General Cosmetology Degree Programs and Courses

Cosmetologists use beauty products and salon equipment to perform facials, sculpt nails and style hair. Learn more about this career field, and explore your degree options and typical coursework. Review the certification requirements for cosmetologists. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Cosmetology is the study of how hair, nails and skin can be cared for and altered. Aspiring cosmetologists must complete an accredited training program consisting of both classroom work and salon practice, usually resulting in an associate's degree or certificate. Licensure is also required for this career.

Degrees Certificate, associate's
Courses Principles of skincare, salon development, advanced hair design, small business management
Licensure State exam and approx. 1,600 accredited training hours required

What Do Cosmetologists Do?

Services provided by cosmetologists may include styling hair, waxing, painting nails, extracting blemishes and purifying skin. Cosmetologists work with clients in spas, salons and even dermatologists' offices to achieve a specific, desired appearance.

What Certificate Programs Are Available?

Certificate programs typically consist of 30-62 credit-hours; if attended full-time, they take a year to complete. You can earn a Certificate of Completion in Cosmetology. A Cosmetology Level I Certificate might also be available.

What Cosmetology Degrees Are Available?

Associate's degree programs can require up to 90 credit-hours and require two years' time to finish. An Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) in Cosmetology or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Cosmetology may be available. Credits earned in an A.S. or A.A. program may transfer to a 4-year college or university, but credits earned in an AAS program typically do not.

What Topics Will I Study?

Cosmetology programs provide instruction in hair, nails and skincare. They are offered full- or part-time and require that applicants be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

In a certificate program you only complete cosmetology courses, but in an associate's degree program you complete general education coursework as well. In both programs, instruction on hair includes cutting, coloring, styling, chemical waving and straightening. Classes about nails include manicure and pedicure procedures, polishing, acrylic application and sterilization. Skincare classes cover facial procedures, physiology, skin types and extraction methods. Lab classes in on-campus salon facilities and field trips to local salons and spas typically accompany lectures. These courses might be covered in a certificate program:

  • Cosmetology theory
  • Hair cutting
  • Salon business and retail sales
  • Hairstyling
  • Personal and community health

Will I Need Licensure?

All states require cosmetologists to be licensed. Eligibility for licensure usually depends on graduation from a school licensed by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) and completion of approximately 1,600 training hours. Training hours include classes and time spent interning in salons. Licensure is obtained by passing an exam, which may consist of written, oral or practical components. Most certificate and degree programs prepare you particularly for your state's licensure exam.

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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