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Cosmetologist Salary and Benefits

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How much does a Cosmetologist make in the United States?

The average cosmetologist salary is $29,680 per year. In New York, the average annual salary rises to $40,000 and the 550 current District of Columbia cosmetologists have an average salary of $72,530, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls).

If you are considering working as a cosmetologist, you might be wondering about a cosmetologist’s salary and benefits. Being a cosmetologist requires great people skills, creativity, and an excellent sense of what looks good. Many workers in this field rent booth space and are self-employed, which can mean they receive few or no benefits. Though salaries for cosmetologists range widely based upon experience, geographical location and services offered, you should have a general idea of what you could expect to earn if you were to enter the workforce in this role.

Job Description

Certain skills are essential with cosmetologist jobs. For starters, someone in this field should exhibit good grooming habits. It’s important to show your customers that you take pride in your appearance and know how to make yourself look presentable. After all, clients likely won’t trust that you know how to make them look good if you can’t take the time to do so yourself.

Example Job Description

Going along with your professional image is a need to have a personal sense of style, as well as to know what will look good on your customers. Some clients may not know what they’re looking for, but if you can recommend a style, cut or color to them that they end up loving, you could win their loyalty.

A great sense for colors, styles and aesthetics will go a long way in the field. Being creative is also a key component of this career. The better you are at thinking outside the box, the more success you are likely to enjoy in your role.

Cosmetologists must be highly adept at adapting to changing technologies, techniques and trends. Everything in the beauty industry, from highlights to foils to ombre, is frequently changing. Knowing what’s popular and how to pull off a variety of looks is essential.

Also, you must be familiar with and stay on top of standards for health and safety in the beauty industry, which are important, both for protecting your clients and for safeguarding your reputation and liability.

Creating a welcoming and friendly atmosphere at work is a key piece of being successful as a stylist. Your customers come to you to feel good about themselves, so offering excellent customer service is an absolute must.

You should be skilled at making clients feel happy, confident and their beauty needs fully understood. Also, you should strive to be a good conversationalist as well as an excellent listener.

As you get to know repeat clients, you will be spending an hour every six weeks or more speaking with them. You should try to remember key facts about their lives and encourage an open and friendly line of discourse.

Education Requirements

It may be necessary to undergo training to become a cosmetologist. In some states, it is required that you obtain an education from a licensed cosmetology program before you are eligible to practice. A typical training program of this nature will provide supervised, hands-on experience and may last about a year.

Some salons might require that you have a certificate or associate's degree to work with them, or be a licensed cosmetologist. You will likely at least need a high school diploma or GED to work as a cosmetologist. In all states, you will need a license.

Most states have a Cosmetology Licensing Board, so check with yours before you finalize your educational plans to ensure you will be eligible to work once you have finished with your educational program at beauty schools.

Cosmetology schools provide many courses you might take that involve instruction in hair, skincare and nails, as well as providing information about running a small business, sanitation and customer service. You'll learn how to provide different cosmetology services like nail treatments, strategies for cutting and styling hair, and the best ways to apply makeup in order to receive a cosmetology license.


Being a cosmetologist is a physical job. You will be on your feet for most of the day, moving constantly and required to maintain high-energy levels throughout. Taking care of yourself so that you can remain friendly and alert is a must. Also, great hand-eye coordination and dexterity is a vital component of the activity you’ll engage in on a daily basis. Applying makeup and haircuts require finesse and concentration.

Due to the skills acquired as a cosmetologist, many workers in this field go on to satisfying careers as administrative assistants, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, medical assistants or cosmetology instructors.

Because of the structure of many salons, it can be difficult to find a position that includes cosmetologist benefits. According to reported data, only 20 percent of cosmetologists have medical insurance through their employers, and even fewer, only 14 percent, have dental coverage. Vision coverage is provided to only 11 percent of cosmetologists. Workers in the field report having no benefits 78 percent of the time.

Part of the reason many cosmetologists don’t receive better benefits could be a result of the business structure of many salons. Some salons hire employees as would a traditional office, and those stylists are given benefits if they are full time, as opposed to part time, as dictated by law. In many instances, however, salons use a booth rental system.

Booth rental essentially permits stylists to rent salon space from the owner or manager in a tenant/landlord relationship. They pay a fee to have space at the salon but can bring their own clients with them, make their own hours and sell their own supplementary products like shampoos and styling gels.

Depending on your level of experience and book of business, booth rental can be a great option. You have much more flexibility when it comes to income potential since you will probably be permitted to charge your clients as you see fit. From there, you’ll have unlimited earning potential once your booth rental fee is paid off.

However, since you are a self-employed worker, you probably won’t be offered benefits in this scenario. You will also need to manage your taxes, healthcare, and other self-employment issues.

Depending on your jurisdiction, you might need a license or certificate from your governing body that permits you to operate a booth, as well. Cost of living is a key consideration when pursuing a cosmetology license.

Years of Experience

A cosmetology salary can vary widely depending on the types of services provided, where they are based geographically, their clientele and years of experience.

In the United States, a cosmetologist can expect to earn between $7.73 and $16.89 an hour, with a median hourly rate of $14.26 in May 2021, which means half earn more and half earn less.

Tips are a large component of hair stylist income, and they may also vary widely. Someone working in this field can expect to earn anywhere from $0.69 to $7.08 per hour in tips.

Depending on the employment structure of a salon, cosmetologists might be entitled to overtime pay. In that case, they can expect to earn anywhere between $5.12 to $54.63 per hour in overtime, which can dramatically increase their cosmetologist salary.

With such wide ranges in hourly wages and tips, it’s no surprise that the average cosmetologist salary can vary drastically. Depending on many factors, the salary range for workers in this field could be as little as $16,287 or as much as $46,188.

Experienced and licensed cosmetologists make about 14-percent more than those who receive average pay. Experienced beauticians earn 10-percent more, while mid-career employees can expect a 7-percent increase over the average pay. The national average is $24,000 per year, and entry-level cosmetologists may earn 10-percent less than that.

Job Growth Trend

As with many careers, statistics can provide valuable insight into who gravitates toward or gets hired for cosmetology or esthetician jobs. Almost 98 percent of workers in the field are female, compared with just 2 percent who are male.

Interestingly, 42 percent of cosmetologists have between one and four years of experience with their craft, while 19 percent have between five and nine years.

Only 20 percent have 10-to-19 years experience, and 15 percent of workers in the field have been there for 20 years or more. New cosmetologists who have worked for less than one year make up just 4 percent of the field.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, there were 622,700 cosmetologists, hairdressers and hair stylists in the United States. They reported the mean, or average salary for those three fields together to be $29,680.


Danielle Smyth is a content writer and social media marketer from upstate New York. Her company, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, services clients in a variety of industries.

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