Cosmetology/Cosmetologist, General

A program that generally prepares individuals to cut, trim, and style scalp, facial, and body hair; apply cosmetic preparations; perform manicures and pedicures; massage the head and extremities; and prepare for practice as licensed cosmetologists in specialized or full-service salons. Includes instruction in hair cutting and styling, manicuring, pedicuring, facial treatments, shampooing, chemical applications, esthetics, shop management, sanitation and safety, customer service, and applicable professional and labor laws and regulations.



Are you an individual who enjoys having creative freedom in your work?  The freedom to experiment with new designs, techniques and styles?  Do you enjoy witnessing transformation and reaping the praise of your 'finished’ product?  These are a few of the reasons why individuals seek a career in the personal grooming services of cosmetology.  Cosmetologists provide haircutting, hairstyling, and a range of other personal care services to enhance their clients’ appearance.  Working in the cosmetology field, you will typically work in a barbershop or salon, although you may work in a spa, hotel, or resort.  Individuals who operate their own barbershop or salon have managerial duties that may include hiring, supervising, and firing workers, as well as keeping business and inventory records, ordering supplies, and arranging for advertising. Often, in this field, you can lease booth or office space from an existing shop owner.


Subsectors of Cosmetology

There are many subsectors in the field of cosmetology.  Some are well-defined, others not so much.  Typically, the most notable careers of cosmetology include hairstyling (salon and barber), skin care, cosmetics, and manicures/pedicures.  Beyond that, the specialty areas of aesthetics branch out from those prominent areas and embrace such career roles as massage therapy, tattoo artist, makeup artist, and more.  Of special interest (and consideration) are the more science-oriented careers in the cosmetology sector of which are perfumery and herbal beauty care.  And, finally, the direct sales subsector of cosmetology provides an extended and fetching perspective of this field.


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ResourcesLicense and CertificationNotable Careers in Cosmetology
Specialty Area Careers in CosmetologyScience-Oriented Careers in CosmetologyDirect Sales Careers in Cosmetology


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Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals - It is the mission of the Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals to build and perpetuate a membership which exists to promote and support professionalism in the Cosmetology, Esthetics and Nail Industries.


Alliance of Professional Tattooists - The Alliance of Professional Tattooists, Inc., is a nonprofit, voluntary alliance of tattoo professionals dedicated to promoting advances in tattooing health and safety and to disseminating that information.


American Bodywork and Massage Professionals - ABMP is a national membership association works to make it easier for massage and bodywork practitioners and students to succeed.


American Health and Beauty Aides Institute – This institute represents the thriving ethnic health and beauty care industry, one of the few American industries that was founded and is fueled by African Americans.


Associated Skin Care Professionals - ASCP’s 20,000+ members include estheticians, students, instructors, and educators across the United States providing innovative business solutions.


American Massage Therapy Association - AMTA is the largest nonprofit, professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools.


American Society of Perfumers - This organization’s mission is to educate, support and promote the perfumer while expanding upon the resources made available to our member perfumers.


American Association of Cosmetology Schools - The AACS is a national non-profit association open to all privately owned schools of cosmetology arts and sciences. Members includes cosmetology, skin, nail, barbering, and massage schools. AACS currently has more than 250 school owners as members comprising of over 500 schools across the nation.


Associated Hair Professionals - AHP’s primary purpose is to serve the needs of its members, providing them with the tools for success. AHP is focused on delivering excellent service and exploring ways to add value to its members.


American Herbalists Guild - The American Herbalists Guild is a non-profit, educational organization founded to represent the goals and voices of herbalists specializing in the medicinal use of plants.


American Barber Association - This association clams to the leading resource of information, education, recognition, support, connection and advocacy for America’s barber industry.


Barber License - was created in close collaboration with each state’s Board of Barbering to ensure the accuracy of the information we publish in our easy-to-use, step-by-step state-specific licensing guides.


Beauty Certified Education Association - This organization is a non-profit and resource center for everyone in the hair, skin, and nails industry.


Beauty Schools Directory - This is a comprehensive listing of beauty school organizations for prospective beauty school students interested in the cosmetology industry.


Direct Selling Association - DSA is the national trade association for companies that market products and services directly to consumers through an independent, entrepreneurial salesforce. DSA serves to promote, protect and police the direct selling industry while helping direct selling companies and their independent salesforce become more successful.


Independent Beauty Association - This organization’s mission is to foster the success of entrepreneurial companies in the independent cosmetic and personal care industries.


International SalonSpa Business Network - ISBN represents the global voice for the multi-location salon and spa segment of the professional beauty industry.


National Association of Barber Boards of America - The mission of the National Association of Barber Boards of America is to support state licensing boards in their authority to protect the public as it applies to the practice of barbering.


National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork - The mission of NCBTMB is to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession.


National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology - The mission of this organization is to promote the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the professional workforce by actively pursuing excellence in cosmetology and related fields.


Natural Products Association - This is a non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry relative to dietary supplements, natural health & sports nutrition, medical & functional foods, probiotics, and natural personal/home care products.


Personal Care Products Council - PCPC is a national trade association representing cosmetics and personal care products companies and serving as the voice on scientific, legal, regulatory, legislative and international issues for the $488 billion global industry.


Professional Beauty Association - This organization provides members with valuable resources, support, and connections to help elevate and grow careers and the industry.


Professional Black Barber Association - This organization’s mission is to create and disseminate knowledge to the Barbering and Cosmetology trade through an on-line forum of research tools, artistic expression and networking events and to help promote the "Black Health Awareness Initiative" programs into the communities served by our value of commitment to quality, ethical behavior to society.


Research Institute for Fragrance Materials - This organization is a non-profit with a purpose to gather and analyze scientific data, engage in testing and evaluation, distribute information, cooperate with official agencies, and to encourage uniform safety standards related to the use of fragrance ingredients.


Spa Industry Association - This organization’s mission is to connect the spa industry community, worldwide and to create accessibility to all the tools you need to make your business a success.


Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals - This association represents professionals in the industry who are dedicated to promoting the ideals and standards of the SPCP, offering cosmetic tattooing that is conducted in accordance with safety standards specific to the permanent cosmetic process, and those who stay abreast of and participate in industry activities.


Tattoo Artists’ Guild - ‘The Tattoo Artists’ Guild is an international association of dedicated and responsible members working to elevate and advance the art of tattooing.’



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There are a few things you should know about the field of cosmetology before you embark on a career path in this job sector.


Education Requirements


All states require barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists to be licensed. To qualify for a license, it is necessary to graduate from a state-approved cosmetology program.

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for some of the positions in this job sector. However, every state requires that barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists complete a program in a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school. These programs are mainly found in postsecondary vocational schools and typically lead to a postsecondary non-degree award or certificate. Most of these workers take advanced courses in hairstyling or in other personal appearance services to keep up with the latest trends. Those who want to open their own business also may take courses in sales and marketing.

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists must obtain a license in order to work. Qualifications for a license vary by state, but generally, a person must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Reached a minimum age of 16.
  • Received a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Graduated from a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school.

In many states, cosmetology training may be credited toward a barbering license and vice versa, and a few states combine the two licenses. A fee usually is required to apply for a license, and continuing education units (CEUs) may be required with periodic license renewals.

Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow licensed barbers and cosmetologists to get a license in another state without needing additional formal training or state board testing, but such agreements are not common. Consequently, people who want to work in a particular state should review the laws of that state before entering a training program.

After graduating from a state-approved training program, students take a state licensing exam that includes a written test and, in some cases, a practical test of styling skills or an oral exam.  This process holds true for most of the specialty areas of cosmetology as well.  The exception being the science-oriented careers which generally require a bachelor’s degree in addition to some training and experience in the field of cosmetology.

License and Certification Programs

To find an institution of higher education that offers a program relative to your career aspirations in Cosmetology, the easiest place to start for most people is to perform a simple search by program of interest.  Overall, there are certificate, associate, and advanced degree programs in postsecondary and vocational institutes across the country in the following areas:

  • Industrial and Physical Pharmacy and Cosmetic Sciences
  • Cosmetology and Related Personal Grooming Arts
  • Cosmetology, Barber/Styling, and Nail Instructor
  • Cosmetology/Cosmetologist
  • Permanent Cosmetics/Makeup and Tattooing
  • Massage Therapy/Therapeutic Massage
  • Make-Up Artist/Specialist


Use the link provided below and the ‘Browse for Program’ button to search by major:

Find a College | Career Exploration


Additional Information


Many individuals working in the cosmetology field work full time; however, part-time positions are also common. Those who run their own barbershop or salon may have long workdays. Work schedules often include evenings and weekends―the times when barbershops and beauty salons are busiest. Those who are self-employed usually determine their own schedules.  Stamina is also important because you spend all your time on your feet when performing hair services or treatments.


As well, soft-skill expectations for a cosmetologist include:


  • Communicate with clients clearly and effectively.
  • Provide a comfortable environment for clients.
  • Listen and comprehend extent of client’s desired services.




Board of Cosmetology - This website provides the state board cosmetology phone number, office address, hours of operations, website, what cosmetology services offered, license verification, current board members, how to file a complaint, the fees to apply, renew or reactivate a license and more. To view your respective state information, simply select from their list.


National Association for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, State Requirements for Cosmetology - The NACAMS is a national association that serves health, wellness, and beauty professionals by offering practice support.  Provided on their website is incredibly helpful by-state information on the credentials you need to receive your licensing in cosmetology.  Most states will require you to attend an approved beauty school, but there are some states that will allow you to complete an apprenticeship instead.  You will find state-specific guidelines on continuing education units (CEUs), license renewal periods and fees, license reciprocity and/or transfer.  This website also provides you with insurance quotes relative to the career subsector of cosmetology you enter.  Links to each state’s Board of Cosmetology are provided.


By State:


Alabama Board of Cosmetology

Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers

Arizona Board of Cosmetology

Arkansas Department of Health Cosmetology

Arkansas State Board of Cosmetology, Licenses

California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology

Colorado Office of Barber and Cosmetology Licensure


Connecticut Department of Public Health

Delaware Board of Cosmetology and Barbering


Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Cosmetology License


Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers

Georgia Online Licensing


Hawaii Board of Barbering and Cosmetology


Idaho Barber and Cosmetology Services Licensing Board


Illinois State Department of Cosmetology Licenses


Indiana State Board of Cosmetology Examiners


Iowa Board of Cosmetology


Maryland State Board of Cosmetologists

Massachusetts The Board of Registration of Cosmetologists

Michigan Board of Cosmetology

Minnesota Board of Barber and Cosmetology Examiners

Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology

Missouri State Board of Cosmetology


Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists


Nebraska Board of Cosmetology and Esthetics

Nevada State Board of Cosmetology

New Hampshire Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics

New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling


New Mexico Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists


New York Division of Licensing Services, Cosmetology

New York State Department of Labor, Cosmetologist

North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiner


North Dakota Board of Cosmetology


Ohio State Board of Cosmetology

Oklahoma Board of Cosmetology

Oregon Health Authority, Board of Cosmetology


Pennsylvania Department of State Professional Licensing

Pennsylvania Department of State Cosmetology Navigator


Rhode Island Department of Health - Barbering, Hairdressing and Cosmetology

Rhode Island Department of Health – Cosmetology/Barbering Licenses


South Carolina Board of Cosmetology


South Dakota Cosmetology Commission


Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance – Cosmetology and Barber Examiners


Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation - Cosmetology

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation - Licensing Board

Utah Department of Commerce – Cosmetology


Vermont Secretary of State - Barbers and Cosmetologists

Vermont Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists

Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology


Washington Department of Liensing - Cosmetologyg


Washington, D.C. Barber and Cosmetology Board


West Virginia State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists


Wisconsin State Cosmetology Examining Board


Wyoming Board of Cosmetology