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Cosmetology Career Paths and Job Outlook

Types of Jobs Available For Those Interested in Beauty and Cosmetology

Beauticians and cosmetologists provide personal appearance care in a variety of ways, including cutting and styling hair, coloring hair, caring for the nails through manicures and pedicures, providing facials, and applying makeup. There are some sub-specialties within the cosmetology field--manicurists and pedicurists, also called nail technicians, focus exclusively on the nails, while estheticians, also called skin care specialists, focus on giving facials, skin treatments, and massages. While sometimes the term cosmetology refers only to those who are licensed to cut and style hair, the terms cosmetologist and beautician can also both signify an individual who is licensed to work with hair, nails, and skin treatments.

A typical day in the life of a beautician involves working with clients, shampooing, styling, and cutting hair, softening skin and polishing nails, or giving facials or massages and applying makeup. Many cosmetologists work evenings and weekends, since these are the times their clients are available for treatment. More and more cosmetologists now sell products, so some time might also be spent talking about a particular beauty product with a client.

Cosmetology offers a unique opportunity to be self-employed and set your own schedule, since approximately 44 percent of beauticians are self-employed and 29 percent work part-time. Some own their own salons, while others rent space from a salon. If you're interested in working in beauty and cosmetology, you'll need good stamina, since most beauticians spend a great deal of their day on their feet, and great people skills, since your income depends on your ability to keep clients.

Formal Training Required to Work in Beauty and Cosmetology

Every state requires that cosmetologists be licensed. In some states, all that is necessary is a high school diploma or GED and passing a state licensing examination, while in other states, those who want to take the licensing examination must graduate from one of many state-approved beauty and cosmetology training programs. Beauty and cosmetology degree programs typically lead to an associate's degree, while other beauty and cosmetology training programs lead to a certificate. Typically, a full-time student can complete a cosmetology program in about nine months, and full-time esthetician and nail technician programs take less time. Beauty schools offer cosmetology classes such as the following:

  • Hair cutting
  • Sanitation and disinfection
  • Cosmetology chemistry
  • Hair removal
  • Bacteriology
  • Facial massage

Of course, your courses vary depending on whether you are pursuing licensure as a cosmetologist, nail technician, or skin care specialist.

The Typical Career Path of Someone Interested in Beauty and Cosmetology

A good cosmetologist must have a great sense of style and fashion, good people skills, and excellent business acumen. Natural sales ability is also important, since much of a beautician's income is from product sales and client retention. Those who are interested in hairdressing should look into local hair design colleges or cosmetology institutes. Initial licensure allows you to start in entry-level jobs, and once you have more experience and have established clientele, you may decide to go into business for yourself. Owning your own salon is a great way to advance in the beauty and cosmetology industry, as is becoming licensed to be an instructor at a cosmetology academy.

Job Outlook and Salary Information for Those Interested in Beauty and Cosmetology

The good news is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beauty and cosmetology jobs are growing faster than the average, thanks to the increase in population and higher demand for beauty services. The number of cosmetologists is expected to increase by 20 percent, while the number of nail technicians is predicted to grow by 19 percent and the number of skin care specialists by 38 percent, which is much faster than the average. The amount of money you'll earn as a cosmetologist depends on your specialty. The median annual earnings of cosmetologists and hair dressers was $23,330 in 2009. Nail technicians earned $19,710, while estheticians brought home $28,580. Tips can be a big part of earnings for beauticians, and earnings may vary significantly based on place of employment.

Beauty and cosmetology is a great field for those who love working with others and enjoy fashion and style. If you're interested in starting a career in a growing field but you want training that can last less than a year, consider getting the right education to work as a cosmetologist.

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