5 Steps to Becoming a Professional Hair Stylist

Hair stylists cut, color and style hair for male and female clients of all ages. Find out about the education, training and licensure required to work as a hair stylist. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Step 1: Complete a Training Program

Training programs for hair stylists are available at community colleges, beauty schools and cosmetology schools. Programs generally last between nine months and two years. A 2-year program offered through a community college may culminate in an associate degree. Courses are offered in hair coloring, cutting, shampooing, styling and applying permanent waves. Some programs include courses in skin care, manicuring, cosmetology and salon management. You should ensure that the program you choose is approved by the state for licensing purposes.

Step 2: Obtain a License

All states require professional hair stylists to obtain a license; requirements vary by state. However, most require the completion of an approved cosmetology program and licensing exam. You should contact your local state licensing board to apply for a license.

Step 3: Find a Job

Most hair stylists are employed in salons. Other job opportunities include spas, resorts and nursing care facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost half of all hair stylists are self-employed. Many rent a station or chair at established salons. The BLS projects that jobs for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists will increase by 13% from 2012 to 2022. This group of workers earned a median wage of $11.12 an hour in May 2013.

Step 4: Seek Professional Certifications

Hair stylists can seek professional certification in specialty areas, such as hair color and hair extensions, to demonstrate their knowledge and ability in the area. Certifications can come from manufacturers of hair products or professional organizations.

Step 5: Career Advancement in Professional Hair Styling

Professional hair stylists start in entry-level positions and advance by increasing their clientele list and taking on more responsibility within a salon. Some advance to become salon managers. Business-savvy stylists might open their own salons. Others teach cosmetology or become sales representatives for beauty-related products.

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