How to Get Your Cosmetology License

Whether you’d like to cut, dye, and blow dry hair, apply makeup professionally, do manicures and pedicures, or dole out mud baths, seaweed wraps, and other skin treatments at a high-end spa; you might have to get a cosmetology license to do it.  Although you may be able to obtain certification in specific areas of beauty treatments, most salon owners will require that all of their staff obtain a license to practice, generally because it is the law.  Of course, you may be able to train as an assistant until you get your license, but you’ll earn a lot more money once you have your license in hand.  So if you’re wondering how to get there, here are a few tips to help you on your way.

First, you need to check your state laws on licensure.  They differ from state to state so this is an important starting point.  You can find the information you seek in several ways (like by contacting the State Board of Cosmetology), but the easiest method of finding out fast is probably by searching online.  For example, the Beauty Schools Directory has a comprehensive listing of state requirements that even includes a list of acceptable schools to attend in order to obtain licensure in the state of your choice.  It’s like one-stop information shopping for anyone interested in becoming a beautician, esthetician, or barber (just to name a few potential careers in the cosmetology industry).


Once you know the requirements in your state it’s time to get to work.  Even if you think you know everything there is to know about cutting hair, painting nails, or applying makeup (you’ve been practicing on your friends for years), you’re going to need some actual schooling.  This is because you have to log a certain number of supervised practice hours in order to become eligible for licensure.  And of course, you need learn the proper techniques so that you can demonstrate them during the testing phase.

That’s right; you will have to take both a written and a practical examination in order to obtain a cosmetology license, so it behooves you to attend beauty school, take independent classes, or find a salon or spa owner that’s willing to mentor you.  The latter is unlikely without any schooling, but not unheard of – you just have to make sure that your mentor has a teaching license.  In truth, lacking any type of tuition agency in your field, finding a mentor with years of experience is not a bad idea even if you’re in school.  Some states do allow for reciprocity (if you can log your hours working in a salon, it may substitute for schooling), but again, you should check in with the state board to make sure that you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.

If you love doing hair, nails, or skin treatments, school is going to be a breeze anyway, and you’re bound to have a lot of fun learning and mastering new techniques to become the best stylist you can be.  In fact, your education should continue even once you’ve obtained your license.  But if you’re just starting out, make sure you have the facts in hand and you are properly prepared so that you can get your license faster than setting finger waves.

(Guest Post by Carol Montrose)

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