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How to Become a Cosmetologist: The Complete Career Guide

Posted April 3, 2020 by in Beauty/ Career
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What’s the best scene in the movie The Princess Diaries? The one where Mia goes from frizzy frump to a gorgeous princess, of course! 

If you’re a true cosmetologist at heart, you live for a good makeover scene. You were that person at sleepovers and friends houses who was begging the other person to let you do their makeup, or their hair, or their nails – the list goes on.

If this sounds like you, then congratulations—you’re the perfect candidate to become a cosmetologist. But do you know how to become a cosmetologist? What is the day-to-day life of one? How much do they make?

We’ve got your glamour field guide, below:

How to Become a Cosmetologist

What is a Cosmetologist?

To continue with the pop-culture movie theme, Paulo, from Princess Diaries, is an excellent example of a cosmetologist.

Not only did he create a general beauty strategy for Mia, but he did her hair (including a cut), worked with her skin, did her nails, and dressed her for success, as well.

All of that, except the fashion consulting (though there’s no reason you can’t), is what a cosmetologist is. They’re beauty technicians, in one way or another. You don’t have to do hair, skin, and nails, though, if you don’t want to.

Many cosmetologists find their favorite out of the three and stick to it. Cosmetology is a general degree, and you can make it as specific or non-specific as you want.

How to Become a Cosmetologist: Find a Program

Being good at hair, makeup, or nails isn’t enough. To be a cosmetologist, you have to go to cosmetology school. If you don’t, it’s not legal for you to provide services as a business.

Scared of higher education? Don’t be. Cosmetology school isn’t nearly as long or as expensive as four-year colleges.You can get through most school programs in two years, if not sooner, depending on the number of credits you take.

But just because it’s not a traditional college, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take cosmetology school (including finding the right one) seriously. You’ll still need to pay tuition, so you want to find the best education you can get.

What to Look for in a Cosmetology Program

When you’re doing your initial research, you want to look for cosmetology schools that are licensed. Licensed programs are the only ones that have the authority to give you a working cosmetology degree.

If they’re not listed on a national registry, then the school is probably a scam. Make sure you do your research in-depth before you drop even a penny on tuition!

Consider Branded Programs

There are cosmetology schools through specific brands, like Paul Mitchell and Aveda. These places train you to work in their salons, with their products, for the rest of your life.

Or at least, that’s their goal. When you commit to a brand program, you’re committing to the brand too. Make sure their values and company policies align with your own.

If you’re going to commit to a branded program, make sure you talk to a program advisor about what happens if you want to leave the brand in the future.

Take Additional Business or Marketing Classes

Your training program should cover some form of marketing or business, but it’s likely not enough. Since you’ll be an independent contractor as a cosmetologist (in most cases), it’s worth taking some further business or marketing classes – even if they’re online!

You’re selling services, but you’re also selling an experience—and yourself, as the person who provides both. Having a strong foundation of marketing knowledge will help you make sure that tuition money doesn’t go to waste.

Take Hands-On Practice Seriously

When you start your program, you’ll be practicing on dummies and models. But as you get more advanced, you’ll make your way up to real people.

And these people are trusting you with their beauty – so make sure you feel comfortable doing something to them. If you’re not, ask your instructor for guidance. You’ll never have hands-on practice on the floor without a supervisor of some sort there.

They’re there to help you – so don’t let your pride get in the way!

Take the Licensing Exam

Once you’ve finished the majority of your education, you’ll need to start studying for the licensing exam.

Cosmetologists must take a licensing exam in the state where they want to practice. Taking this test, and passing it, is what will allow you to get hired in a real salon.

During your career, you will need to re-up your certification by doing continuing education credits. There is a cost involved with keeping your license current, but it’s not much, considering your profits.

Find a Salon

Now that you’re licensed, it’s time to find employment! That’s easier said than done (in general), even though there is an average to moderate projected growth in the cosmetology industry.

When you’re first applying, don’t set your sights too high. Almost every salon will start you off as an assistant before you get to take on clients on your own. Think of it as that hands-on practice you did in school, but now you’re getting paid to learn!

Ready, Set, Glam!

Now that you know how to become a cosmetologist, it’s time to make some decisions. Are you going to make a career out of your love of beauty? Or leave it as a fun hobby?No one can make that decision for you.

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