How to Become a Cosmetologist

There are five key steps to become a successful cosmetologist. The process primarily involves taking the necessary education to become a licensed professional. 

To provide you with the specific details for each step, we collected the most relevant information online. We found out that each country has a different set of requirements. Some places even have various sets of qualifications depending on their states or regions.

Let’s now talk about how to become a cosmetologist, the length it takes to complete it, its cost, and some helpful tips. 

What Are the Steps in Becoming a Cosmetologist?

Step 1: Do Some Research About Cosmetology

You might be passionate about the beauty industry already. But it’s still helpful to know more about it through research. 

A cosmetologist can offer a wide range of beauty services for the skin, nails, and hair. You can choose to focus on a single area and provide many services for it.

If you prefer giving services for the nails, you can become a nail technician. This profession allows you to color, design, and attach extensions to the nails.

You can also explore more career opportunities as a nail technician. A nail consultant, instructor, and salesperson are a few of the competitive jobs you can try.

Step 2: Comply with the Requirements

Once you have a better understanding of cosmetology, it’s time you learn about its requirements. The qualifications for studying cosmetology vary significantly by location. But many places around the world share a few similar requirements.

Age limits and academic qualifications are mostly similar. Many countries may require at least 16-18 years old and a high school diploma. In the US, you can provide a certificate for General Educational Development as an alternative to a high school diploma.  

Some high schools provide vocational programs to their students, including cosmetology. It’s a way of helping interested students start their careers in the beauty industry.

Other prerequisites depend on the school, course provider, and program design. Screening exams and fees are some of the other common requirements.

To know the exact qualifications, check with your local government.

Step 3: Enroll in a Cosmetology School and Complete the Program 

The next thing to do after qualifying for studying cosmetology is to choose a program. You can either enroll in a vocational school or a private provider.

Make sure to do your own research for schools as well. Check their course structure, and decide whether the program design is what you’re looking for. 

It’s also important to know if the course provides schedule flexibility. Many courses allow you to study on a part-time basis if you have limited time.

Some places offer an apprenticeship program, so you can learn and earn at the same time. Comply with all the requirements, and complete the course at an expected timeframe.

If you prefer online learning, you can do so. Just remember that hands-on activities are a need to finish the course. You might have to perform these on-campus or in facilities.   

Once you’re successful in completing the program, you’ll get your cosmetology certificate.

Step 4: Decide on Whether to Study a Specialized Program or Not

This stage in your cosmetology journey is where you’ll be thankful for researching the industry (Step 1). After getting certified, you may have to decide whether to specialize in a field in cosmetology. If so, you need to take an advanced course.

If you decide to focus on nails, you might want to get a course for nail extensions. For hair, you can take programs for hair extensions or wig making. For skin, makeup and anti-aging services are great specializations.

What’s interesting about pursuing specialized courses is you’ll get more accreditations and increase your credibility as a professional.

You’ll also learn more skills, provide many services, and increase your customer base.

Step 5: Take the Licensure Exam

This is the final step before you start exploring the real world. You must take and pass the licensure examination for cosmetology. Your license is your ticket to your employment and to starting a salon business.

You’ll be paying a fee for the exam and may need to bring some form of identification during the examination day. Also, the exam has written and practical tests.

However, not all places require a license. Some allow certified cosmetologists to practice the different beauty services. Others have no regulations at all. You just need to gain experience and develop skills to be a beautician.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Cosmetologist?

The length primarily depends on several factors, such as the school, location, and local regulations about the profession. 

In the US, for example, each state has its own set of requirements. The local regulations play a major role in the length. These require a specific number of hours, which can be around 1,400-1,600. 

The length can even take longer if you choose the part-time option. Ideally, you should take the cosmetology course full time. This means going to school for six to eight hours, like working full time.

You’ll also need to complete some hours for lectures and another for practical training. A good balance of lecture and hands-on activities is essential to develop your knowledge and skills for cosmetology.

Completing the program usually takes around two years. 

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Cosmetologist?

Your expenses for studying cosmetology vary on these factors:


If you live in a rural place or less progressive area, your expenses are cheaper. You’ll only spend around $5,000-$10,000 (USD) per year for the tuition fee.      

However, if you’re in cities, especially major ones, expect to spend as much as $20,000 per year. This can even go high if you decide to move to a bigger city. House rent, food, and other daily expenses are what you’ll consider.      

Books and Other Supplies

Lectures in a cosmetology school need textbooks, kits, and tools, which are additional costs. This can be around $2,000-$3,000.      

Also, your instructors may ask you to buy more supplies as you continue your training.           

Scholarships or Financial Aid

If you’re financially struggling to pay for your cosmetology school, you can apply for a scholarship. Many vocational schools offer scholarships to successful alumni. Check with your school if you qualify.

In the US, you can take advantage of their financial aid for students. You must meet the government’s requirements, however, such as a high school diploma, citizenship, and acceptance in an accredited school.

It’s also important to check if the school is eligible for the said financial support. They should be a Title IV school.

Title IV schools have certifications from the Department of Education and have the license to operate in their specific states.    

What Are the Tips to Become Successful in a Cosmetology School?

Akira, a licensed cosmetologist and YouTuber, shared in her video the things you must do while you’re in a cosmetology school. 

Build Your Portfolio

Do this while studying cosmetology, so you have a great advantage once you start finding work. Your family members or friends are great models to practice your skills.

Participate in Activities That Help Improve Your Creativity

Whether in the class or outside school, it’s crucial to participate in activities that require your skills. This enhances your skills and creativity, which will be helpful when you start to work.


You need to practice what you’ve learned whenever you can. Utilize your free time to improve your skills and apply the techniques you’ve learned.

Make Mistakes

The best time to make mistakes is when you’re studying. You’ll effectively learn from your flaws. The last thing you want to do is make errors with real customers.

Build Your Resume

Sell yourself using your resume. Highlight the skills you’re really good at. This helps increase your chance of getting the job you want.

Research on the Type of Salon You Want to Work in

Your research can include working in a salon while still studying. Some salons are looking for staff to shampoo or blow-dry customers’ hair. This way, you can better assess what type of work environment you want to be in.

Also, maximize the use of the internet to learn about the different types of salons.

Check Out Local Salons

Look up local salons in your area, and check them out. You can talk to the owners or managers to know the services they offer. You can also ask if they have assistant positions you can try to gain experience and improve your skills.    

What Makes a Good Cosmetologist?

Being good at what you do is always an advantage in the employment world. That’s why it’s essential to develop the top traits that will help you become a good cosmetologist.

Here’s a list of the great qualities you should develop:

  • Creativity
  • Hard work
  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge about the beauty industry
  • Great level of passion

What to Do Now?

Learn the local regulations in your area about becoming a cosmetologist. This will serve as your guide in becoming successful in this profession. Then, take the needed education to learn and develop the required skills and techniques. 

Complete the program, and pass the licensure examination. Once you’re successful, you can already begin earning as a cosmetologist. 

Start your career now!