If you associate beauty school with Frankie Avalon and the movie Grease, it's time to rethink your notion of cosmetology. Today's cosmetology degree programs use the latest technology and techniques to teach students how to care for hair, skin, and nails. Plus, they offer access to dynamic career options that have shown strong growth in recent years.
In addition to providing knowledge and skills to launch a successful career, cosmetology programs are a prerequisite to becoming a licensed beauty professional in most states. Depending on the award you plan to pursue, these programs are typically completed in one to two years. Students may graduate with a diploma, certificate or associate degree.
Online cosmetology degrees are hard to come by since this field requires hands-on instruction. However, some community colleges may offer online degrees for cosmetology that combine online learning for general education courses with classroom instruction for hands-on skills.
Best Colleges for Cosmetology Degree Programs
While there are plenty of dedicated beauty schools, community colleges dominate the list of top schools for cosmetology. Using a methodology that considered cost, services and program prominence among other things, Schools.com found the following ten institutions are best for those planning to pursue a career in beauty.
Clovis Community College in New Mexico takes the number one spot among the best colleges for cosmetology degree programs. The two-year institution gets high marks for being affordable and offering convenient features such as academic coaching, 8-week sessions and free tutoring. It ranks sixth for the prominence of its cosmetology program and has the best graduation rate among the schools on this list.
The college offers instruction in a modern salon with professional equipment. There are two tracks of study available: cosmetology and esthetics/nail technician. Students in the cosmetology track learn about hair, skin and nail care while the esthetics students focus specifically on nails and skin.
Both tracks are certified by the New Mexico State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists and prepare graduates for state licensure.
At California's Fullerton College, students can earn an affordable degree from an institution that has been in the education business since 1913. The two-year school ranks fourth on this survey for its low tuition and fees. It also ranks high for student services that include academic advising and career placement assistance.
The school's cosmetology department offers a 1,600 hour program that meets state requirements for the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology exams. The program can be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students can complete their education in one year while part-time students may require two years. There is also instruction available for those who wish to become a cosmetologist/esthetician instructor.
Fullerton College is a public institution and enrolls approximately 23,000 students.
The SJCC School of Cosmetology says it's one of the top schools for cosmetology in California, and the Schools.com analysis would agree. San Jose City College features affordable tuition and solid student support services. The school ranks fifth for the prominence of its cosmetology degree programs.
Cosmetology students can earn either an associate of science in cosmetology or a certificate in the field. The program covers hair, nail, skin and salon skills. Graduates should be eligible to take the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology exam. SJCC also has a program specifically for those who want to provide esthetics services only.
San Jose City College opened in 1921 and serves approximately 10,000 students per semester.
Santiago Canyon College is another affordable California community college for cosmetology students. Located in Orange, the school has the fifth lowest tuition among the schools surveyed for these rankings. It offers flexible scheduling, including night and weekend classes, as well as academic advising for students.
The college's cosmetology program offers new classes at the start of every month, making it possible for students to begin their education quickly. SCC offers cosmetology and esthetician programs. Both contain a mix of lecture and laboratory classes and meet the requirements mandated by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Students may graduate with either a certificate or an associate degree.
SCC was founded in 1985 and enrolls approximately 17,000 students in its credit and non-credit courses each semester.
California is home to four of the best colleges for cosmetology degree programs. The fourth entry from the state is Butte College, taking the fifth spot overall. As a two-year college in Oroville, it serves the Butte-Glenn Community College District.
The cosmetology program at Butte College can result in either an associate degree or a certificate of achievement. Both options meet state requirements for licensure. The 7 six-week modules required for cosmetology can be completed in ten months. There are also certificates available for esthetician and manicuring.
Butte College pulled in solid rankings for its tuition, graduation rate and program prominence. It offers academic counseling and students who need a flexible schedule may find night and weekend classes are available.
Founded in 1965, New Mexico Junior College has its campus in Hobbs. The two-year institution has the ninth most prominent cosmetology program among the schools surveyed. It also features affordable tuition and a variety of student services.
New Mexico Junior College is also notable for the number and variety of cosmetology programs it offers. These include:
- Associate degree in cosmetology
- Associate degree in barbering
- Barbering certificate
- Cosmetology certificate
- Cosmetology instructor certificate
- Esthetician certificate of completion
- Manicurist/facial specialist certificate of completion
- Manicurist/pedicurist certificate of completion
Although the school does not offer online cosmetology degrees, it does have a robust e-learning division. Students enrolled in one of the associate degree programs may be able to take some of their general education classes online.
Mayland Community College ranks seventh among the top schools for cosmetology. Its main campus is in Spruce Pine, North Carolina although it has other learning centers elsewhere in the state. At 14-1, it has the lowest student-faculty ratio on this list. It also has the seventh most prominent cosmetology program.
The cosmetology program at MCC prepares students to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination in North Carolina. Students can graduate with either a diploma or a certificate. There is also training available for cosmetology instructors, and Mayland Community College offers a manicuring nail technology program as well.
Chartered in 1970, MCC serves more than 10,000 students today.
Central Carolina Community College is another of the best colleges for cosmetology degree programs that is based in North Carolina. The school says it is guided by a desire to help students succeed, and it caters to a variety of populations, from recent high school grads to adults changing careers.
Cosmetology students at CCCC have a number of options. They can earn an associate degree, certificate or diploma in cosmetology. These graduates should be prepared to pass the North Carolina State Board examination. There is also a cosmetology instructor certificate and a manicuring/nail technology certificate available. Finally, Central Carolina Community College offers barbering and esthetics programs as well.
CCCC ranks high for its low student-faculty ratio, availability of student support services and the variety of programs it offers.
Located in the Texas town of Texarkana, this community college says it is a great place to start or, for career changers, a great place to start over. The school offers a variety of academic and occupational training programs.
The cosmetology program at Texarkana College partners with Pivot Point International and is a Wella Professionals Signature School. As a result, students are taught not only the latest industry trends but also how to meet and exceed professional standards. Texarkana offers an associate degree, one-year certificate and cosmetology instructor certificate in the field.
The college earned its spot among the top schools for cosmetology, in part, because of its affordable tuition and commitment to student support. There is academic advising for current students while graduates may receive career placement assistance.
Martin Community College rounds out this list of best colleges for cosmetology degree programs. With a campus in Williamston, North Carolina, the school prides itself on offering affordable and accessible education options.
MCC is another school offering a wide variety of cosmetology training options. These include:
- Associate degree, certificate and diploma in cosmetology
- Chemical assistant certificate
- Esthetics technology assistant certificate
- Shampoo assistant certificate
- Manicuring/nail technology certificate
- Salon management certificate
- Instructor certificates for cosmetology, esthetics and manicuring
The college has good rankings for tuition and prominence. It offers night and weekend classes for those who need a flexible schedule. Academic advising is also offered to help students succeed in their chosen program.
Cosmetology Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
With so many different cosmetology programs available, it can be different to decide which one to pursue. Students should first check their state's licensure requirements. Then, they should consider whether they want to specialize in nails or skin. Meanwhile, those who want the ability to provide a range of services related to hair, skin and nails may be better off with a cosmetology degree.
Career Outlook for Cosmetology Majors
People are interested in looking their best and that bodes well for many cosmetology careers. Here's the jobs outlook for occupations in the field.
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Cosmetology Degree Programs
Certificates and associate degrees can be less expensive than four-year degrees, but students may still need help with tuition. In addition to government and school aid, private scholarships for cosmetology degree programs are available. Many are sponsored by beauty associations or beauty industry businesses and include the Murad Education Scholarship for Esthetics Students, OPI & AACS Scholarships and the PBA/NCA Sally Scholarships.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Accessed October 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh
- Cosmetology, Clovis Community College, Accessed October 2017, http://www.clovis.edu/cosmetology/index.aspx
- Cosmetology Department, Fullerton College, Accessed October 2017, http://cosmetology.fullcoll.edu/courses/
- Cosmetology, San Jose City College, Accessed October 2017, http://cosmetology.fullcoll.edu/courses/
- Cosmetology Program, Santiago Canyon College, Accessed October 2017, https://www.sccollege.edu/Departments/CareerEd/Cosmetology/Pages/default.aspx
- Cosmetology, Butte College, Accessed October 2017, http://www.butte.edu/departments/careertech/cosmetology/index.html
- Cosmetology, New Mexico Junior College, Accessed October 2017, http://www.nmjc.edu/academics/programs/cosmetology.aspx
- Cosmetology, Mayland Community College, Accessed October 2017, http://www.mayland.edu/academics/online-catalog/career-technologies/cosmetology/cosmetology-a55140
- Cosmetology, Central Carolina Community College, Accessed October 2017,http://www.cccc.edu/curriculum/majors/cosmetology/
- Cosmetology, Texarkana College, Accessed October 2017, https://www.texarkanacollege.edu/study/cosmetology/
- Academic Programs, Martin Community College, Accessed October 2017, https://www.martincc.edu/programs
- Cosmetology Scholarships, Shore Beauty School, Accessed October 2017, http://shorebeautyschool.edu/scholarships/
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.