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Penn Foster High School

High School Diploma
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How Can I Become a Hair Dresser?

To become a hair dresser, you'll need to go to school, get licensed, then find a spot in a salon or other setting. Hair dressers may be called stylists, hair designers, or (with special training and licensing) barbers. Hair dressers are specialists in the field of cosmetology, which also includes aestheticians, nail technicians, manicurists and pedicurists, beauticians, make-up consultants, and cosmetologists.

Career Overview

Hair dressers, also referred to as hair stylists, are experts in the field of hair, offering services including shampooing, conditioning, coloring, cutting, and styling. While barbers typically work only with men, hair dressers have both male and female clientele. In addition to servicing hair in a salon setting, hair dressers often provide instruction to customers on how to continue care at home, teaching them styling techniques and recommending products for them.

Required Education A high school diploma or it's equivalent, licensure
Work Environment Salon or barbershop
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) -1% (decline)* (all hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists)
Median Salary (March 2021) $36,000**

Source: *U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; ** PayScale.com

Education and Training

Prior to pursuing postsecondary education, younger students may find some local vocational or beauty schools that offer part-time training programs to give them a head-start on their career while still in high school. Business coursework is valuable to prospective hair dressers, since nearly half of all hair stylists, barbers, and cosmetologists are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Some hair stylists may allow you to 'shadow' them for a day in order to get a better idea of what the job entails.

Formal training programs in cosmetology and hair dressing are offered through two-year, vocational, and beauty schools around the country. Before choosing a program, compare employment rates of graduates, tuition costs, and specific coursework. Program recommendations from working hair stylists are a terrific way to begin looking for the right fit for you. Compare the coursework to the licensing requirements mandated by your state, and ask if any specialties are offered.


All states require cosmetologists and barbers to earn licenses. Requirements for eligibility depend on the state; however, almost all states require that a candidate be at least 16 years old, hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, and have graduated from a state-licensed cosmetology school. In addition to a written exam, some licensing requirements include a practical demonstration of your abilities.