The Ultimate Cosmetologist’s Career & Education Guide


 Beauty Professionals

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:








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

Cosmetology education

Passing the exam

HIV/AIDS course completion

Proper forms

Pay required fees

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
  • 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.

A comprehensive insurance policy protects you and your career from the what ifs of a future claim. Contact a knowledgeable agent to talk over your cosmetology insurance options today.

Finding a Job in the Cosmetology Field

The 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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.