How to Become a Hair Stylist

Learn how to become a successful hair stylist with the steps we’ve listed in this article. You’ll surely know what to expect from the process, so you can begin your career with a clearer goal.   

We gathered the important information you need to know about this profession. Our research found out that the regulations about becoming a hair stylist differ by location. So we picked a few examples to give you a better idea of how things work in some places.

A country may have various requirements because its states/regions have different regulations. Some are stricter than others.

Many places around the world don’t have regulations about the profession at all. You can directly work in a salon, become an assistant to an experienced hair stylist, and learn the skills there.   

Here’s a preview of what you’ll learn in this article:

  1. Create a Plan for Your Beauty Education
  2. Know the Requirements for Taking a Cosmetology Course
  3. Enroll in a Cosmetology Course
  4. Pass the Licensure Examination
  5. Start Your Career

How Long Does It Take to Become a Hair Stylist?

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Hairstylist?

how-much-does-a-hair-stylist-earn”>How Much Does a Hair Stylist Earn?

What Subjects Do You Learn from Cosmetology Courses?

What Are the Related Career Alternatives for a Hair Stylist?

What’s Next?

Let’s now discuss the steps to become a hair stylist and some helpful questions about the profession.

1. Create a Plan for Your Beauty Education

Planning for your education is always important to get a better direction on what you want to do as a hair stylist. 

Taking a cosmetology course is usually your first step.

Your passion may also play a crucial role in your decision-making like Sam Vay, a YouTuber and a licensed cosmetologist. 

Her story was truly inspiring because her journey wasn’t easy. Her strong passion for hairstyling helped her become what she is now.   

Vay finished a different degree and decided to take a cosmetology course because she enjoyed dyeing people’s hair. She is currently working as a part-time hair stylist in a salon specializing in hair coloring.  

You also need to think about what you want to do once you get your license.

Are you aiming at becoming a beautician in a salon, doing freelance hairstyling services, or owning your business? Having a solid answer to this gives you a clearer vision of what you’ll see your future with. 

You can also opt for studying a more specialized course if you’re interested in a specific skill. You’ll gain more accreditations, broaden your knowledge, and learn advanced skills.   

If you don’t have enough money to enroll in a beauty school, you can check with your local government’s educational assistance.

In the US, for example, they have the Federal Student Aid program that gives a qualified student money for college or a career school.

You can check out which type of financial aid you can take advantage of if you live in the US.

2. Know the Requirements for Taking a Cosmetology Course

The requirements for studying cosmetology are different depending on where you are.

However, many beauty schools around the world share a few prerequisites. These include requiring a student to be at least 16 or 17 years old and have a high school diploma or any equivalent certification.

It’s also important to know the number of class hours required in your area when taking the course. 

In California, they require at least 1,600 hours of education credits to qualify for the State Board of Cosmetology Licensing Exam. 

The state also provides an apprenticeship as an alternative to taking the course. 

The number of hours required typically is around 3,200 for on-the-job training and 220 for the classes. You’ll finish the training within two years.

If you’re in the US, you may find courses that don’t require a high school diploma or any equivalent certification but still need you to enroll in the General Educational Development program.

3. Enroll in a Cosmetology Course

Once you know the prerequisites for studying a cosmetology course, you can start looking for a program that best fits your interest.

Make sure that the course you’re interested in comes from an accredited or licensed provider, so you won’t have problems taking the licensure examination.

If you’re in a place with no regulations at all, you can start working in a salon as an assistant or someone that shampoos customers’ hair.

You’ll be able to learn the techniques and skills over time and eventually become a hair stylist.

It’s also essential to check the course’s design to know if it’s what you want to learn. 

In a YouTube video of Danielle Rounds, she shared how a cosmetology student’s day was. Going early and bringing her textbook and hairstyling kit to school are some of her daily activities.

The lessons she learned included hair styling, haircut, and blow-drying. Not only that, studying cosmetology is also fun as they were doing games about hair.    

4. Pass the Licensure Examination

After finishing the course, the licensure examination follows. 

That’s why it’s so important to study a program that’s accredited or licensed because the licensure examination may require that. 

Most examinations have two parts: written and hands-on. 

You may also need to present some form of identification before taking the exam. 

Once you pass, your state or place will give you the license to start working as a professional hair stylist.

Important note: Your license needs renewal after 12 months or a few years depending on your regulations. Make sure to renew it regularly to avoid legal issues as you start working or running a salon business.

5. Start Your Career

Now that you’ve become a licensed professional hair stylist, it’s time you decide on which career path you’d like to pursue.

You can work in a salon, which many new licensed hair stylists start, and decide later on whether you want to continue in that setup or find another opportunity.

If you’re a business-minded person, you may want to begin running your own salon company. 

You can also explore other job opportunities that may not involve working as a hair stylist in a salon or running your business.

Being a consultant for hair products, teaching students about hairstyling, and becoming a salesperson for a beauty company are great options as well.

If you’re interested in learning or improving a specific skill, you can enroll in a specialized course and gain more accreditations. This helps increase your credibility as a professional.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Hair Stylist?

The length of becoming a hair stylist varies on several factors, such as the course, licensing examination, and even your decision after completing a cosmetology program. 

Commonly, for the course, it takes about a year or two to finish it. Some short classes or specialized programs need six months or even less to complete.

Also, if you’re taking the course full time, you’ll be able to finish it sooner, while for part-time learning, it may take longer.

Internships may also take two or more years depending on the regulations in your area. 

After you’ve completed a cosmetology program, you can take the licensure examination. If you’re successful, you’ll be a professional hair stylist.

If you decide to take more advanced courses, it may take you even longer.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Hairstylist?

The cost for taking a cosmetology course and becoming a professional hair stylist depends on where you are, the provider, and the course design.

Some are more costly than other programs.

Typically, if you live in a rural area, the tuition fee may be lower, at least $6,000 (USD). 

But if you’re in an urban place, the number rises to a minimum of $10,000. Established and popular beauty brands even cost higher, up to $20,000.

On top of the tuition fee, there are still other costs you need to consider. Books and other supplies may cost around $2,000-$3,000.

Taking the licensure examination also has a fee, which can be around $100. The license renewal may also be the same amount.

how-much-does-a-hair-stylist-earn”>How Much Does a Hair Stylist Earn?

Like other professions, hair stylists don’t have the same earnings. Location and experience affect the rate significantly.

Hair stylists in cities are earning more than those who live in rural areas.

The average annual income for hair stylists in New York City, for example, is around $27,154​-$40,156, while Dallas has around $22,425​-$33,163​.

An experienced hair stylist or those who specialize in a skill may ask for a higher rate. 

An entry-level hair stylist may earn more than the average if they have additional work hours.

What Subjects Do You Learn from Cosmetology Courses?

Subjects or areas of study taught in cosmetology courses vary by the program structure, location, and provider. But many courses offer these subjects:

  • History of hair – This involves the evolution of different hairstyles.
  • Foundations of hairstyling – The school will teach you about the anatomy of hair and the importance of the scalp in hair growth.
  • Blow-Drying – It’s a basic hair service, and you’ll know how to do it properly.
  • Hairstyling – This subject teaches you how to perform different hairstyles, from simple to complex.
  • Shampooing – This is also a basic area of study, and many hair services start with this. You’ll know the right products to use and how to shampoo hair effectively.
  • Hair coloring – You’ll learn how to dye men’s, women’s, and even children’s hair and get the ideal blend to get the desired result.
  • Haircutting – A basic hair grooming service, hair cutting teaches you the different techniques to cut and style hair. You’ll also know how to examine different hair textures.

If you reach a point in your career where you decide to take a different path in the beauty industry, you have job alternatives to choose from, such as:

  • Makeup artist
  • Pet groomer
  • Wig or hair extension maker
  • Social media beauty influencer
  • Beauty writer
  • Esthetician
  • Nail technician
  • Beauty salesperson
  • Brow artist
  • Product reviewer     

What’s Next?

Start checking the requirements for taking a cosmetology course in your area, so you know how to go about your hair stylist career.