Hairdressers and Cosmetologists

Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: December 20, 2022

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Schools and Education

What’s Needed:

  • Every state requires hairdressers and cosmetologists to complete a certificate or higher program provided by a state-licensed cosmetology or barber school. These schools help graduates obtain a license.
  • Public and private vocational schools provide training in skin care hairstyling and other related services. Most of the programs take at least nine months to complete. Many of these schools provide an associate degree.

Most hairdressers and cosmetologists take advanced courses in hairstyling and related services to stay current on the latest trends. Those seeking to own a salon may also want to take sales and marketing courses however many cosmetology programs review business subjects.

Students can specialize in individual cosmetology fields such as esthetician or nail technician. Estheticians receive training in facial treatments skincare chemicals body wraps and body hair removal techniques. Nail technicians receive training in manicures pedicures nail color treatments artificial nails and nail diseases.

What you study:

  • Hair styling
  • Cutting hair
  • Hair coloring
  • Safety procedures
  • Makeup applications
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Skincare treatments

What courses you’ll take:

Below are examples of courses that you’ll likely take as a hairdressing student.

Cosmetology Science and TheoryState rules and regulations; science of bacteria sterilization and sanitation as related to head face arms and hands; use of electricity and light; displaying a professional image; business skills as applied to cosmetology.Foundation knowledge for learning advanced cosmetology techniques and passing state licensing exams.
HaircuttingClient safety cutting angles and elevations analysis of hair textures use of cutting tools disinfection and sanitation. More advanced topics include facial shapes head forms sculpting design decisions and advanced cutting techniques.Ready students to be able to cut different types of hairs faces and heads.
Shampoos / Rinses / ConditionersScience of hair and scalp hair and scalp disorders types of scalp treatments and shampoos proper massage techniques product types and chemistry.Teach students basics of cleaning and conditioning hair.
Hair StylingUse of rollers shaping pincurls finger waves braiding curling irons and pressing.Prepare students with techniques for styling hair.
Hair ColoringTheory of color chemistry hair and scalp analysis formulations of coloring products color problems and corrections bleaching and tinting procedures safety.Ready students to successfully and safely color their clients’ hair.
Facial/Esthetic TechnologyAnatomy physiology types of skin skin disorders use of equipment such as steamers and lamps hair removal.Provide foundation knowledge for facials and esthetic procedures.
ManicuringCommon nail conditions nail techniques such as sculptured nails how to use instruments and equipment for manicures and pedicures product chemistry safety bacteriology and sanitation state rules and regulations.Teach students basics of giving manicures and pedicures.

Certifications and Licensing

Every state requires hairdressers and cosmetologists to have a license. Qualifications vary by state but generally to obtain a license candidates need a high school diploma and graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology or barber program.

Numerous states allow cosmetology training to be credited toward a barbering license and vice versa. A few states combine the two licenses. Although uncommon some states have reciprocity agreements allowing licensed cosmetologists and barbers to obtain a license in another state without having to acquire additional formal training.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Typically cosmetologists and hairdressers can work a small number of hours per week or as many hours as they choose. Some hairdressers and cosmetologists work about 40 hours per week. However about one-third of cosmetologists work part-time. A cosmetologist may have to work on the weekends and during the evenings.

Work location: Most hairdressers and cosmetologists work in beauty salons however they also work in hotels department stores cruise ships resorts and day spas. Many hairdressers and cosmetologists own a salon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports about 48 percent of cosmetology workers are self-employed.

  • The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) the largest organizations for salon professionals provides education and learning forums. The PBA provides a range of educational opportunities for students and people in all segments of the beauty industry including salon/spa professionals manufacturers and distributors. The Professional Beauty Association also helps students learn how to work the their state licensing board. The PBA also provides webinars covering a variety of industry issues.
  • The American Association of Cosmetology Schools offers general information about membership and services as well as information on subjects affecting the cosmetology school industry. Website visitors can search for a school learn how to get started in the industry and also learn about grants and scholarships. The website also provides student and professional resources.
  • The National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology provides testing programs for those preparing for their licensing exam. Candidates can download testing programs in a variety of beauty industry fields.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook from the US Department of Labor is a helpful reference covering many topics for this career including more details about the workplace what’s needed to become a cosmetologist or hairdresser and what the job’s activities include.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$21820$17K – $43K2600.15%
AKFairbanks$40740$19K – $47KN/AN/A
ALAnniston – Oxford$19770$16K – $32K1000.22%
ALAuburn – Opelika$22150$17K – $31K900.18%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$18440$16K – $30K8700.18%
ALDecatur$19720$16K – $35K1100.20%
ALDothan$18200$16K – $32K1900.34%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$20070$16K – $28K1500.29%
ALGadsden$18170$16K – $30K700.22%
ALHuntsville$22350$17K – $37K5300.26%
ALMobile$23040$17K – $51K4900.29%
ALMontgomery$23780$17K – $43K3900.25%
ALTuscaloosa$18670$16K – $36K1800.20%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$24,960$16K – $51K3700.18%
ARFort Smith$19,960$16K – $34K1800.16%
ARHot Springs$18,950$16K – $29K700.18%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$31,780$17K – $45K6000.18%
AZLake Havasu City $ KingmanN/AN/A – N/A600.13%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$20,650$17K – $38K4,3600.25%
AZPrescott$20,790$17K – $28K900.18%
AZTucson$21,000$17K – $46K1,3100.38%
AZYuma$18,860$17K – $35K700.12%
CABakersfield – Delano$19,220$17K – $30K2100.08%
CAFresno$20,990$18K – $32K1900.06%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$24,230$18K – $52K5,6500.15%
CAMerced$19,980$18K – $49K1000.17%
CAModesto$19,080$17K – $34K3400.22%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$24,400$20K – $51K1,7900.18%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$19,500$18K – $35K2600.09%
CARedding$23,020$20K – $30K900.16%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$19,100$17K – $27K2,8100.24%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$22,610$18K – $42K1,4900.18%
CASalinas$22,880$18K – $45K2100.13%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$23,180$18K – $45K2,4200.19%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$30,360$21K – $66K1,6000.16%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$21,590$18K – $37K1,4700.16%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$31,090$19K – $54K1200.12%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$24,550$18K – $42K2,0300.14%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$22,770$18K – $30K1700.10%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$23,640$18K – $46K2600.31%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$22,620$18K – $33K4500.26%
CAStockton$25,310$19K – $35K1700.09%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$22,400$18K – $30K1900.16%
CAYuba City$20,940$18K – $24K700.19%
COBoulder$26,190$18K – $42K5200.32%
COColorado Springs$23,310$17K – $43K7000.29%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$23,710$17K – $49K3,5900.29%
COFort Collins – Loveland$21,180$17K – $35K4400.33%
COGrand Junction$22,060$17K – $41KN/AN/A
COGreeley$22,570$17K – $30K2400.29%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$29,110$19K – $48K2,0300.49%
CTDanbury$19,890$18K – $33K3600.55%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$22,090$18K – $54K1,3400.24%
CTNew Haven$29,110$19K – $48K1,3200.49%
CTNorwich – New London$23,990$18K – $39K4800.37%
CTWaterbury$22,280$18K – $37K3400.53%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$26,800$17K – $56K6,8500.29%
DEDover$25,000$17K – $51K2400.41%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$23,750$17K – $45K1,2800.40%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$23,950$17K – $49K8000.39%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$20,290$17K – $33K3000.40%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$21,060$17K – $30K3600.24%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$23,560$18K – $34K1,7900.25%
FLGainesville$22,900$18K – $41K2900.24%
FLJacksonville$19,400$17K – $52K1,5300.27%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$19,710$17K – $46K3900.20%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$22,060$17K – $40K2,4900.25%
FLNaples – Marco Island$23,180$17K – $52K5100.44%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$27,060$19K – $43K1,0000.42%
FLOcala$19,760$17K – $34K3600.40%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$21,870$17K – $36K3,6400.36%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$22,440$17K – $34K8500.44%
FLPalm Coast$23,380$18K – $29K1400.76%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$21,790$17K – $30K3000.43%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$21,200$17K – $41KN/AN/A
FLPort St. Lucie$20,240$17K – $32K5400.44%
FLPunta Gorda$19,340$17K – $37K1500.39%
FLSebastian – Vero Beach$21,420$17K – $51K1500.34%
FLTallahassee$20,660$17K – $40K4600.29%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$19,400$17K – $35K3,5100.31%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$26,750$20K – $60K2,2200.44%
GAAlbany$18,400$16K – $27K700.12%
GAAthens – Clarke County$24,640$17K – $48K2000.26%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$19,410$16K – $38K6,5100.29%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$19,230$16K – $37K3100.15%
GABrunswick$18,990$16K – $54K500.12%
GAColumbus$23,170$17K – $36K2100.19%
GAGainesville$20,990$17K – $25K1600.23%
GAMacon$21,560$17K – $25KN/AN/A
GARome$21,090$16K – $30K600.17%
GASavannah$22,830$17K – $45K2900.19%
GAValdosta$18,620$16K – $35K800.16%
GAWarner Robins$21,430$16K – $34K1000.17%
HIHonolulu$31,570$21K – $57K7200.17%
IAAmes$21,810$16K – $35K1100.27%
IACedar Rapids$22,130$17K – $41K3300.24%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$19,390$17K – $31K5100.28%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$24,620$17K – $41K9100.28%
IADubuque$27,240$17K – $39K1200.21%
IAIowa City$20,740$16K – $35K2400.28%
IASioux City$19,790$16K – $30K2800.41%
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$23,530$17K – $38K1500.16%
IDBoise City – Nampa$18,980$16K – $30K7600.29%
IDCoeur d’Alene, ID$20,420$17K – $24K1400.28%
IDIdaho Falls$22,100$18K – $34KN/AN/A
IDLewiston$19,100$16K – $28K600.27%
IDPocatello$18,400$16K – $26K700.20%
ILBloomington – Normal$26,560$18K – $37K3700.43%
ILChampaign – Urbana$22,330$18K – $29K2100.22%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$25,950$18K – $44K12,5300.34%
ILDecatur$21,180$18K – $31KN/AN/A
ILKankakee – Bradley$27,330$18K – $37K700.17%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$25,600$18K – $41K1,7500.47%
ILPeoria$19,160$18K – $28K3400.19%
ILRockford$19,930$18K – $25K2900.20%
ILSpringfield$26,170$19K – $56K3600.33%
INAnderson$22,640$16K – $43K900.23%
INBloomington$22,940$16K – $39K1900.26%
INColumbus$21,520$17K – $33K  

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