Beautician Degree Program and Certification Facts

Get an overview of state-regulated beautician licensing, and learn how the curriculum for an associate's degree in cosmetology can fulfill states' education requirements for certification. Find out about career options and average salaries for graduates of beautician degree programs.

What Kind of Associate's Degree Program Trains Me To Become a Beautician?

Through an associate's degree program in cosmetology, you'll study the business of beauty, including hair, skin, makeup and nails. Most degree programs include hands-on practice in the classroom and school lab, as well as the opportunity to perform your learned skills in an actual beauty salon through an internship program. Some schools also offer paid student services to the public that allow you to improve your skills.

Degrees OptionsAssociate's degrees in cosmetology prepare students for their cosmetology license
Topics LearnedHairstyling, manicures, skin treatments and make-up application
LicensureCertification varies by state, often requiring a 2-part exam and hours of hands-on experience
Career Choices Hair stylists, make-up artists, manicurists and more, commonly in a salon or spa
Median Salary (2020)* $27,630 (for all Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists)
Job Growth (2019-2029)* -1% (for all Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Learn?

You'll learn to cut, dye and style men and women's hair. Practical courses teach you the proper methods for handling and disposing of chemicals commonly used in a beauty salon, as well as legal safety and health requirements. Some programs cover topics on common hair and scalp disorders and their treatments.

In addition to hair cutting and styling, you'll perform manicures and pedicures, studying different types of nail extensions, gels, acrylics and ways to add style and personality to nails. Classes also include techniques for giving facials and the different application methods of various products for specific skin types. Make-up application classes cover color science and teach you how to select a color palette for people with different skin tones, hair shades and eye colors.

How Does This Degree Prepare Me for Certification?

Certification and licensure requirements vary by state. However, you must complete some cosmetology training beyond high school from an accredited, state-approved school. All states require a specific number of training hours before you can receive your license, and cosmetology programs typically provide you with the requisite amount of hands-on practice and classroom learning to cover the requirement.

To earn your license or cosmetology certification, you'll need to pass a 2-part exam that includes written and practical sections. Exams vary depending on your specialty, and you might be required to obtain different certifications for barbering, esthetics, nail design or hair design. Other states include all or most beautician services under the umbrella of a single cosmetology license.

What Are My Career Options?

The title of beautician covers manicurist, make-up artist, barber, skin care specialist or cosmetologist. You can work at a salon or a spa that offers beauty services or open your own business. Depending on the types of services you are qualified to perform, your average salary and employment options could fluctuate. According to, median salary for estheticians was $35,976, make-up artists earned $47,500, hair stylists made $40,118 and manicurists took home a median $29,661, as of May 2021.