Cosmetology Degree and Training Programs

Research the types of cosmetology degrees and training programs that are available and the coursework each includes. Learn about the salary and career outlook for cosmetologists.

What Kinds of Cosmetology Degree and Training Programs Are Available?

Since many states require that you receive licensure in the field for most cosmetology professions, you'll typically need to complete a state-approved training program. Technical, vocational and community colleges offer you several certificate, diploma and degree choices in the broad field of cosmetology and specialized options in a specific area. Certificate programs can take you a year or so to complete, though diploma and associate degree programs usually take about two years. All programs include many hours of practice in hair cutting and coloring, skin treatment methods, manicuring procedures and proper sanitation procedures.

What Can I Expect to Learn?

Regardless of what type of program you enroll in, you'll learn about health, safety and hygiene requirements in the cosmetology industry. You'll also take courses that cover manicuring, sterilization, chemical restructuring, facials and hair coloring. Other courses might cover various aspects of operating or working in a salon, such as retail sales, marketing and choosing hair or personal appearance products for different uses or clients.

Associates degree programs differ from certificate or diploma programs by requiring general education courses, such as English composition, computers, art and the humanities. In some programs, you might also learn about the history of cosmetology and advanced techniques used to cut, style or color hair. Some schools open student services to the public, giving you the opportunity to practice on actual clients. Other topics of study in all programs might include:

  • Waxing
  • Bleaching
  • Make up application
  • Acrylic nails
  • Scalp treatments
  • Nail wraps
  • Shampooing

What Should I Know About the Field?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that demand for barbers and cosmetologists would rise 19% between 2008 and 2018, making your employment prospects good ( BLS salary information in the field estimated the median wage for cosmetologists was $23,330 in 2009. If you choose to join the 44% of self-employed cosmetologists and salon owners, you could earn extra commission from manufacturers by selling specific hair, nail and skincare products.

You will need to complete a specified number of hours before you can qualify for licensure, though most or all of these practice hours are offered through your academic program. Once you become licensed, you might need to participate in continuing education courses in order to renew your license. Renewal and initial licensing requirements vary by state; however, some states recognize cosmetology licenses granted by other states.