Online Cosmetology Degrees and Certificates

Earning an associate's degree or certificate in cosmetology prepares you to become a state-licensed cosmetologist, which is mandatory to work in the industry. Due to the hands-on nature of this field, fully online programs in cosmetology are not available. Review the curriculum in an on-campus cosmetology program, and get more info about the licensure requirements.

Are Cosmetology Degrees and Certificates Available Online?

While some distance-learning programs may be designed to educate you in cosmetology business operations, associate's degree and certificate programs in cosmetology aren't available online. The work of a cosmetologist is based much more heavily in practice than in theory. Most certificate and degree programs require you to complete numerous laboratory-based courses in makeup application, skin care treatments, hair styling and more. Therefore, these programs aren't offered online for practical reasons.

State-licensing regulations are another reason cosmetology programs aren't available online. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all 50 states require licensure to work as a cosmetologist ( Most states insist that cosmetologists have over 1,000 hours of cosmetology education before being eligible to take licensure exams. Tennessee, for example, mandates 1,500 clock hours of applied and theoretical cosmetology experience. You must also pass theoretical and practical exams to obtain licensure ( These sorts of requirements are typical, and distance-learning programs can't logistically conform to those standards.

Online AvailabilityNone
Common CoursesShampooing and blow-drying, manicuring and pedicuring, giving facials, analyzing cosmetic colors, applying makeup techniques
LicensingPassing exam scores; additional requirements vary according to state
Median Salary (2020)$27,630 (Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists)
Job Outlook (2019-2029)1% decline (Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Will I Learn in a Campus-Based Program?

As an alternative, you can earn a professional certificate or an associate's degree from a campus-based cosmetology program. The course curricula for most institutions follow in accordance with state licensure regulations, but you may want to check your state board guidelines to ensure the program you enroll in offers adequate training hours. Exact course requirements may differ from one program or state to the next, but the following topics are commonly covered in cosmetology courses:

  • Shampooing and blow-drying
  • Haircutting, coloring and highlighting
  • Straightening, curling and waving
  • Manicuring and pedicuring
  • Analyzing skin care
  • Giving facials
  • Analyzing cosmetic colors
  • Applying makeup techniques

You're required to complete numerous hours of applied practice in virtually all of these areas. This hands-on work typically takes place at on-campus practice salons or clinics. In order to participate, cosmetology students usually purchase their own salon kits and tools or pay extra materials fees with tuition. Many programs also offer state-board examination preparatory courses or mock-licensing exams.

How Do I Get My License?

Like the eligibility requirements described above, the exact processes for obtaining licensure vary from state to state. You can register to take a state's licensing exam once you meet the licensing requirements. Most licensure exams consist of written and practical components that test your applied and theoretical knowledge in cosmetology. Some states - Washington, for example - issue handbooks to exam registrants to help familiarize themselves with examination content and structure ( Passing scores on both sections of the exam qualifies you to work as a licensed, officially recognized cosmetologist in your state.