How to Become a Cosmetologist: The Ultimate Guide

Dec 16, 2021

If you love hair, skin, and makeup, you might be considering becoming a cosmetologist. Whether you’re looking for a stable career or one where you can make people feel confident every day, you can find what you need in a cosmetology career.


Wondering how to achieve that dream, however, can quickly become overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide containing everything you need to know about becoming a cosmetologist. 

Why to Consider Becoming a Cosmetologist

If you’re still on the fence, however, you might be wondering if cosmetology is the right career for you. Is it a viable career? What will your job prospects look like? Here are some reasons why you should consider becoming a cosmetologist.

Job Prospects

Cosmetology is a stable and in-demand career. Every community needs hairdressers, and many towns are looking for other kinds of hair- and skincare specialists. As an in-demand career, most rookie cosmetologists will not only find a job but a job with competitive pay and benefits. 


The median wage for a hairdresser in 2020 (not counting tips) was $13.74 an hour. Of course, this number varies based on experience, location, and other factors. It’s important to note, however, that the average wage for cosmetologists can also depend on their education level, certifications, additional skills/training, and experience. 

Flexibility and Independence

While you’ll still have some supervision as a cosmetologist, you’ll be given a lot more freedom than in similar-paying jobs. You’ll be able to control your own schedule and amount of hours worked. Instead of a boring nine-to-five, you’ll get to set your own pace and experience a satisfying mix of different days and a steady routine.


There’s also a wide range of places you can work. Cosmetologists hold jobs in hair salons and spas in both traditional and non-traditional settings. Cosmetologists can find work in hotels, on cruise ships, and other environments. 

Helping and Meeting People

Whether a people-person or someone with a lot of compassion, you’ll find that one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is working closely with people. Whether you enjoy small talk and meeting new people, or you like the feeling of helping someone find their confidence, cosmetologists interact with their clients all day every day.


A cosmetologist can have a huge impact on someone’s life in numerous subtle ways. Whether it’s helping someone like the way they look, or just cheering them up when they’re feeling down, a cosmetologist can easily brighten someone’s day. 

Affordable Education

Unlike other career paths, most cosmetologists only need a two-year certification. This cuts the time you’ll spend in higher education in half, so you don’t have to drown in student loan debt. 

Step One: Study at a Technical College

Now that we’ve gone over some reasons you might want to become a cosmetologist, we can get started on how to become one. Obviously, the first step is learning all the skills and knowledge you’ll need as an effective cosmetologist. The best way to learn those skills is through a technical program. 

Finding the Right School

First, you’ll want to make sure your school is recognized and accredited, otherwise you’ll waste your money on a program most won’t consider genuine. If your school doesn’t meet your state’s requirements, then it won’t count towards your certification.


Next, you’ll want to look at your school’s curriculum. Their cosmetology program should include everything you’ll need to know as a cosmetologist, including…


  • Analyzing and applying treatments for the scalp, hair, skin, and nails.
  • Cutting and styling hair.
  • Washing and conditioning hair.
  • Waving and relaxing hair.
  • Coloring and lightening hair.
  • Providing manicures and pedicures.


If a school doesn’t cover at least most of these skills, then it likely won’t prepare you for your career. After that, you’ll want to make sure your school has a reputation for preparing their students for the state board exam. Dig up reviews from past students and see what they have to say about the program.

Attend Your Classes

Technical programs move a lot faster than your traditional four-year degree, so it’s important you keep up. More importantly, you’ll be learning actual skills you’ll use during your day-to-day work. If you miss class, you might miss out on information you’ll need for your career.


Make sure you study hard and pay attention. You aren’t just learning knowledge, you’re learning valuable skills!

Step Two: Earn Your License

After you graduate, you’ll need to get whatever certification or license you need to practice in your state. Though the exact licensing exams vary from state, you can generally expect a written portion and a practical portion.


Once you pass your exam, you just need to apply for a license and wait for its approval.

Step Three: Land Your First Job

When you get your license, you’ll be able to begin practicing. As a cosmetologist, there’s several factors you should take into account when picking your first job.


You’ll want to look at the median wage for a cosmetologist in your area. This information is usually readily available through a Google search. Whatever that number is, you won’t want to take a job that pays much lower than that.


If you decide to work full-time, your place of work should also offer benefits like health insurance. Make sure you research what they’re offering so you get fair pay.

Where You’ll Work

Cosmetology is an interesting career in its diversity of potential workplaces. Whether you choose to work in a more traditional avenue or not, you’ll have plenty of options. Here are a few of those exciting options.


Most cosmetologists will work at locally-owned businesses in their town or franchise salons. While franchise salons will generally have better benefits than locally-owned salons, local salons are usually more flexible and understanding.

On Movie and TV Sets

Of course, actors need someone to do their makeup. If you can land a job working on a film set, you’ll have an opportunity to make movie magic alongside famous actors and directors.


Influencers are a big deal these days, and the work you can do with your cosmetology training can earn you a presence online. Share tutorial videos on Youtube or TikTok, or make posts on Instagram. Even if it isn’t your main career, it’s a good way to show off your portfolio and earn some cash on the side.

How to Get Your First Job

Getting a job right after getting your license may seem daunting, but there’s plenty of opportunities and resources to help you get started. Here’s some things you can do to prepare yourself for the job market.

Don’t Forget Your Resume and Interview Skills

Though your cosmetology portfolio will generally be the most important aspect of your job application, you shouldn’t neglect your regular job-searching skills. Make sure to flush out your resume with all the skills you learned during your cosmetology program, and research common interview questions. 

Polish Your Portfolio

Though you probably won’t have any formal professional experience straight out of school, you will have all the assignments from your program. Make sure you take pictures of your best work and add them to your portfolio.


Cosmetology is a stable and rewarding career for anyone with a passion for the field. If you’re looking to get started on your cosmetology journey today, visit our program page to schedule a chat with an advisor today!

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