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Make-Up Specialist

Make-up specialists may apply make-up for beauty, costume or theatrical purposes. Read on to find out more about the creative duties, job outlook, earnings and education options for make-up specialists.

Is Make-Up Specializing for Me?

Career Overview

A make-up specialist, also known as a make-up artist, applies cosmetics in such a way as to embellish and highlight a person's beauty while helping him or her express a unique image. Some make-up artists work on brides for their special day, while others focus solely on the use of cosmetics to create characters for film, television and theatrical productions.

Career Options

Make-up artists can choose to work in department stores for prestigious cosmetic lines. They may also pursue freelance and contract jobs for television and stage productions, weddings, fashion shoots and commercials. Some may find themselves working at spas, salons or even on a cruise ship.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 3% growth in jobs for theatrical and performance make-up artists from 2012-2022, which is slower than average in comparison to all other occupations. Competition was anticipated to be high, and employment was predicted to be concentrated in areas where media production companies do business, such as Los Angeles and New York City. The BLS also reported that theatrical and performance make-up artists had an annual median wage of $47,210 in May 2013 (www.bls.gov). According to PayScale.com in July 2014, most make-up artists earned between $20,616 and $89,450 a year, including overtime, bonuses or commissions.

How Can I Become a Make-Up Specialist?


Most make-up artists receive their education at beauty schools that offer programs in esthetics and cosmetology or special-effects and theatrical make-up. A make-up specialist who attends an esthetician program may take classes in sanitation and sterilization, facial techniques and make-up application. Additional coursework might cover topics in skin disorders and hair removal.

Make-up artists who wish to work in the film and theatrical industry may need to join a union, which can require a specified number of hours of experience. Some courses in special-effects techniques are consistent with union membership. Aspiring theatrical make-up artists can also learn how to make and cast molds, create and apply prosthetics and use special effects make-up.

Certification and Licensing

A special certification isn't usually required to work as a make-up specialist. However, make-up artists who also style hair or work in skin care at a spa usually need a cosmetology license or a state-issued certification.