Cosmetologists and other personal appearance workers held about 628,000 jobs in 2010. They typically work in hair salons and barbershops, although there are those who work in spas or resorts. Some cosmetologists are self employed. Those who are either lease space in salons or own their own shops. Many jobs are part-time positions. Hours typically include evenings and weekends because that is when clients are available. Self-employed cosmetologists usually work long hours.
To become a cosmetologist you will need to attend a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school and be at least 16 years old. In some states a high school or equivalency diploma is required as well. Full-time training programs in hairstyling and cosmetology last approximately nine months and may result in earning an associate degree. The training doesn't stop there. Most people who work in this field continue to take advanced courses that help them stay abreast of the latest trends.
All personal appearance workers, including hairstylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists, but not shampooers, must be licensed. Upon completion of a state-approved training program in cosmetology, one must take a state-administered licensing exam. There are generally separate exams for manicurists, pedicurists, and skin care specialists. Many states have reciprocity with one another, which means that if you are licensed in one state you can get a license to work in another without taking another exam.
If you enroll in cosmetology school you will acquire all the technical skills needed to work in this field but there are qualities you must have that you won't necessarily pick up through formal training. Creativity is a must. You will have to be able to help your clients select new hairstyles. Good customer service skills are imperative. You need to have them if you want to build a following of customers. In order to understand what your customers want, you need good listening skills. Good time management skills keep things running smoothly in a shop and are appreciated by owners as well as customers who don't want to be kept waiting. Finally, you will spend a great deal of time on your feet. You need good physical stamina to be able to do this.
As hairstylists and cosmetologists become more experienced and gain a following, they can expect their earnings to increase. Some manage salons or decide to open their own. Others become sales representatives or image consultants. Some decide to teach in barber and cosmetology schools.
There will be job opportunities available in cosmetology over the next decade. Overall employment of barbers, cosmetologists, and other personal appearance workers is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020, but the amount of growth will vary by specialty. There will be strong competition for jobs in upscale salons. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Cosmetologists earned a median annual salary of $22,700 and median hourly wages $10.91 in 2012.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much cosmetologists currently earn in your city.
A Day in a Cosmetologist's Life:
On a typical day a cosmetologist might perform some of the following duties, depending on his or her specialization:
- Cutting, trimming and shaping hair or hair pieces
- Applying bleach or dye to hair
- Styling hair or wigs by brushing, combing and spraying
- Attaching wigs or hairpieces to model heads
- Massaging and treating clients' scalps
- Administering therapeutic medication
- Advising patrons to seek medical treatment for chronic or contagious scalp conditions
- Recommending and applying cosmetics, lotions and creams to patrons
- Shaping and coloring eyebrows or eyelashes
- Removing facial hair using wax, thread or tweezers
- Cleaning, shaping, and polishing fingernails and toenails
- Updating and maintaining customers' information records
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Barbers, Cosmetologists, and Other Personal Appearance Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos332.htm (visited June 26, 2013).
- US Department of Labor (Developed by National O*NET Consortium). O*Net Online, Hairdressers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/39-5012.00 (visited June 26, 2013).
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