Choosing the best salon school is mostly a facet of three important decisions: where geographically you want to study, exactly what you want to study, and whether you intend to be a full or part-time student. There are usually many different salon school options, and jumping into the search without some clear parameters can be overwhelming. It is usually a good idea to hone in on a few viable options first, then take time getting to know each one in depth. The best school for you is usually the one with the best combination of personal fits and outside opportunities.
Deciding where you want to live and work is often the first question you must ask yourself as you begin choosing a salon school. Unlike many colleges and universities, beauty schools are usually rooted in their local communities. Schools are often little known outside of their cities and towns, which can make getting a job elsewhere after graduation more challenging. Students often spend time interning or gaining experience in nearby salons, as well, which builds up job prospects early on.
Many jurisdictions require cosmetologists, hair stylists, and other salon professionals to hold licenses. The best salon school programs usually teach students in such a way that they will be able to pass the local licensing board exams. If you go to school in one area but intend to work in another, you may find yourself having to do a lot of backtracking to prepare to get licensed in your final destination.
Narrowing down exactly why you want to go to salon school is also a big part of making the best choice. Most schools support a variety of programs, from makeup artistry and hair design to spa services like manicures and pedicures. Some schools are better in some areas than others, however. If you have a defined passion at the outset — styling for the theater, say, or hair care for people with certain types or styles of hair — it is a good idea to actively seek out programs with at least strong teaching in these areas, if not dedicated salon courses or certification tracks. Business instruction is also something to look out for, particularly if owning a salon is on your long-term horizon.
Whether or not you intend to hold a full-time job while attending salon school is another consideration. Many schools offer part-time programs, but not all do. Similar considerations exist for students hoping to accelerate their studies. Knowing what sort of program you are looking for and what your time frame for completion is will help you immediately eliminate programs that do not work with your schedule.
Once you have narrowed down the field, it is time to take a hard look at the schools that remain. When possible, it is usually a good idea to visit any schools you are considering. Ask to tour the studios and teaching room, and keep an eye out for the sophistication and quality of the teaching tools. Rooms need not be brand new, but the salon equipment should be at least up-to-date with current trends. Most salon school graduates go on to take jobs in many types of salons, which makes keeping up with trends important.
Many career experts recommend starting your school search with two parallel lists: one called “essential,” which captures your non-negotiable requirements, and the other called “desirable,” which names attributes that would be nice, but would not make or break the deal. Ranking any schools you are considering against these lists can help you keep tally of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The salon school with the best balance of both is usually the best one for you.