How to Become a Hair Dresser in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements to become a hair dresser. Get the facts about education and licensing requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nail Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Hairdresser Do?

Hairdressers, sometimes called hairstylists, work in salons, spas and resorts where they cut and style hair. They also provide hair treatment services for their clients, and typically discuss with them home hair care and recommend products. Those who have their own salon perform managerial duties in addition to the hands-on work of cutting and styling hair.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent is required, associate degrees are available
Licensure/Certification All states require licensure to practice, qualifications vary from state to state
Key Responsibilities Shampoo, cut and style hair; apply chemical treatments to color, straighten, or curl hair
Key Skills Creativity, excellent people skills, physical stamina and tidiness
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists
Average Salary (2015)* $28,770 for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Hair Dresser Career Duties and Education

Hair dressers assess the hair condition as well as the physical attributes of their clients to determine what type of style is best suited for them. Then hair dressers may cut, color, highlight, straighten, curl or apply other techniques to create a style. Some hair dressers specialize in creating fancy hair styles for special occasions, including 'up-dos' for weddings. A hair dresser needs to complete a training program and obtain a license.

Step 2: Complete a Training Program

Hair dressers typically complete cosmetology training programs offered by community colleges, technical schools and schools of cosmetology. Training lasts anywhere from nine months for a certificate program to two years for an associate's degree program. Students learn coloring and permanent wave techniques along with how to shampoo, cut and style hair.

Step 3: Obtain a License

All states require hair dressers to obtain licenses. A listing of state licensing boards can be found on the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences website, and students should look up the specific requirements for their state. Requirements often include completion of an approved cosmetology program and passing an exam.

Step 4: Find a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of hair dressers are self-employed. Many of these individuals rent out chairs at established salons or spas. The BLS projects that jobs for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists will increase at faster-than-average rate of 10% from 2014 to 2024. The average yearly wage for these workers was $28,770 as of May 2015.

Step 5: Seek Career Advancement

Most hair dressers advance their careers by increasing their clientele and creating a loyal following. Some are then able to open their own private salons. Joining professional associations, such as the National Cosmetology Association, might provide opportunities for professional growth.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Hairdressers may also look into becoming barbers, a similar job with more focus on men's hair. Cosmetology, which involves makeup and general beauty treatments, is another option. A manicurist/pedicurist, who works on nails, and a skincare specialist career may be considered as well. Most jobs of this nature demand a postsecondary non-degree award, and some also require licensure.

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