Hairdressers and Cosmetologists provide a wide variety of beauty services to customers, much of which is focused on hair care. Among the services they offer are hair cutting, trimming, styling, shampooing, and advising customers how to care for their hair at home. In addition, cosmetologists are often trained in giving manicures and pedicures; providing skin and facial treatments; and applying makeup.
Some cosmetologists and hairdressers are specialists who focus on one primary aspect of personal care and grooming.
- Barbers are individuals who primarily cater to male clients and who focus on cutting hair, giving shaves, and trimming beards.
- Shampooers who work mostly in large salons, specialize in shampooing and conditioning hair.
- Manicurists and Pedicurists (also referred to as Nail Technicians) work exclusively on nails and provide their customers with manicures, pedicures, nail polishing, and nail extensions.
- Estheticians (also known as Skin Care Specialists) concentrate on skin care and facial treatment.
Hairdresser and Cosmetology Schools
A high school diploma or GED is the minimum educational requirement to work as a hairdresser. However, many salons hire only hairdressers who have completed a cosmetology school program. Many high schools and vocational schools offer hairdressing programs.
- Full-time hairdressing programs can take anywhere from nine months to 24 months, and can often lead to an associate degree.
- Full-time cosmetology programs can last anywhere from 9 to 24 months, while an apprenticeship program can last from one to three years.
- Continuing education classes are recommended for hairdressers to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and styling techniques.
Those who choose to become hairdressers should have a firm grasp of fashion, technical design and various forms of art. Good communication skills and the ability to sell and market yourself are also qualities that can contribute to the success of a hairdresser.
Hairdresser and Cosmetology Training and Courses
Formal training programs typically include a mix of classroom study, demonstrations, and practical work. Students typically undertake supervised practice on customers in school-sponsored clinics, studying basic techniques such as:
- Hair cutting
- Facial massaging
- Hair and scalp treatments
In addition to hands-on learning, most schools also include coursework covering:
- Unisex hairstyling
- Chemical styling
- Use and care of instruments
- Sanitation and hygiene
- How to recognize simple skin ailments
Additional instruction in communication, sales, and general business practices is usually provided as well. Those who choose to run their own salons should consider taking their education further and earn a business degree. Courses in finance, business, sales, marketing and promotion are all good options for those who are pursuing a business degree with an eye toward running their own hairdressing salon.
Hairdresser and Cosmetology Licensing
Every state requires hairdressers, cosmetologists, and most other personal appearance workers to be licensed. Qualifications for a license vary by state, but here are some of the common licensing requirements:
- Graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Pass a written test
- Demonstrate an ability to perform basic cosmetology services
Some states allow hairdressers and cosmetologists who are already licensed in one state to apply for and obtain a license in a different state without additional formal training. It is important for anyone wishing to work in a particular state to carefully review the laws of that state before entering a training program.
Graduates of a training program are usually eligible to take the state licensing examination. This exam consists of a written test and in many states also includes a practical test of styling skills. A few states include an oral component to the exam, where the applicant is asked to explain the procedures he or she is following during the practical test. Many states require separate licensing examinations for those who intend to qualify as manicurists, pedicurists, and skin care specialists.