How to Become a Cosmetology Instructor in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a cosmetology instructor. Learn about job duties, training requirements, licensure and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nail Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Cosmetology Instructor?

Cosmetologists are not only employed by beauty salons and spas - they're also needed to teach at schools of cosmetology, training future hair stylists, nail technicians and skin experts. Cosmetology instructors work at cosmetology schools, community colleges and other vocational institutions leading classes in hair styling, manicuring, skin care and salon practices. You must have a strong enough understanding of all cosmetology-related topics in order to transfer your knowledge on to new students. In addition, you need to plan curricula, manage classrooms and evaluate individual students. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required Certificate or associate's degree
Key Responsibilities Lead classes in hair styling, manicuring, skin care and salon practices, plan curricula, manage classrooms, evaluate students
Licensure Required Cosmetology license required, instructor licensure requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all cosmetologists)*
7% (for all postsecondary vocational education teachers)*
Median Salary (2016) $35,803**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Step 1: Complete a Cosmetology Training Program

You should first complete a cosmetology training program to gain a firm understanding in all aspects of the field. Programs are offered by specialized schools, as well as community colleges and technical schools. Programs usually award certificates of completion or associate's degrees. These programs provide the skills necessary to become a licensed cosmetologist, such as sanitation rules, safety regulations, disease recognition and treatments.

Step 2: Obtain a Cosmetology License

All states require licensing for cosmetologists, although requirements may vary. The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences provides a listing of state licensing boards where students can look up requirements for their state ( Most states require you to complete a cosmetology program and pass a licensing exam.

Many states require separate licenses to become a cosmetology instructor. Instructor licensing requirements vary by state, but they might include a current cosmetology license, a prescribed amount of previous cosmetology experience, additional hours in instructor training and completion of a licensing exam.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Many cosmetology instructors work as cosmetologists for a period to gain hands-on experience. Consider working for a few years prior to seeking instructor's education. Working in a salon or full-service spa should train you in people skills, styling trends and salon management. You'll also gain experience working with different types of clients. As you develop experience, new cosmetologists may seek advice and training from you, which will give you preparation in becoming an instructor.

Step 4: Get Instructor Training

Aspiring instructors might consider taking a formal education program in cosmetology instruction. Programs in cosmetology instruction are offered through community colleges and technical schools and cover teaching practices, teaching theories, curriculum and lesson plan development and classroom management. Typically, these programs are for licensed cosmetologists and earn you a pre-baccalaureate certificate.

Step 5: Apply for a Job as a Cosmetology Instructor

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job growth for the cosmetology industry should continue at a faster than average rate from 2014 to 2024 ( This could mean a 10% increase in employment opportunities over the decade. Such growth should not only apply to cosmetologists, but also to cosmetology instructors. The belief is that an increase in demand for hair coloring and straightening treatments will aid in employment growth for cosmetologists. The BLS also noted that the employment for all postsecondary vocational education teachers, a category that also encompasses cosmetology instructors, was projected to grow 7% between 2014 and 2024.

As of May 2015, the states that had the highest concentration of cosmetologists were Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers include manicurists/pedicurists and skincare specialists. Manicurists and pedicurists beautify and cleanse fingernails and toenails, sometimes with polish and decals. Skincare specialists can offer treatments for and suggestions on how to improve skin conditions, such as dryness.

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