If you love to do the latest hairstyles and you're fascinated by trending make-up styles or recent developments in skin care, then a career in hairdressing or cosmetology could be a fantastic fit. This career can be a great way to showcase — and share — your gift of creativity and aesthetic sensibilities, and it also can provide you with the opportunity to learn important business skills and become an entrepreneur. From hair to nails to facials, there are so many different aspects to cosmetology that it will be up to you to determine your ideal niche and calling.

Hairdressers or estheticians may rent a station from a business owner or work in a well-known, established full-service salon. You may also decide to launch your own business. Areas of specialization may include wedding services, up-dos, natural color or more.

A Day in the Life of a Hairdresser or Cosmetologist

In this job, you will need to know how to understand your clients' needs and be able to give them the cut they want or the service they seek, whether that's a haircut, waxing, a facial or a pedicure. Giving every client your full attention and making sure that they feel pampered is a big part of success for a hairdresser or cosmetologist.

Your day may begin by checking your appointment book to see who is coming in for services and what you need to do to prepare. The cosmetology courses given at most beauty schools can help you build many of the skills important for preparation.

In this career, you could see as many as 20 people a day, particularly if you are doing quick haircuts lasting from 15 to 30 minutes. Services such as hair color can take longer, but may also allow you to squeeze in haircuts or simple services for other clients.

Typical daily tasks for hairdressers and cosmetologists can include some of the following depending on the focus of your career:

  • Discussing hairstyles and advising customers about how to style and care for their hair
  • Educating customers about skin care, products and hygiene
  • Shampooing, coloring, treating and cutting hair
  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Maintaining customer records of products and services used
  • Keeping your work area clean and disinfecting the tools you use
  • Collecting payment for services

If you work for a nationwide chain and plan to advance toward management, you may be expected to set schedules for staff, order products and keep track of inventory, or work on marketing ideas.

Important Characteristics for Hairdressers and Cosmetologists

As you might imagine, a friendly personality is important to attracting customers and having them return again and again for your services. Possessing the right cosmetology skills are essential, too, but hairdressers and cosmetologists are known for spending significant time with some of their their customers and getting to know them very well. An outgoing personality can be a huge asset.

Physical stamina is also important, since hairdressers and cosmetologists spend a lot of time on their feet and also bending over as they shampoo a client's hair. Another helpful skill is the ability to manage your time effectively. As much as customers may enjoy the service you offer, you may need to work efficiently to reach your financial goals as well.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Hairdresser or Cosmetologist

A high school diploma or GED is necessary to become a hairdresser or cosmetologist, but graduation from a state-approved cosmetology school or beauty school may be required as well. Below you can find details on how to prepare for a career as a hairdresser or cosmetologist:

1) Complete a diploma or certificate program. Cosmetology courses and programs can be found at vocational schools, private for-profit institutions or community colleges. You may even be able to choose between a daytime or evening program offered by cosmetology colleges, hairdressing schools or esthetician schools. In a program of study, you can learn the fundamentals of hairdressing or cosmetology as well as the latest trends, including hair-coloring and cuts. These programs can have many different names, some of which are provided here:

    • Business: Salon Entrepreneurship Department Certificate
    • Cosmetology Certificate Program
    • Cosmetology Certificate of Achievement
    • Cosmetology Certificate of Proficiency
    • Diploma in Hairdressing
    • Esthetics Certificate
    • Nail Technology Certificate
    • Associate Degree in Cosmetology

2) Seek licensure. Next, you will need to seek state licensure to work as a hairdresser, barber or cosmetologist. A written exam is usually required, but you may need to complete an oral examination too. A state's board of cosmetology oversees the guidelines, and a specific number of hours or training is necessary to be eligible for licensing. Some states even have reciprocity agreements with other states, but these are not very common.

3) Pursue certification. You may be able to become certified to use specific products or to provide a specific type of service. These certifications often require additional coursework or hours in training. Example certifications include the Mastey Hair Color Certification and Redken Color Certification. Certifications may be useful for hiring, attracting specific types of customers or even renewing your license.

4) Maintain licensure. State boards of cosmetology typically set specific rules for you to be able to renew your license. This can vary by license type in some states, but continuing education courses and fees are usually part of the process. Be sure to check your state board of cosmetology to see the full details.


  • Barbers, Hairstyles and Cosmetologists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed Nov. 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/mobile/barbers-hairstylists-and-cosmetologists.htm
  • Cosmetology Certificate of Achievement, Compton College, Accessed Nov. 2017, http://www.compton.edu/Academics/CTE/cosmetology/certificates.aspx
  • Cosmetology Certificate Program, Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College, Accessed Nov. 2017, http://college.lattc.edu/cosmetology/certificate-programs/
  • Cosmetology, Trident Technical College, Accessed Nov. 2017, https://www.tridenttech.edu/academics/divisions/iet/iet_cosmo.htm

Hairdresser and Cosmetologist Skills

Below are the skills needed to be hairdresser and cosmetologist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening3.883
Service Orientation3.623.25
Critical Thinking3.383.5
Active Learning3.253

Hairdresser and Cosmetologist Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be hairdresser and cosmetologist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Near Vision44
Arm-Hand Steadiness3.883.75
Finger Dexterity3.883.75
Manual Dexterity3.883.75
Oral Comprehension3.753.25

Hairdresser and Cosmetologist Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be hairdresser and cosmetologist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Customer and Personal Service4.434.71
Sales and Marketing3.673.89
Administration and Management3.012.95
Education and Training2.973.08
English Language2.871.86

Hairdresser and Cosmetologist Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being hairdresser and cosmetologist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public4.275.09
Selling or Influencing Others3.994.14
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships3.984.45
Assisting and Caring for Others3.934.3
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge3.94.87

Hairdresser and Cosmetologist Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being hairdresser and cosmetologist according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.47
Self Control4.45

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Hairdresser and Cosmetologist

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Hairdresser and Cosmetologist jobs , as of 2019

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim13,710$32,010
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington9,980$26,810
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land7,640$26,360
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell7,050$34,370
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach6,430$29,970

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to hairdressers and cosmetologists

Source : 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 24.3 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Hairdresser and Cosmetologist.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.