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How to Become a Cosmetologist

Cosmetology is a fascinating and exciting industry to work in, with a diverse range of different things you can do as well as places where you can work. The term “cosmetologist” refers to anyone who specializes in cosmetics and the fields relating to beauty and personal appearance, and includes both men and women, providing services to both men and women. Some of the types of things professional cosmetologists might do include:

  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Facials and rejuvenating skin treatments
  • Waxing, threading, sugaring and other hair removal techniques
  • Cutting hair
  • Coloring hair
  • Perming or straightening hair
  • Attaching hair extensions or weaves
  • Styling hair for special occasions (for example weddings)
  • Applying fake tan
  • Acrylic nail extensions and nail art
  • Electrolysis
  • Body wraps
  • Semi permanent make up and eyelash tinting
  • Professional make up and occasion make up (including bridal)

Some cosmetologists offer all kinds of different services around beauty, whereas others specialize in one area, like hair, skin, nails or hair removal.

Cosmetologists work in all kinds of locations, including from home, at resorts or on cruise ships, on television and movie sets, at luxury spas, and most commonly, at salons.

Becoming a cosmetologist – when to study

If you are in high school and have decided on cosmetology as the career you want to follow, you can train part time at a vocational college or beauty school while you are still in high school, allowing you to finish high school and be qualified and ready to start working right away. This can be a great way to start on a lucrative and challenging career early.

If you have finished high school or are looking at cosmetology as a potential second career, you can either study full time at a beauty school or community college, or you can do it part time alongside your job or family life. Whether you study full or part time will affect how long it takes to get the qualifications you need, so this is something to consider in your plans.

Becoming a cosmetologist – choosing a course of study

How you become a cosmetologist will vary a lot depending on your current circumstances, the areas of cosmetology you want to practice, and the state that you want to work in.

The first and most important step is to decide what sort of cosmetologist you want to be, and what your aspirations are. While you can always add new skills to your arsenal when you are working, for example learning how to use a new hair coloring technique that has come into fashion or how to do something quite technical like electrolysis, when you are starting out you need to know what your main focus is going to be so you can choose the right path in terms of training and certification. If your main interest is make up, then it wouldn’t make sense for you to undertake the same training as someone who wants to be a hair stylist or barber. Equally, if you know you want to work in a diverse job where you get to do all kinds of different treatments, then you’ll want a course that both trains and qualifies you to work with all kinds of areas like skin, nails, make up and hair.

Not only should you consider the niches of cosmetology you would like to work in, but also the level and environment. If you want to open your own salon or work on a self employed basis, then it would be beneficial to choose a course that also included business elements. If you would like to work your way up to a management role at a prestigious spa or salon, then a course that includes some salon management modules would also be helpful to your career.

Once you know what you are looking for in terms of skills, you need to know what certifications are needed to work as a cosmetologist in your field of interest in your state, or, if you are looking to travel somewhere else once you are qualified, the state or country you want to be in.