Are you fascinated by the worlds of beauty and fashion? Do you love working and spending time with all different types of people? Do you have a great eye for design, color and style? If so, a career as a hair stylist could be just right for you!
Training you’ll need
To work as a professional stylist, you’ll be required to complete a cosmetology program and obtain your cosmetology license. Each state’s requirement for the number of hours needed to complete a cosmetology program is different, but the average ranges between 1,400 and 1,600 hours. The minimum requirement is about 1,000 hours; the maximum is 2,000 hours. (Check your state’s Licensing Requirements here.)
How quickly you complete the course depends upon whether you enroll in a full-time or part-time program. Most full-time programs can be completed in nine to ten months. Once you complete your training hours, most states will require you to pass a state board exam. Again, the requirements for this exam vary from state to state. Some ask you to take only a written test, while other exams include a practical portion. For the practical, you will use a mannequin to demonstrate skills such as a hair cut, hair color application or artificial nail application.
What you’ll learn
A comprehensive cosmetology program will teach you the fundamentals of cutting, coloring, texturizing (perming/relaxing), styling and finishing hair. You will study hair color theory and hair color formulation. Depending on the program you choose, you may also study nail care and nail techniques, skin care and make-up. Many schools further offer training in customer service, hair care product knowledge and salon business basics, as well as career guidance to help you choose the right salon and adequate pay for your skills and lifestyle.
Differences in cosmetology programs
Deedee Carlson, owner of the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology and a member of the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), says that it’s important to choose a school that not only trains you to master the basic skills, but also helps you to succeed in your career. “Visit the school, take a tour, talk to the students,” she suggests. “The school you choose should mirror the type of salon in which you wish to ultimately work.”
Where you’ll work
Cosmetology school graduates typically start out as salon employees. Your options include working for a privately owned salon or spa or for a salon that is part of a national chain or franchise. Each of these settings offers its own selection of benefits, compensation and training programs, and you are sure to find a good match for your professional preferences.
Once you have built a clientele and improved your skills and your timing, there are lots of exciting opportunities! You may choose to specialize in cutting or hair coloring. You can become an independent contractor by renting a styling station in an established business. You may wish to work as a salon coordinator or manager, or as a cosmetology school instructor. Either alone or with a partner, you may want to open your own salon or school or purchase a franchise salon. You might decide to work with a professional product company as a sales consultant, educator or platform artist. You can pursue a career in film, television, photography, theatre or fashion. You may even formulate your own products and create your own beauty products company!
A typical day
As an example, let’s make it a really busy day! You remember as you walk into the salon that your first appointment is a man’s cut. Today, with some salons offering online booking and booking through voicemail and email, you’d better check the appointment book to find out about any changes.
As you do the hair cut for your male client, if he has facial hair you may offer to do a moustache or beard trim before you send him on his way with any shampoo or conditioner he needs. Next, you have a long appointment for a cut and style and all-over color plus highlights. While that client’s color is processing, you’ve booked another client’s hair cut and blow-dry. After both of them leave, you have two cut-and-style appointments in a row. You consult your notes, which remind you that the first of those clients really likes it when you use a curling iron for the pieces around her face, while the second client has been wearing the same style for a full year. You decide to discuss something new you think will work for her.
Finally, you have a half-hour to grab lunch! Your afternoon is all about texture. First you do a body perm for a client who likes waves without a lot of work, and then you have the opposite-a relaxing service for a client who fights her bends and curls. Every client is different and it’s never boring, that’s for sure!