Get the scoop on these hair and skin experts, including important education, earnings and career trends.

Some people always seem well put together. They know -- and often set -- the latest trends, and manage to pull them off flawlessly. As for the rest of us? We rely on experts like hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists to keep us looking sharp. This is an industry that allows the style-savvy to showcase their creativity and knack for aesthetics, but it also requires a great deal of technical expertise. Read on to learn what it takes to become one of these professionals, and what to expect in the field.

What hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists do

Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists are related but separate professionals with different specialties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hairdressers and hairstylist offer a wide range of hair services, including shampooing, hair cutting and styling, and chemical treatments, like coloring or straightening. Cosmetologists, on the other hand, focus on skin care. Duties can vary depending on one's talents or specialty, but most of these professionals tend to the following tasks:

  • Inspecting the hair and skin of clients
  • Determining treatments for clients
  • Discussing hairstyling or skin treatment options
  • Washing, coloring, and treating hair, or preparing the skin for treatment
  • Cutting, drying and styling hair
  • Receiving payment for services and managing appointments
  • Ensuring tools and work areas are cleaned and sanitized

The BLS also states that hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists should be creative and exhibit strong customer service, communication and time-management skills. The technical aspects of the field, on the other hand, are mastered in cosmetologist schools.

How to become a hairdresser, hairstylist or cosmetologist

Anyone who has ever had a bad haircut or skin treatment can appreciate how important it is for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists to know their craft and for state regulators see that they do. According to the BLS, all states require these professionals to attend cosmetologist programs and to be licensed. Some full-time programs may last about nine months and sometimes -- but not always -- result in an associate degree. Those who want to open their own salons may benefit from additional courses in business or marketing.

Because of the hands-on nature of the profession, it can be difficult to find programs that offer state-approved hairdresser or cosmetologist education online, but there are web-based programs that can help those working in the field keep up with new trends, techniques and products.

Hairdresser and hairstylist salary and career outlook

Here's an idea of what you might expect to make as a hairdresser, as well as what type of job growth you might expect in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists385,960$31,5308.5%
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.


  1. Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395012.htm
  2. Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, Long-Term Occupational Projections, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
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