A cosmetologist works with individuals to embellish their appearance. In general, a cosmetologist may go by other frequently associated names such as beautician, barber, hairstylist or hairdresser. People who work in this field commonly specialize in beautifying hair, although a cosmetologist may work with skin and the nails on the hands and feet. For this reason, individuals who perform facials, apply makeup for a living, and provide pedicures and manicures also work in the field of cosmetology. Varying establishments may ask for different types of education and training, although a cosmetologist license in generally required to work in every area.
The duties of a cosmetologist can be extensive. Common tasks include washing, conditioning, cutting and trimming hair. Cosmetologists also provide hair coloring, which can include dying, tinting and bleaching hair. A great deal of time may additionally be devoted to providing client consultations. In most cases, the cosmetologist's area of specialty will greatly influence his or her daily duties.
To get a cosmetologist license, an individual will need to enroll in an accredited cosmetologist school. The prerequisites for enrollment can significantly vary. Some schools may accept students as young as 16 years of age, although the common requirement is 18. In most cases, students can enroll in a cosmetology program at a local vocational or community college.
Whether a student is trying to obtain a cosmetologist license to become a barber or a general hairstylist, the initial courses taken in a training program may be fairly similar. Students will generally take courses in cosmetic chemistry, hygiene, cosmetology law and safety practices. Training will also include detailed instruction on hair styling, cutting and providing color treatments. There may also be cosmetologist classes on scalp disorders and bacteriology. In addition, different areas of cosmetology will usually have training programs tailored to that particular specialty.
Once an individual completes a cosmetology program, he or she may take an examination to get a cosmetologist license. In the United States, this is a general requirement to work as a cosmetologist. The requirements for obtaining the license may vary according to different regions. Often, a cosmetologist exam will have multiple parts. Students may be asked to demonstrate certain learned skills after taking a written test.
After passing the necessary tests and being awarded a cosmetologist license, a person may look for employment. Licensed cosmetologists may work in a hair salon, barbershop or provide services at a day spa. Some may work in nursing homes and inpatient medical facilities to wash, cut and style patients' hair. Often, obtaining a license will be the first step for a cosmetologist looking to go into business for him or herself.