Hair Stylist: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a hair stylist. Learn about licensure, salary, job outlook and training requirements 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 Hair Stylist?

As a professional hair stylist, you may work in barbershops, beauty salons or spas. Hairstylists, also referred to as hairdressers, provide a range of hair care treatments for both men and women, and they also give advice to clients for home hair care. Those that have their own business may take on clerical duties as well.

An overview of career details, including licensure and education, is highlighted in the table below.

Training Required State-approved cosmetology program
Key Skills Physical stamina, time management, attention to detail, creativity
Licensure State licensure is required to work as a hair stylist
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for all hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists
Median Salary (2015)* $23,660 for all hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Might I Have as a Hair Stylist?

Your main responsibilities as a hair stylist will be trimming, shampooing, conditioning and styling hair for male or female clients. Some other services you may perform include scalp massage, facial shaving and hairpiece styling. As a licensed hair stylist, you'll be able to give permanent waves, relaxers and bleaching or coloring treatments. Should your customers have questions regarding at-home hair care, they'll turn to you for advice. If you become the sole proprietor of your own salon, you'll also be in charge of managerial duties such as hiring workers, advertising, maintaining salon inventory and keeping business records.

What Is the Projected Career Outlook?

It was predicted that job openings for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists would expand between 2014 to 2024. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment would increase by 10% during this period. The increasing population and their desire for hair treatments and coloring services was expected to contribute to the employment growth. The BLS also indicated that a number of workers will leave the field, making job prospects favorable for newcomers. However, it was believed that employment at limited higher-paying establishments would have increased competition for employment.

What Education Prerequisites Should I Fulfill?

Hair stylists must complete a state-licensed program in a professional cosmetology or barbering school. Public vocational schools and community colleges also have cosmetology programs that can prepare you for a career as a hair stylist. Your certificate or diploma program can last nine months or longer and it could be applicable towards a 2-year associate's degree. Cosmetology programs include topics such as hair coloring, communications, cosmetology concepts and hair cutting techniques.

Every state requires hair stylists to obtain licenses in order to practice. Individual states may have different licensing requirements, but generally you'll need to be at least 16 years old with a high school diploma, along with a certificate, diploma or associate's degree from a state-licensed and approved cosmetology program. If you have met those requirements, you can take the state licensing examination. The test should include written and oral sections as well as a practical portion allowing you to demonstrate your hair styling skills.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

People interested in hairstyling could also consider becoming barbers or cosmetologists, the former focused more on men's hair care, and the latter focused on all-around beauty treatments and makeup. A skincare specialist and a manicurist/pedicurist are two other career options. All of these jobs require postsecondary education.

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