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How Do I Work in the Cosmetics Business?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in cosmetics. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information.

What Does a Cosmetics Business Worker Do?

There are many possible careers within the cosmetics business. Workers' duties depend on their job title. For instance, retail sales associates at cosmetics counters sell makeup to customers at retail establishments. This could include offering relevant advice and sometimes free samples. After a customer has decided what cosmetic product to buy, you would add up the purchases and accept payment.

Alternatively, as a makeup artist in the performing arts industry, you would apply makeup to actors and actresses in plays and film productions. Depending on the production, you might seek to make the actor or actress look natural in front of the camera, or you might apply more extravagant makeup to make them look the part in the role of a particular character, like a witch or a clown.

Another possibility is a position as a chemist, working in a lab that creates new and innovative cosmetic products. In this job, you might be involved in product development or safety testing, and you could work in either an industrial or academic setting. In an entry-level position, you would follow the instructions of a supervisor to set up and run cosmetics-related chemical experiments.

The table below offers a brief outline of a couple possible career tracks in the cosmetics industry.

Retail Sales Associate Makeup Artist Chemist
Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent Beauty school degree Bachelor's degree
Key Responsibilities Create product displays; apply makeup and other beauty products to customers; teach customers how to use products; encourage customers to buy products Apply makeup to enhance or change appearance; solicit clients and maintain good relationships; travel to meet clients, such as on a film set or a wedding site Combine chemical compounds to make new or improve existing products; test products for safety
Job Growth (2020-2030) -1% (for all retail sales workers)* 37%* 7%*
Median Salary (2020)* $27,320 (for all retail sales workers)* $106,920* $79,300*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Career Options in the Cosmetics Business?

Careers in the cosmetics business might involve selling products, applying makeup or creating cosmetics. Job options in this industry vary greatly, from the skills required to the type of work you will do. You may need to be artistic or have an aptitude for science.

Cosmetic sales positions are typically found at retail sales counters, but you may also work independently. Your customer-related duties as a sales representative include explaining how products work, encouraging browsers to sample products and getting them to buy products. You might be required to apply cosmetics and answer questions about the products. Setting up product displays might also be a part of your job.

As a makeup artist, you might work in television, movies or theater. You might also find work in hair salons, spas or other places where makeovers may be given. Owning your own business is also a possibility. Your job is to apply makeup to enhance natural beauty, create a character or cover flaws. You might also be required to explain what you are doing to the client so she or he can create the look at home.

Work as a chemist involves creating cosmetic products. You work on the science behind cosmetics. It is your job to create new products and bring fresh ideas to the market. You might run tests, experiment with ingredients or seek ways to suit a specific need, such as making products without animal testing or for sensitive skin.

How Do I Prepare for These Careers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most sales jobs require no formal education because employers typically offer on-the-job training (www.bls.gov). You may learn about the cosmetic products, company policies, sales tactics and security techniques. Employers may want you to be good at persuading customers to buy, explaining products to customers and projecting a professional image.

To work as a makeup artist, you might need a degree from a beauty school. States often have licensing requirements for personal appearance workers. According to the BLS, you might need to have formal training and complete an exam. Employers may want you to be creative, have good customer service skills and gain experience in the beauty industry.

To become a chemist, a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related scientific field is typically required. According to June 2011 job ads from Monster.com, some employers might accept candidates with an associate's degree if you have extensive work experience in the field. Employers often require technical skills in research and development, science and cosmetic development.

What Are My Career Advancement Options?

As a cosmetics sales representative, you could advance into management positions. With some companies, you may need to have a college degree to earn a promotion.

If you're an independent makeup artist, you could open your own business or pursue high-profile clients. You may also have the option to go into cosmetic sales, become a beauty consultant or work for the state licensing board.

If you are a chemist, advancement might not involve moving to a different position but instead involve gaining greater independence in your work. You may start out under the guidance of a supervisor; as you become more skilled, you may move on to working alone. You may also advance into a management or supervisory position. Another option is forming your own company.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in makeup application, you could also consider getting a job as an esthetician. These skincare specialists often work at spas and salons, where their services include makeup application, as well as other treatments, such as facials and waxing. Completing a postsecondary training program and passing a licensure exam is required for work in all states except for Connecticut. Alternatively, if you are passionate about chemistry, you could consider a job in a different area of the field, such as medicinal chemistry. With a bachelor's degree, you could get an entry-level job in an industrial or academic lab that develops and tests pharmaceutical drugs to treat diseases.