Cosmetology Schools

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What is Cosmetology?

The practice of cosmetology encompasses the study and application of beauty treatment.  Cosmetology professionals were often associated with being a hair stylist by the previous generation.  Today, trained cosmetology professionals will perform a range of treatments and solutions.  Examples include the following disciplines:

Individuals who study at an accredited cosmetology school will learn the foundational skills needed to start a career in the field.  It is worth noting that fields of specialization such as electrolysis and makeup artistry may require a specific training program.  As you will learn, cosmetologists work in a variety of business from spas and salons to hotels and resorts, along with stand-alone businesses.

Cosmetology is an exciting field providing a variety of services and specializations with a variety of training programs.  Professionals in the beauty industry may work for a large corporation, a small business, or be an entrepreneur start their own business.  A cosmetologist looking to earn a role as a trainer may choose to an alternate path.  Instructors and trainers in the beauty industry must take an additional set of courses  specifically designed to prepare individuals as instructors.

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 and in many cases from city to city depending on the region.

As a way of helping prospective students understand what to expect during their time in school, we have assembled common cosmetology school classes.  Students may be exposed to a wide range of classes at an accredited cosmetology school including:

  • 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

Students in a cosmetology school focused on hair-styling will learn both basic and advanced hair techniques.  As with many specializations in the beauty industry, an accredited program with a structured curriculum and knowledgeable teachers is a must.  Understanding the latest styles, coloring, and trends will help round out a solid customer service focus.  Further, it is important for all students to learn hair treatments and styling for both women and men.

Cosmetology degrees will frequently include courses in nail technology.   Classes may include silk nails, acrylic nails, gel nails, and current trends in nail technology.  Learning how to become a nail technician can be formally achieved through a cosmetology degree program or a stand-alone program.  In either case, students will learn the finer points of manicures and pedicures of real nails, artificial nails, and decorative nails.

Why Cosmetologists Study a Variety of Techniques

Learning a variety of techniques will help cosmetologists serve an array of customer requests.  As students gain knowledge and exposure to a variety of techniques within the cosmetology and beauty industry, they will then be provided with a number of 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.

What Do You Learn in Cosmetology School?

Cosmetology programs teach students how to cut, trim and style hair.  They will help students understand how to properly apply cosmetics and essential duties of nail technicians.  What most students do not understand is that most accredited cosmetology programs provide another layer of education.  Cosmetology schools and esthetician schools may provide students with general education courses required for passing a state licensure exam. Programs will emphasize the importance of customer service, safety, and business management.

Degrees in cosmetology are offered as bachelor degrees up to a master's degree.  However the most popular degree in cosmetology is the associate's degree followed by a certificate program and a diploma.  An associate's degree will most often be sufficient to start your career in cosmetology in terms of education, experience, and skill requirements.  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.

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

The three most popular programs offered by a cosmetology school include an associate’s degree, certificate program, and a diploma track.  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:

Cosmetology 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 in Cosmetology

A certificate 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.

Cosmetology 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.

Cosmetology Schools 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 we can help.  In fact, we have assembled data on hundreds of accredited cosmetology programs to help you find your perfect match.

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.

How Much Do Cosmetology Schools Cost?

The cost of attending a cosmetology college will vary from location to location.  Variables that drive cost include the required courses in your state, hours required by the state board of cosmetology, size of the institution, geographic location, and resources offered by the school.

Overall costs include tuition, fees, books, supplies, cosmetology kits, and transportation costs for traditional campus-based programs.   Take the time to collect information from accredited beauty schools via our expansive portal.  Next, you will want to schedule a time to discuss any questions with the school's admissions team.

In a recent survey, we analyzed 1,173 accredited cosmetology schools across the country.  What we discovered was the median cost of tuition at a cosmetology school was $13,715.  The states with the highest tuition Nevada, Hawaii, and Iowa with an average tuition of $17,782.  On the other hand, the states with the lowest tuition were Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Montana averaging $10,293 between these states.  The state with the most accredited cosmetology schools is California with 111, followed by Texas at 86 and Illinois with 69 schools.

Cosmetology License & Training

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 treated will assist in developing a strong, trusting client base.  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.  A written exam will be administered based on a given state's unique requirements.  Some states also require an oral exam and/or a practical exam in addition to a written examination.  The requirements will vary from state to state and it is prudent for students to review their state's requirements prior to entering a cosmetology program.  This extra step will help to ensure your training will provide everything needed to assist you in earning licensure after graduation.

Cosmetology Continuing Education

Cosmetology is a constantly evolving field.  As such, cosmetology professionals should consider returning to school to take continuing education programs every few years. By doing so, a cosmetologist will learn new techniques, more efficient styling methods, and gain insights into burgeoning trends in the industry.  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 increase the odds of generating new traffic to the business.

Cosmetology Careers 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 (DOL).  Such care has seen a rise in demand due to widespread information regarding skin and hair damage due to various factors environmental and human influence.

Proper hygiene includes skin and hair care, which directly ties into maintaining your personal appearance and personal confidence.  Understanding this interplay is particularly important for individuals interested in becoming cosmetologists.  Helping others look and feel their best is both a skill and an art which increases the demand for trained professionals.

Cosmetologists have various career paths to choose from that may include one or more of the following career tracks:

  • Hairstylist
  • Manicurist & Pedicurist
  • Esthetician
  • Makeup Artist
  • Cosmetologist
  • Product Sales Representative
  • Beauty Magazine Writer
  • Salon Manager

States Employing the Most Cosmetology Professionals

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

Cosmetologist Salary by State

  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 Essential Guide to a Cosmetology Career on our blog.

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Career Summary: Cosmetology Major



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