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Hair Salon Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a hairdresser, barber, or cosmetology professional. Learn about education requirements, professional licensure, salary, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Are Career Options at a Hair Salon?

Hairdressers, barbers, and cosmetology professionals use the art and science of hair care and maintenance along with other cosmetology fundamentals, such as sanitation procedures and customer interaction. Hairdressers perform hair cutting, coloring, conditioning, and styling. They also demonstrate the use of different products and advise clients on hair care. Like hairdressers, barbers treat hair, including dying, cutting, and shaving, typically for men. Cosmetologists perform hair and makeup analysis as well as scalp and facial treatments.

Take a look at the following table for more information about hairdressers, barbers, and cosmetology professionals.

Education High school diploma or equivalent
Licensure Graduation from a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school
Key Skills Creativity, customer service, physical stamina
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%*
Median Salary (2015) $24,730* for hairdressers and cosmetologists,
$27,960 for barbers

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Hair Salon Educational Programs Are Available?

If you're interested in working at a hair salon, you'll want to first complete an accredited cosmetology certificate program. These programs are designed to teach haircutting and hairstyling techniques while you learn other cosmetology fundamentals, such as skin care, facials, and manicure and pedicure procedures. You'll study sanitation standards and you'll learn how to interact with customers. Your coursework will cover topics such as the composition of cosmetic materials, basic human physiology, and cosmetic chemistry.

If you're thinking about going into business for yourself and opening your own hair salon, you may want to consider a degree program in cosmetology. There are associate's degree programs available that combine the traditional cosmetology curriculum with a series of business courses. These business courses are designed to provide you with the knowledge you need to execute your entrepreneurial vision.

What Will I Need in Addition to My Degree?

All states require hair salon associates and cosmetology professionals to be licensed. This licensing process varies by state but generally includes completing an accredited educational program and successfully taking the state licensing exam. The licensing exam consists of a written component as well as a practical component to test styling skills or an oral exam. Most states also require licensing applicants to have a high school diploma or its equivalent and to be at least 16 years of age.

What Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for hair salon associates and cosmetologists are expected to increase by 8% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). This growth is about the same as the national average, although growth rates vary by specialty. The BLS states that the median annual salary in May of 2018 for hair stylists, hairdressers, and cosmetologists was $24,730. As of May 2018, District of Columbia and Massachusetts were the two top-paying states for this occupation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a high school diploma or additional training as well as a license, you may also pursue a career as a skincare specialist, manicurist, or pedicurist. Skincare specialists typically provide skincare treatments such as hair removal and facials. Manicurists and pedicurists typically treat clients' nails, providing services that include polishing, buffing, and massaging.