How to Become a Cosmetologist [5 Simple Steps!]

The field of cosmetology is growing, and—with so many career opportunities—many people are looking to get their career in this industry started. You need more than a love for hair and makeup to accomplish that goal, however.


Let’s take a look at how to become a cosmetologist.

Decide If Cosmetology is the Right Career for You

Cosmetology is a broad career, encompassing general hairdressing, manicuring, aesthetics, and more. When people talk about cosmetologists, however, they’re usually referring to someone who works as a hairstylist.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job duties for a hair stylist include:


  • Analyzing and applying treatments for the scalp, hair, skin, and nails.
  • Cutting and styling hair.
  • Washing and conditioning hair.
  • Waving and relaxing hair.
  • Coloring and lightening hair.
  • Providing manicures and pedicures.
  • Receiving payment from clients.
  • Sanitizing work areas and tools.


As a cosmetologist, however, you’ll also be trained in nail and skin care, and makeup application. Since many cosmetologists are self-employed, occupy management positions, or are otherwise responsible for their clients, they often perform the following duties:


  • Managing schedules and client appointments.
  • Customer service.
  • Managing the business.
  • Inventorying products.
  • Recommending products based on their clients’ specific needs.


Since cosmetologists spend most of their work with clients, you should also brush up on your communication skills. It helps if you’re a people person, but anyone with good communication and customer service skills can make it as a cosmetologist. You’ll also want to brush up on your time-management skills to make sure you don’t spend too much or too little time on any one client.

Find a Cosmetology Program and Apply

After you’ve decided on your career, you’ll need to find a cosmetology program. Most beauty schools have general cosmetology programs and more specialized programs. If you’re considering a more specialized program—like aesthetics or manicuring—then you should consider those programs.


When you’re looking for a cosmetology program, you need to take several factors into consideration. In addition to price point and and program type, you should also think about the following factors:


  • Accreditation. You’ll want to make sure your program is through an established and recognized school. If a school’s accredited, that means their curriculum’s met regional agencies’ requirements. If a school’s not properly accredited, then most employers won’t consider it valid. 
  • Course Offerings. You need to check the curriculum for their cosmetologist program to make sure its courses cover everything you’ll need to in your line of work. This includes skin care, hairstyling, waxing, hair dying, and how to care for your work area. Some programs may also include basic sales and marketing courses. 
  • State Board Preparation. To become a licensed manicurist, you’ll need to earn a license from your state. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now you should know that a good program will have a record of preparing students for the state board exam. For this information, you’ll probably have to dig up program reviews from previous students. If you know someone who graduated from this program, ask them for their opinion.


After you’ve decided which program is right for you, you’ll need to apply.

Attend Class and Complete Your Cosmetology Program

Applying, however, is only the first step to completing your cosmetology program. You’ll also need to attend and pass all your classes. Unlike certain college programs, everything you learn in a cosmetology program will pertain to your future career. It’s important you don’t skip class and you pay attention to your professors.

Earn Your License

While some states lump cosmetology licenses in with similar careers—like hairdressers and barbers—others distinguish between them. You should research the licensing requirements for your state, but most will require you to complete a cosmetology program and take an exam. Most licensing tests will consist of a written portion and a practical examination. 


Once you pass your examination, you can apply for your license.

Start Your Career

And once you’ve obtained your license, you’ll be able to begin your career. A cosmetologist’s median wage is about $15 an hour, so you shouldn’t settle for much less than that. Cosmetologists usually work in personal care services, but some also work in film and TV.


You should also take into account where you’re going to get your job. Maybe you’ll work with a large chain or a local shop—or maybe you’ll try to make it on your own. Either way, you should have a firm plan in mind.


So, how do you become a cosmetologist? Once you’ve decided cosmetology is the right career for you, you’ll need to find the perfect school for your needs. The first place you should look is Career Beauty College! Our program is structured to help students pass their licensing exams and prepare them for a career in cosmetology. Check out our program’s page to schedule an appointment with an advisor!