THE ULTIMATE SALARY GUIDE FOR
The Definitive Guide for Anyone in or Considering Entering the Field of Cosmetology
Cosmetology is an incredibly rewarding field. Helping clients look and feel great inside and out requires cosmetologists to be equal parts therapist and skilled beauty professional. This guide was developed to be an information source both for those that are considering entering the cosmetology industry as well as professionals that have been in the field for years.
What does a cosmetologist do, exactly?
Cosmetology is often lumped together with makeup artists, hair dressing, and other salon services. In reality, the vocation of cosmetology employs elements from each of these and much more. Like a doctor in general medicine rather than a specialist like a podiatrist, the cosmetologist has to be acutely aware of specializations as well as how each of these work together holistically towards achieving the best results for the client. Cosmetology involves several distinct lines of expertise revolving around generally beautifying the hair, skin, and face. Within these areas there are different specialties involved and areas where cosmetology differs from the more specific modalities:
A core portion of any cosmetologists wheelhouse is hair work. Cosmetologists employ cutting edge techniques to not only style hair but can skillfully employ a variety of techniques to achieve a desired look. Cutting hair, hair coloring, foiling, and special styles like Balayage are all among a cosmetologists hair beautifying toolkit.
Hair work can sometimes be confused for barbers since cosmetologists are typically licensed to cut hair and shape hair using hair cutting tools, clippers and texturers. This also applies to beard trimming. But where a barber is limited in scope with cutting hair, a cosmetologist can employ any one of a multitude of different techniques.
Hair coloring and lightening requires understanding skin sensitivity and the proper sequence for applying the right treatment like toner or semi permanent color. Scalp and hair care in general can incorporate shampooing, which may sound basic, but will require advanced knowledge of proper pH levels for different hair types and the best methods for conditioning the scalp.
When a special situation arises like a client coming in for a scalp treatment and then having some form of condition or injury, cosmetologists need to be able to identify this and be able to communicate the proper care to the client. Blindly performing the service with someone who is suffering from a certain condition could easily exacerbate their symptoms and may be grounds for a claim against your professional liability, but more on this later.
Hair styling is also an important element of cosmetology. Being able to mold hair with finger waves or prin curls, using rollers and clips, thermal irons, hot rollers, hair dryers, and even heat lamps can all be dangerous if employed haphazardly during a client session.
The face may be the most treacherous ground that a professional can perform services on. This portal to the world is most everyone’s greatest source of angst as we prepare to face one another at work and at play.
Cosmetologists here use their knowledge to downplay imperfections and highlight its beautiful contrasts. Paying special attention to the eyes, lips, and cheeks, a cosmetologist helps brides feel beautiful on their wedding day and models rock their photo shoots, not to mention working on a regular book of clients. Facials, makeup, and hair removal can all be performed on the face.
Cosmetologists will need to be aware of topics like how to test for skin sensitivity, waxing and tweezing, performing facial massage, and others.
Face work and skin work can go hand in hand but skin care involves other areas too such as the neck and hands that both men and women desire to look their best. Skin care is very much hands on requiring the use of sophisticated techniques and a variety of tools to make skin not only appear great but to be healthy underneath as well.
Skin care regimens can be some of the most lucrative services for cosmetologists because of the necessity of regularity. Skin care can often be confused for estheticians and truly, estheticians are masters of skin care but they are not then licensed like a cosmetologist to do broader areas like working on the hair or doing pedicures.
Employing the skills of a makeup artist, a cosmetologist needs to be well versed in the proper techniques for applying the right makeup for the desired look. Highlighting contrasts in the face with the application of makeup requires a keen eye and a steady hand. Skin sensitivity training here is vital.
Makeup is just one tool that a cosmetologist can use to make the skin and face look great. While this is just one element of cosmetology we present it to show the incredible variety of informational mastery required of cosmetology.
Nail decorations, extensions, pedicures, and manicures all help both aesthetics and nail health. Cosmetologists can trim cuticles, clean under nails to remove germ heavy debris, and then apply any one of many different techniques like french manicures and nail shaping and filing. Nail work also provides the opportunity for massage of the hands and feet adding yet another element to this area of speciality that cosmetologists must master.
Eye work has to be incredibly exact. A slip here could result in serious injury or even blindness. That’s why cosmetologists have to employ the utmost skill when applying makeup or fake eyelashes and other work around the eyes. If properly educated and licensed to do so, cosmetologists can further their service offering with specialized skills like microblading for the eyebrows.
Many salons that work on hair, nails, or eyelashes are also starting to employ teeth whitening into the services they offer to clients. While some states have said no to non-dental teeth whitening, there are many locations that offer the service outside of a dental office. Even walking through the mall you may have noticed kiosks advertising this service.
Cosmetologists need to be aware of safe and effective treatments for emerging treatments like teeth whitening in order to stay competitive but should never provide services not covered under the regulations of their locale. Continuing education helps provide an opportunity to learn new skill sets and also stay abreast of changing regulations.
Another important distinction for cosmetology is that it requires education, examination, certification, and licensure in order to legally provide services as a licensed cosmetologist. Next we’ll look at how you start the journey towards becoming a cosmetologist.
How to become a cosmetologist in a few easy steps
A cosmetology license is required in all states in order to perform cosmetology services. From there, states differ in their requirements for obtaining a license. Always be sure to stay abreast of your state’s requirements for licensure.
Broadly, requirements generally consist of:
Being of proper age
Some states like Florida put a minimum age for those wanting to become cosmetologists at 16 but also provide an exception for those younger than that if they have received a high school diploma or GED.
Applicants will have to have completed a certain number of hours within an accredited cosmetology school. The required hours vary by state but most run in excess of 1,000 hours which can take up to two years to complete.
Passing the exam
That’s right, we’re coming right back to the point we already made, and honestly, it’s for good reason.
Focusing on a niche allows you to develop a skill where you’re the verified expert in that arena—you’ll be the professional everyone turns to when they need a specific service done. That’s valuable.
You will avoid wasting time, money, energy and effort on a myriad of services that might not be as profitable for you.
Once you’re able to focus on a niche, you can target a more specific, lucrative market; you can create a brand that functions with a goal in mind (attracting people to your niche); and you can appropriately allocate money for resources and marketing to bring in the audience you need to make your salary dreams come true.
HIV/AIDS course completion
Most states now require you to have a completion certificate for a HIV/AIDS awareness class. Hours vary for this course but usually run about four hours and will have to have been completed within a certain time frame before applying - typically two years.
When applying for your license most state boards will require a specific litany of forms to be filled out with the proper information attached. Not having proof of certain courses or having met other educational requirements submitted with your application forms can delay your approval for licensing.
- Changing Your Mindset
- Consider the Cold, Hard Facts
- Create Realistic Rates that Cover Costs
- Treat Your Time as it Deserves to Be Treated
You might be thinking, “OK…this isn’t really concrete advice you’re offering me here—how does this help me change my pricing?”
Trust us. It does.
If you’re sitting there thinking that your pricing should be based entirely off of what’s going to draw in the most customers or what’s going to beat out the competition, you’re doing this all wrong.
And we know that’s a harsh way to put it, but if that’s your entire mindset, then you’re never going to make the money you truly deserve or desire. Lower prices are all well and good, and to some degree, you’re right—you’ll attract clients because of your affordable, dare we say, low prices.
But, is that fair to you? Is that an accurate representation of your skills? Think about the services you’re offering to clients—we’re talking hair, skin, nails, etc. These are things people are willing to pay top dollar for if they’re actually high-quality from a verified professional.
Before you dive into facts and figures and real numbers, you need to first take a look at what factors to consider—in other words, the cold, hard facts.
When we say this, we mean consider the indisputable truths that apply to your business that affect how you price your services.
- My time is valuable—it’s hugely important to pricing structure.
- I have costs to cover.
- I’m a talented professional who deserves to charge a rate that’s fair to me.
There are probably tons of indisputable facts you need to go over before you start readjusting your pricing, which is why we recommend this as one of the first steps!
This is probably the most pragmatic part of the pricing structure. When it comes to raising your prices, take a look at the costs you need to cover.
Think about basic costs like rent, products and time, but then consider other smaller, pertinent factors, too (miscellaneous salon costs, back bar costs, unforeseen client costs, marketing costs, etc.). Don’t miss a single detail. The more thorough you can be when it comes to costs, the better you’ll be able to set your pricing.
If you do the math and it turns out your current pricing isn’t covering these costs, it’s obviously time to revamp your pricing structure.
Even better, take a look at what your competitors are charging—we swear this isn’t sketchy, it’s a real way to understand the market you’re in. Get a good idea of what the competitors around you are charging and try to understand why. Take all of this into account when re-setting your prices.
This is probably the most important factor when it comes to raising your prices. If you’re not including the time you spend working with your clients—from start to finish—in your pricing, then your pricing structure is never going to be fair to you.
Time is the factor to consider when it comes to your pricing because, in essence, your time is what you’re offering your client.
Sure, maybe you’re trimming bangs or dyeing hair or creating the perfect updo, but what you’re really doing is investing your time into helping someone—if you’re not considering that, then you’re not really creating fair, accurate pricing.
Your time is endlessly valuable— make sure you remember this when it’s time to calculate your prices.
Pay required fees
Most states have a fee for applying for a license. Be sure to include payment to fully submit your application. There may be some special exemptions from fees such as those for those in the military. Be sure to check your state board’s fee requirements to see if you may be eligible for a fee waiver.
What licenses does a cosmetologist need?First and foremost, check the state board for cosmetology in the state or local jurisdiction in which you are trying to start offering services. Different states can very dramatically in their education and licensure requirements but all states require some form of licensing for cosmetologists. Once you’ve completed the steps outlined above, you can apply and obtain a license to perform cosmetology services.
Types of Liability Insurance Cosmetologists Need
We’ve seen that cosmetology is almost entirely hands on and requires use of tools that cut and get hot, using chemicals, and among other necessary skills, also requires being cognisant of disorders, diseases, and conditions that could be negatively affected by the services you are being asked to perform. Unfortunately, all of these events simply create more opportunity for an unforeseen event to arise that could put a future in the field or even personal finances in serious jeopardy.
This is why comprehensive professional liability insurance for cosmetologists is not just necessary, but absolutely vital towards being able to continue providing services for the duration of your career. Elite Beauty Society has put together one of the most robust insurance programs available on the market for cosmetologists.
Elements of our cosmetology liability insurance program include:
General and Professional Liability coverage with limits of $ 2 Million Per Occurrence and a $3 Million Individual Annual Aggregate
Product Liability coverage with a limit of $2 Million
Rental Damages covered up to $100,000
Stolen/Damaged Equipment covered up to $1,000
Identity Protection Plan that provides up to $25,000 when identity fraud has occurred
While risk can never entirely be eliminated, there are some things you can do to help lessen the chances for an accident to occur. A cosmetologist needs to be intimately aware of proper techniques for sanitizing equipment, maintaining a safe working environment, recognizing disorders and diseases, protecting client privacy with proper covering and draping, all in addition to being a master of the services they implement.
Finding a Job in the Cosmetology FieldThe best thing about earning your cosmetology license is the many choices you will have when it comes to which area of beauty and wellness you can operate effectively in. You can choose to be the one providing the service in a number of different salon types like hairstyling, estheticians, nail care, or makeup but could also go other routes like as a salon manager or sales consultant.
Manufacturers of salon products pay well for sales representatives able to move their products. You may choose to work in fashion or theatrics or even with movies. Really, the sky's the limit. To help you narrow your search, Beauty Schools Directory offers some great resources for finding a job after completing your cosmetology program.
Top Cosmetology Schools in the Nation
As with most any schools, there are many, many different cosmetology schools across the nation. How do you know which cosmetology schools are the best? We’ll look at four mainstays here:
Paul Mitchell: easily one of the world’s most recognized beauty brands and Paul Mitchell beauty schools are also known as some of the very best. Paul Mitchell is consistently ranked among the top cosmetology schools in the nation by Beauty Schools Directory.
Aveda: also a recognized beauty brand, Aveda has many fantastic beauty schools around the nation. Graduating from Aveda has the benefit of name recognition which can help you land a job after cosmetology school.
The Ogle School: this cosmetology school mainstay has been around for nearly 50 years. Only located in Texas, the school attracts students from around the world.
Empire Beauty School: the Beauty Schools Directory consistently ranks Empire highly each year. With a large student base, the school boasts a wide variety of programs and a long tenure. Empire is a safe bet for a great education and great opportunities after graduation.
What is cosmetology license reciprocity?
Reciprocity with licensing simply means, will another state recognize the validity of your out-of-state license and issue you a new license without having to go back through certification? As we have discussed, every state has different requirements for licensing. The same is true for license reciprocity.
While some states may fully recognize another state's license and not require any additional steps beyond filling out the application and paying a fee, other states have more stringent educational requirements which may necessitate taking a few additional classes or at least being able to adequately document the courses you have already taken.
The most important step when trying to transfer your license from one state to another is to check with your state board for cosmetology. Most state boards have excellent websites with all of the pertinent information available but if you can’t find what you need, just call and speak to a real person. Remember, the process can take time, so the earlier you can get started the better.
Dangers of Deregulating the Cosmetology Industry
We’ve looked at the many different areas that a cosmetologist has to be knowledgeable and skilled in. Things like equipment sterilization, proper techniques for a myriad of different treatments and styles, and even professional ethics and regulations are all required to be demonstrably mastered by a licensed cosmetologist.
However, there are some states that are seeking to strip down the requirements. In Florida bills SB1640 and HB27 were seeking to limit the amount of regulation the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation maintained over certain elements of licensing. While both of the bills were not ratified, the aim was to create more jobs in the beauty industry by eliminating barriers to entry. This is an incredibly dangerous move.
Here’s three reasons deregulation would only hurt the industry:
Under trained practitioners: students that do not have all the requisite skills to administer different styles and techniques on clients could be performing these services. This could lead to more injuries, the spread of communicable diseases, and other ancillary consequences.
Limit the amount of federal student aid: by dropping the requisite number of training hours, certain federal aid monies may not be available to students. With a student loan debt crisis already on our hands, additional strain could spell disaster for an economy that’s still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
Losing jobs: if salon owners know that their staff from one state did not have the same level of training as staff from another, the choice would be easy for passing up under trained candidates. This could lead to a loss of jobs for states that choose to deregulate.
All in all, deregulation is a zero sum game. The benefits of having more students suddenly becoming eligible for licensing by limiting standards pales in comparison to the costs of employing individuals in a sensitive, hands on field. While we don’t typically get political, if you have the opportunity to share your opinion on deregulation in your state or local jurisdiction, please tell your elected officials how much deregulation could hurt cosmetologists in your area.