Cosmetology Schools

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What is Cosmetology?

The practice of cosmetology encompasses the whole of the beauty industry. Individuals in this field will style and treat hair, skin, nails. Cosmetology requires study, with some forms of care requiring an in depth or specialized education. Cosmetologists work in spas, salons, hotels and resorts, as well as any other location that may provide cosmetology service. Additionally, cosmetologists may choose to take an additional program of study that prepare individuals as instructors. Cosmetology provides a variety of services and specializations, with programs available nationwide. Individuals in this field may work for others or establish their own business.

What Do Cosmetologists Study in School?

Given the vast number of cosmetology programs across the country, there is no universal standard for course work.  However, there are a set of common courses that programs offer from state to state.  As a way of helping prospective students understand what to expect during their time in school, we have assembled the following list of courses you may be exposed to at an accredited cosmetology school:

  • Operational and business practices
  • Theory of cosmetology
  • The basics of shampooing & conditioning
  • Manicures
  • Pedicures
  • Essential principles of esthetics
  • Draping & brushing
  • Scalp manipulation techniques
  • Hair and scalp analysis
  • Hair cutting and trimming
  • Proper use of razors, scissors, razors, clippers, & shears
  • Thermal styling
  • Braiding natural hair and artificial hair
  • Chemical relaxing techniques
  • Hair coloring, tinting, and bleaching
  • Proper cleaning and disinfecting of equipment
  • First aid and CPR

As students gain knowledge and exposure to a variety of techniques within the cosmetology and beauty industry, they will then be provided with hands-on learning opportunities.  By blending academic knowledge with active learning, students will begin to understand and index each technique for later use.  Having the ability to understand theory and access to a wide range of clients is a winning recipe for future cosmetologists prior to real-world application.   Quality programs provide substantive guidance, shadowing, training, and opportunities to learn during their time at school.

Educational Requirements in Cosmetology

Cosmetology programs teach students how to cut, trim and style hair, how to properly apply cosmetics, how to properly perform manicures and pedicures and provide the general education required for passing a state licensure exam. Programs will emphasize the importance of customer service, safety, and business management. Degrees in cosmetology are offered up to a master's degree, though most find an associate's degree sufficient as success in cosmetology is defined not just by education, but by experience and skill. Online programs are available for licensing exam preparation, but those pursuing an associate's degree or higher will most likely be required to attend a physical institution.

Cosmetologists have various career paths to choose from:

  • Hairstylist
  • Manicurist
  • Cosmetologist
  • Product Sales Representative
  • Beauty Magazine Writer
  • Salon Manager

What are the Top Traits of a Cosmetologist?

A national survey of cosmetology professionals by the U.S. Department of Labor reveals a set of 4 common traits shared by an overwhelming number of cosmetologists.  These traits or characteristics include being artistic, social, enterprising, and realistic.

Artistic: Cosmetologists are very artistic in nature as they are challenged daily to create without a step-by-step guide.  The survey also found cosmetology professionals to possess a great deal of motivation towards self-expression while at work.

Social: The very nature of working with people lends itself to a vibrant social proclivity.  In the cosmetology field, professionals work very close with customers physically and quickly develop relationships that may last for decades.

Enterprising: The survey also revealed a higher level of risk-taking for cosmetologists as they venture out with others or on their own upon completion of their college programs.

Realistic: Professional cosmetologists also were found to be rooted in reality and practical in nature.  This affability and demeanor often ties directly into the social component of working well with customers and co-workers.

Top Cosmetology Degrees

There are three primary types of cosmetology programs students enroll in that include an associate’s degree, certificate, and a diploma.  Each program has a set of differing requirements, curriculum, and clock hours or credit hours.  Before you begin your cosmetology program, take the time to align your priorities and schedule with the best cosmetology program for you.  An overview of each type of program is listed below:

Diploma – Diploma tracks provide students with a series of classroom based training and hands-on learning opportunities needed to successfully take and pass a state-administered licensing exam.  A diploma program from an accredited college or beauty school will likely result in an entry-level position at a day spa or salon.

Certificate – A certificate program in cosmetology blends theory and active learning to help provide a good set of working tools in the field.  Students will learn about cosmetology techniques and disciplines within the trade that may include facials, pedicures, hair cutting, styling, and coloring.  It is common for students to complete a percentage of the core academic program prior to utilizing these newly acquired techniques elsewhere.  Certificate programs range in the length of the program and credit hours depending on the school and state of residence but students can expect to complete around 1,500 hours during the program.

Associate’s Degree – Much like the certificate and diploma programs, an associate’s degree in cosmetology will provide the essential skills needed to pass state’s licensing examination.  In addition to the core curriculum found in a certificate and diploma program, the associate degree track includes a number of general education courses.  The general education courses help students cogently think about problems in a new light and help provide a more well-rounded graduate.

Online Cosmetology Programs Near You

We receive emails with great frequency from prospective students asking ‘how do I find cosmetology schools near me’?  To find the top cosmetology schools near you or the best cosmetology programs for you simply trust MatchCollege.  Whether you are looking for a great match with a community college, technical college, trade school, or beauty school the accredited programs you seek are listed here.

We have made the process increasingly simple through a couple easy-to-use pieces of technology.  First, you can simply complete the information box on the page and get matched to a cosmetology program given your criteria provided.  The next option is to simply sort by state below for traditional classroom programs or here to find cosmetology programs near you offering online programs.

The final way to find schools close by is to utilize our proprietary matching tool to get a precise list of programs of your choice by winnowing down school type, location, degree level, and state.   By using any of the three tools available, you will have the tools at your disposal to obtain quality information from schools that you are interested in learning more about.

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Cosmetology Career Opportunities and Licensing

A career in cosmetology will have graduates of cosmetology programs work under professionals for the first few years of their career. This is primarily due to the practical experience gained rather than any particular requirement. Cosmetology requires individuals to have good communication skills and high coordination. The ability to develop a rapport with a customer and to make them feel at ease while they are being worked upon will assist in developing a strong clientele. The cornerstone of a career in cosmetology is one's clientele, without whom any kind of long term business will be impossible.

All states require licensing to work as a cosmetologist, and a written exam will be administered based on a given state's requirements. Some states also require an oral exam and/or a practical exam. The requirements will vary from state to state and it is prudent for students to review their states requirements prior to entering a cosmetology program to ensure that the program will provide everything needed to assist in obtaining licensure after graduation.

Cosmetology is a constantly evolving field, students of cosmetology should consider returning to school to take continuing education programs every few years. By doing so, a cosmetologist will learn of new techniques or more efficient methods as well as burgeoning styles. Improving one's skill set is very important in maintaining clientele as well as growing one's customer base. The constant research of trends and attempts at new ideas will also assist in keeping one's business fresh, and possibly increasing traffic as a whole.

Job Growth for Cosmetologists and Specializations

Cosmetology is a growing field, and is projected to grow at a rate of 13% through 2024 due to a high demand for personal skin and hair care.  Additionally, projected job openings during that same time frame are at 212,100 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Such care has seen a rise in demand due to widespread information regarding skin and hair damage due to various factors.

Proper hygiene includes skin and hair care, and as such maintaining one's appearance has become extremely important. This is particularly important for individuals interested in becoming cosmetologists, as demand for such treatment is particularly high. Cosmetologists should be aware that oversaturation can occur in a given area, and should focus their business toward areas of dense population or lacking proper cosmetology resources.

Top 5 States Employing the Most Cosmetology Professionals

  • California            27,180
  • New York            26,410
  • Florida                 24,620
  • Pennsylvania      23,680
  • Texas                    22,690

Highest Paying States in Cosmetology

  1. District of Columbia   $45,680
  2. Washington                  $40,680
  3. New Jersey                   $37,660
  4. Massachusetts             $37,410
  5. Virginia                         $37,070

Additional Resources for Cosmetology Students

For those interested in a career as a cosmetologist, you may also want to consider a career as a barber, esthetician, nail technician, or salon manager.   For additional information, check out the Complete Guide to a Career in Cosmetology on our blog.

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Career Summary: Cosmetology Major



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