How to Become a Make-Up Artist in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for a make-up artist. Get the facts about job duties, experience needed and training to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Make-Up Artist Do?

Make-up artists apply make-up to clients in settings that include salons, theaters and studios. To be a make-up- artist, you'll need to know how to choose the right make-up and apply it properly.

You may need to have good budgeting and business skills, as well as knowing how to provide good customer service. If you work in a theatrical setting, you may do additional creation of special effects.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate
Education Field of Study Make-up or a related field
Key Responsibilities Determine best make-up for a person's skin type; add base tone layer; apply make-up; purchase supplies
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for all theatrical and performance make-up artists)*
Median Salary (2015) $53,230 (for all theatrical and performance make-up artists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Make-Up Artist?

A make-up artist is a creative specialist who applies topical colorant, shadow and liner to individuals' faces. If you work in the entertainment industry, you might apply make-up to a news announcer before a broadcast, or use make-up to enhance or change the physical appearance of actors in TV shows, theatrical productions or movies. You could also work as a fashion make-up artist and apply make-up to models before photo shoots, or specialize as a bridal or cosmetic counter make-up artist.

Your specific duties include assessing an individual's skin type to minimize irritation or injury; cleaning and toning skin prior to make-up application; and then applying various kinds of make-up. Other possible duties include creating budgets and purchasing supplies and cosmetics. If you work in the entertainment field, you might also confer with stage and screen directors about the look or effect they want performers to portray; noting instances in a script when story events change a character's appearance.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Figures from O*Net OnLine show that about 32% of make-up artists have a high school diploma or GED and about 36% have some college education ( In most cases you need a diploma to gain admission to college programs. Although high schools typically don't offer courses in make-up, you can take classes in art, design and theater to develop the necessary sensibility.

Step 2: Complete College Courses

Certificate programs and college courses related to make-up artistry can provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to get started in the field. Several community colleges, universities and other institutions offer such programs, which often provide hands-on training as part of the curriculum. Courses might cover topics such as make-up techniques, make-up and culture, make-up for fashion and stage make-up. They can also teach you how to apply specific materials such as blushes, foundations, eye make-up and liners.

Step 3: Gain Related Work Experience

Working at a department store's make-up counter or as a receptionist at a salon or spa can help you learn how to apply make-up, interact with customers and build a portfolio. You can look for a make-up artist in your area willing to hire you as an assistant to gain even more advantages. In addition to learning technique, you'll have the opportunity to observe a professional at work and build a network of contacts.

Step 4: Consider Earning an Esthetician Certificate

Although esthetician certificate programs are oriented towards training you to provide skin care services, most include make-up application in their curriculum. Program content covers skin analysis, skin care techniques and skin anatomy. Other courses may address product chemistry and facial bone structure. Some programs include a practicum that enables you to work in a supervised setting.

Step 5: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as a make-up artist in the entertainment field you could work for TV stations, theatrical companies, TV and movie production companies and amusement parks ( You could also find employment as a make-up artist at a retail counter or cosmetics company. About 3,600 theatrical and performance make-up artists held jobs in 2014. Over the 2014-2024 decade employment is projected to increase 19% to around 4,300.

Rising demand for movies, TV programs and online content will drive the demand for your services. However, the number of positions will still be limited and you're likely to encounter intense competition for them. As of May 2015, you could have earned a median annual salary of $53,230, the BLS reported.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Cosmetologists and skincare specialists are two alternative careers that also require an approved training program similar training and a license. Cosmetologists analyze clients' hair and makeup and provide scalp and facial treatments. Skincare specialists provide clients with skincare treatments such as massages, scrubs, masks and peels. Both may work in settings that include salons, although skincare specialists may also work in medical offices.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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Popular Schools

  • Empire Beauty School

    Empire Beauty School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Empire Beauty School:

    • Certificates
    • High School Diploma

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

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    • Maryland: Owings Mills
    • Pennsylvania: Owings Mills, Hanover
  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

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  • La Belle Beauty School

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Hialeah
  • La Belle Beauty Academy

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Miami
  • Joe Blasco Makeup Artist Training Center

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Los Angeles
  • Elegance International

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Hollywood
  • Avi Career Training

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Great Falls
  • Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

    Campus Locations:

    • Arkansas: Helena
  • Stanford University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Stanford