Cosmetologists work in the personal care field, often specializing in hair care, nail care, or skin care services. In the United States, these service providers normally must be licensed, and there are state boards that grant cosmetology licenses. Someone hoping to enter the field might first want to research the current educational requirements in his or her state. Then he or she can choose among the available cosmetologist training options, such as vocational schools or private academies.
The minimum requirements to become a cosmetologist usually include being at least 16 years old, and having earned a high school diploma or GED. In addition, most states also require a cosmetologist license in order to work in a professional environment, like a salon or spa. These licenses can be obtained by completing certain training requirements and then passing an exam administered by the state.
Some high schools offer basic courses in skin care and hair styling, as do many post-secondary vocational schools. Generally, a student who completes his or her cosmetologist training at a vocational school will receive a certificate. Independent cosmetology academies typically offer even more advanced training for aspiring hairstylists, nail technicians, and skin care and make-up specialists — also called estheticians. Their programs generally include classroom training as well as preparation for a state board exam. Many of these independent programs last about nine months and lead to an associate’s degree.
In most cosmetologist training programs, students typically receive practical instruction on mannequins first. Then they might practice their skills on other students. Many schools offer their services at discounted prices to the public, enabling students to gain confidence by further refining their skills.
Once a student completes the requisite amount of classroom and hands-on training, he or she should be eligible to take the state licensing exam. Cosmetologist license exams usually contain two parts — a written section and a practical component. Students should check with their school or state board to find out how and where to take the test.
The cost of cosmetologist training varies depending on the program, and there are a few options available for students seeking financial aid. In the U.S., federal grants or loans may be available if the school is an accredited institution. In addition, some private institutes might have their own financial aid programs.
Many states also have continuing education requirements for cosmetologists. Once they have earned their licenses, these professionals might have to fulfill certain training obligations in order to renew them. For example, they might be asked to take some courses in order to stay informed about new products and current style trends. There are various in-person and online options available for fulfilling most continuing education requirements.