology could be right up your alley. You will spend your days caring for hair, skin and nails. Your personal creative touch helps clients feel their best, while a listening ear and natural conversational abilities make them feel welcome and cared for during the process. Flexible hours and work settings make cosmetology a natural choice when raising young children. Opportunities and demand are up in the field, making it easier to find steady work than in many other careers.

Job Description

Cosmetologists care for clients and make them feel valued as they tend to their hair, skin or nails. Those who focus on hair care often wash, cut and style hair. They may also provide color treatments, straighten hair, curl hair or apply texturizers, and style extensions or wigs. Some cosmetologists provide facial and other skin treatments, while others give pedicures and manicures. Time management is an essential skill necessary for serving clients in a timely manner and staying on schedule. Cleaning tools and work areas is a key responsibility in between clients, as well as at the start and end of each business day. Cosmetologists typically work on their feet all day, though reasonable modifications can be provided for those with physical limitations.

Education Requirements

Cosmetologists must obtain a high school diploma or the equivalent and then attend a specially licensed cosmetology school. School only takes about a year, so this is a wonderful career for someone who does not want to spend many years in training before they begin to earn an income.

All 50 states require cosmetologists to retain licensure to serve clients. To secure the license, a candidate must be at least 16, graduate from a licensed program and pass a specialized exam. A small fee is normally required for the license, and sometimes, to retain it, cosmetologists are required to obtain continuing education credits.

Cosmetologists earn a median annual salary of $24,300 per year, which averages to $11.68 per hour. This means that half of all cosmetologists earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The lowest 10 percent earn $8.62 per hour, while the highest 10 percent bring home more than $23.58 per hour.

Industry Trends

Just over half of all cosmetologists work in salons or other beauty services businesses. Salon hours may include evenings and weekends, but this inconvenience sometimes comes with the perk of having full benefits and retirement planning. Roughly 43 percent of cosmetologists are self-employed, which provides greater flexibility in hours and is ideal for those raising small children. However, it does not come with the insurance and benefits of working for a salon. Another small percentage of cosmetologists work in department stores that offer makeup and hair services.

Years of Experience

Cosmetologists can expect to see hourly wages gradually increase over time and with experience. Income may also vary by employer and the type of salon a professional is working in. Early in your career, expect to make $7.59 to $13.44 per hour and $7.82 to $17.01 with a few years of experience under your belt. Tips may also influence hourly wages, and very experienced cosmetologists who teach in cosmetology schools earn a median amount of $34,544 per year, which is a good salary when you are supporting your family.

Job Growth Trend

Cosmetology is a booming industry that is expected to grow more than 10 percent in the next decade. Work should be fairly easy to secure, but jobs at higher end salons remain competitive. To break into the better-paying markets, select a reputable cosmetology school and look for programs for new stylists at top salons. You will start out earning less money, but you'll receive cutting-edge mentoring that puts you ahead of the curve later on and helps you establish a higher end clientele.


Anne Kinsey is an entrepreneur and business pioneer, who has ranked in the top 1% of the direct sales industry, growing a large team and earning the title of Senior Team Manager during her time with Jamberry. She is the nonprofit founder and executive director of Love Powered Life, as well as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and freelance writer who has written for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bizfluent, the Houston Chronicle and Our Everyday Life. Anne works from her home office in rural North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three children.

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