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What Is the Typical Career Path for a Cosmetologist?

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Licensed cosmetologists provide services to their clients that help them look and feel their best, according to The High School Graduate. This usually involves working with clients’ hair, skin and nails. Health and wellness consultations may also be part of a cosmetologist’s job. A cosmetology degree and license are required for cosmetologists to practice in the United States.


A high school diploma is required to apply for a cosmetology license in some states, according to A GED is acceptable for a cosmetology license application in other states. A student with neither a diploma nor GED may be accepted into cosmetology school, if taking classes to obtain a diploma. The cosmetology school or state board of cosmetology can verify the state's high school requirements.

Cosmetology School

Completing all necessary cosmetology courses can take between six months and two years, according to The High School Graduate. Courses are offered in many public and private high schools, as well as community colleges and technical schools. Tuition costs vary from school to school. Required courses include anatomy, physiology, chemistry and infection control. Business-related courses are also part of the curriculum. Additional training may include hair styling techniques, hair color, scalp treatments and makeup application. Classes in manicuring and pedicuring may also be offered.


Every practicing cosmetologist must be state licensed, according to The High School Graduate. Passing an age requirement and medical exam are often requirements, in addition to successful completion of cosmetology school. Candidates must pass a state board examination; also, the state will require completion of a certain number of hours of practice.

Early Career

Most newly-licensed cosmetologists start out in entry-level positions at salons or spas, according to The High School Graduate. They may begin with simple tasks, such as washing hair, but responsibilities will increase with time and hard work.


A cosmetology license can open opportunities in many careers, according to The High School Graduate. Licensed cosmetologists can become nail technicians or makeup artists, in addition to hair styling. A career in the entertainment industry is possible, or on the business side of the cosmetology industry.


Nearly 1.3 million professional cosmetologists were employed in 296,563 barber shops, beauty salons, and skin and nail salons in the U.S. as of January 1999, according to The High School Graduate. They generally employ two or three professionals, and have five workstations. Their owners report an average of 174 clients per week.


Mike McQuillian began writing professionally for the Internet in 2005. He is an associate editor for YabYum Music, a local music Web site focusing on Arizona bands. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Arizona State University in 2005.

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