The personal care and cosmetology industry encompasses a number of specialties, including skin care, nail care and hairstyling. Hairstylists typically work in pleasant, well-decorated environments in salons, spas, upscale hotels and barbershops. Some hairstylists work part time or full time, while others rent space in a salon. Experienced hairstylists can advance by opening their own business. As licensed professionals, hairstylists learn their skills through state-approved educational programs.
The two basic paths to a career as a hairstylist are barbering or cosmetology school. Programs typically last at least nine months full time, and associate degrees are also available. Graduates must pass practical and written exams for state licensing. In some states, barbering and cosmetology are completely separate tracks, while in others, either training qualifies you for either licensing exam. The states also vary in the scope of practice allowed for each license, but typically only barbers offer a shave to their clients.
Knowledge and Skills
Hairstylists need to understand the different types of hair and which styles look best with various facial types. They also need up-to-date knowledge about hair fashions. They must have skills in using various tools for hair cutting and styling. Hairstylists need an understanding of the different hair products and chemicals and the ability to apply them safely and effectively. Manual dexterity along with good eyesight, communication and customer service skills are also essential for the job.
A hairstylist typically shampoos, conditions and dries hair, sometimes also massaging the scalp and applying scalp treatments. Sometimes, particularly at more upscale salons, an assistant will perform these duties. Depending on customer preferences and the particular style, she may use rollers, a blow dryer, combs, brushes, clips and gels to set, arrange and style the hair. She may straighten or curl the hair using hot irons or hot combs. She may give permanent waves or apply bleach, color and highlights. In some cases, the job of hairstylist also includes washing, cutting and styling hairpieces, extensions and wigs.
Hairdressers must keep their work areas neat and clean and sterilize their tools. They make appointments with clients, keep records of chemicals used and receive payments. They make recommendations for home care and sell hair products for additional income. Hairdressers who own their own shop must also advertise, order supplies and keep records for taxes. As business owners, they may hire and manage other hairstylists and support staff, such as receptionists.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that positions for hairdressers, barbers and cosmetologists combined will increase 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared with11 percent for all jobs. Barbers alone will experience an 11 percent increase. Although competition will be keen for spots in the highest-paying salons, overall job prospects will be favorable. The BLS expects Americans to continue purchasing advanced professional hairstyling services, such as coloring and straightening.