How Much Does a Beautician Make

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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Helping Others Look Their Best Starts With Great Hair

You’ve never met a head of hair you didn’t want to restyle just to see how it would look. Your own hair has been colored red, blue, green, black and platinum in bobs, ringlets, angled cuts and gelled masterpieces. Friends always ask you to cut their hair, not just trim it, but to do something fun with it. And while you’re at it, how do you make eyes look smoky but still flecked with light? Clearly, you have a knack for hair and makeup. Consider putting your talents to work as a beautician or, as the career is more commonly called today, a cosmetologist or hairstylist.

Job Description

Your grandma went to the same beauty shop for years, sat in her favorite beautician’s chair and had her hair done in the style she loved. Even though the word “beautician” means someone who provides hairstyling, perms, makeup, nails and other cosmetic services, she was pretty much just known for hair. Today, cosmetologists perform all these services, and “beautician” is an old-fashioned term. Gone too is the “beauty shop” as women now go to salons or day spas for these treatments.

Hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists consult with customers about their hair and scalp problems and the style they’re looking for before it’s washed. They discuss options that will work well with the customer’s hair type and face shape and recommended treatments such as dandruff remedies and moisturizing products. After the shampoo and comb-out, hair is cut; styling products may be added; and hair is blown dry. Stylists may use tools like curling irons or straighteners, depending on the style desired. These professionals are also called upon to perm or dye hair, alter hair texture, or use special techniques and materials for foils, frosts, highlights and other services.

Barbers work primarily on male hair, while stylists may cut both women’s and men’s hair. Cosmetologists also advise customers, mostly females, but males too, about their scalp and skin. They analyze skin, make recommendations on treatments and products, and provide makeup advice and application. Like barbers, cosmetologists may wash and style hairpieces and wigs for customers.

Education Requirements

All states require those who want to be hairstylists, barbers or cosmetologists to be licensed. Requirements for licensing vary by state, but usually include:

  • Minimum age of 16
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Graduate from a cosmetology or barber school that is licensed by the state
  • Take and pass a licensing test that includes a written exam and possibly an oral test or even a demonstration of hairstyling and cutting techniques

Cosmetology and barber schools may be offered at local vocational schools or community colleges, and some are stand-alone schools. Programs can typically be completed in one year or less.

A fee is required to apply for a license as well as to renew it at required intervals. To renew the license, many states require that applicants take continuing education courses. Most hairstylists, cosmetologists and barbers take these courses just to keep up on the latest trends.

Be sure to check the licensing requirements in the state in which you want to work. Some states have agreements with other states to accept their licenses, so applicants don’t have to test all over again. Some states will accept cosmetology training for a barber’s license and barber training for a cosmetology license, and some states combine the two into the same license.

The median salary for barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists was $24,300 in May 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A median is the midpoint of listed salaries, meaning half of those surveyed were paid more, and half were paid less. Most worked full-time, but part-time schedules are also available and can be a good option for working mothers who want to have more time with their families. Expect to earn less when you start out, about $23,000 according to Modest increases can occur through the years, with those having 20 or more years of experience earning $30,000 or more.


Most hairstylists, cosmetologists and barbers work in salons or barber shops, although sometimes, these salons and shops are part of a hotel, spa or resort. Regardless of location, some are employees of the salon or shop, while others lease space in the salon or shop and are considered self-employed. Some also go on to open their own salons and barber shops.

The job requires good people skills, stamina and the ability to stand nearly all day while working with customers. However, environments are usually well-lit and pleasant.

Years of Experience

New grads are not required to have experience to find employment. Expect to earn a salary that’s at the lower end of the scale until you prove your abilities and satisfied customers request you the next time they come in. Experience helps if you want to work at a big-name, prestige salon, however. Clients who pay top dollar for their cut and style, facial or other services expect top-of-the-line results. After several years of working, you’ll also have a “clientele” or following.

Job Growth Trend

The demand for hairstylists and cosmetologists is expected to grow about 11 percent from 2016 to 2026. That’s faster than the average growth for jobs overall. Growth will be due to both the population increase and the increased demand for more advanced services like coloring, straightening and trending hairstyles. For barbers, demand is expected to increase by about 9 percent, mostly due to population increases.

If you have the creativity, enthusiasm and patience for a career that helps people improve their appearance, jobs will be available as older workers retire or leave the industry. Competition will be intense, though, with the highest-paying jobs going to those with the top skills, so keep your skills sharp along with your scissors.