Cosmetology Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the course topics and hands-on training found in a cosmetology program. Also, get the facts about state licensing requirements, career options, and potential earnings to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do With A Cosmetology Major?

As a cosmetologist, you care for and beautify clients' hair, skin, and nails. Education typically comes in the form of an Associate of Applied Science or certificate in the field, teaching the principles of cosmetology work. Manicuring, hair treatments, sanitation, and first aid are among some of the common topics of study. Cosmetologists must be licensed in the specific service trained in, such as hairdressing. The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a cosmetologist.

Education Required 2-year degree or vocational certificate
Training Required Training hours usually required prior to licensure
Key Skills Hair color and design, manicuring, working with facial technology, application of herbal and chemical treatments
Licensure State licensure required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all barbers, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists)*
Median Salary (2017) $25,381 (hairdressers)**
$20,575 (manicurists)**

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

What Is a Cosmetology Major?

Cosmetology, the art and science of caring for and beautifying hair, skin, and nails, is typically a 2-year degree or certificate program available from community and technical colleges and specialized cosmetology schools. An Associate of Applied Science in Cosmetology consists of general education courses in addition to classes in cosmetology concepts, while a certificate program may consist solely of cosmetology courses.

As a cosmetology major you will study topics related to health and hygiene in salons, such as bacteriology, sanitation, and first aid. You will learn how to safely use and apply herbal and chemical treatments to hair, skin, and nails. Your courses in hair color and design, manicuring, and facial technology will be taught both in the classroom and in a salon setting to allow you to gain hands-on experience.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

To work as a cosmetologist, your states' board of cosmetology must license you. Licensing requirements for most states include completion of a prescribed amount of education and training hours from a state-approved program and both a written and a practical licensing exam. The practical exam may consist of you performing various hair cutting and styling techniques on a live model. Your license must be renewed every two years.

If you choose to focus your cosmetology career on one facet of the industry, for example only working as a hairdresser or as a manicurist, then you may only be required to hold a license in that area. Once you gain experience in a salon, some states offer the opportunity to become a licensed senior cosmetologist after passing another exam.

What Jobs Are There?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are good job opportunities for entry-level cosmetologists. If you are interested in becoming a hairdresser, nail technician, or makeup artist you may seek work in a private salon and build a regular clientele or in a television studio providing hair and makeup services to newscasters on a daily basis. You could also work in a salon in a hotel where you have different clients every day or in an assisted living facility, helping the elderly wash and style their hair. Other jobs include working for funeral homes preparing bodies for viewing before burial.

How Much Could I Make?

As a cosmetologist your salary will likely include an hourly wage and tips. The BLS ( suggests that experience and the ability to keep a regular clientele may play a role in increasing your wages as a cosmetologist.

According to February 2017 data from, the median annual salary for a hairdresser in the United States was $25,381 and a manicurist was $20,575. These figures are base salary only and do not include tip income. Tips for hairdressers are typically around 15-20% of the cost of the haircut and thus hairdressers that work for more expensive salons may earn larger tips, according to the most recent data available.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Skincare specialists are a specific type of cosmetologist focused on beautifying clients' skin, particularly the face, in order to enhance their appearance. Barbers cut, trim, and style hair similarly to hairdressers, though they typically offer additional services such as facial shaves, as well.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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