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How to become a cosmetologist in 2023

How to become a cosmetologist in 2024 | Requirements, qualifications, skills

Navigating the beauty industry's evolution in 2024? If you've been toying with the thought, “how to become a cosmetologist?" you're in for a treat. I'm about to unravel the blueprint for mastering the craft, from requirements to qualifications. Get ready to embark on a transformative journey!

Who is a cosmetologist exactly

The role of a cosmetologist stands out for its comprehensive grasp of beauty treatments and techniques. But what does it really mean to be a cosmetologist in 2024? Before becoming a cosmetologist, I urge you to offer your thoughts on this matter.

Defining the role

For those wondering how to become a cosmetologist, it's essential to realize that cosmetologists are more than just hairstylists or makeup artists. They are licensed professionals trained in an extensive array of beauty and skin care treatments. While their roles can span from hair cutting to nail care, they're also well-versed in skin treatments, product formulations, and the science of beauty.

Some examples:

  • Hair services: this includes cutting, coloring, perming, and styling hair. Some cosmetologists specialize in treatments like balayage or keratin treatments.
  • Skin care: they may offer services like facials, extractions, and chemical peels. With the growing awareness of skin health, many are also trained in analyzing skin types and recommending products or treatments accordingly.
  • Makeup: while makeup artists are specialists in their right, many who want to become a cosmetologist also gain proficiency in makeup application, understanding face structures, and suggesting products.
  • Nail services: manicures, pedicures, and even intricate nail art can fall under the purview of a skilled cosmetologist.

Responsibilities and eligibility

Diving deeper, let's first explore the duties that define a cosmetologist's day-to-day.


  • Client consultations: central to their profession, cosmetologists engage with clients, understanding their beauty aspirations and offering apt solutions. This not only involves technical expertise but also exceptional interpersonal skills.
  • Continuous learning: beauty is ever-evolving. To stay relevant, cosmetologists are always on the learning curve, adapting to new trends and techniques.
  • Sanitation and safety: beyond the glitz and glam lies a stringent focus on hygiene and safety. Every tool, every product, and every touch prioritizes the client's well-being.
  • Product knowledge: it's not just about using a product, but understanding its core. Cosmetologists guide clients with product recommendations, making knowledge of ingredients and their effects pivotal.

Shifting focus from duties to prerequisites, let's discern what it takes to step into this role:


  • Education: the foundation of this profession lies in formal education. Prospective cosmetologists undertake comprehensive training, both theoretical and practical, from state-approved institutions.
  • Licensing: the bridge between learning and practicing; acquiring a state license is the next pivotal step. This often involves clearing examinations that test both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.
  • Soft skills: beyond the tangible, the intangibles play a massive role. Traits like patience, effective communication, and an artistic flair typically differentiate a good cosmetologist from a great one.

In essence, becoming a cosmetologist in 2024 is about balancing art with science, creativity with technique, and passion with professionalism. It's a journey of continuous growth, learning, and beautifying the world, one client at a time.

Skills required to become a cosmetologist

There is more going on behind the scenes of a successful cosmetologist's career than meets the eye. Knowing how to be a cosmetologist extends beyond just wielding scissors or blending makeup. It's a medley of personal attributes and formal qualifications. Here's a breakdown of the essential cosmetologist's requirements:

Personal qualities

  • Attention to detail: the difference between a good haircut and a great one often lies in the fine details. A keen eye and precision are crucial.
  • Interpersonal skills: a large part of what you need to be a cosmetologist revolves around client interactions. Building trust, understanding needs, and communicating effectively are pivotal.
  • Patience: beauty treatments can be time-consuming. Whether it's waiting for hair color to set or helping a client decide on a look, patience is the key.
  • Creativity: keeping up with trends and bringing a client's vision to life requires an inventive spirit.
  • Adaptability: the beauty world is always evolving. Adapting to new techniques, products, and client preferences is a hallmark of a top-notch cosmetologist.


  • Formal education: meeting the requirements to become a cosmetologist starts with a state-approved cosmetology program. This ensures foundational knowledge in beauty treatments, skin care, and the science behind them.
  • Licensing: it's not enough to just know how to be a cosmetologist; practicing professionally requires state licensing. After their education, aspiring cosmetologists need to pass exams, both written and practical.
  • Continuous learning: given the dynamism of the beauty industry, keeping updated with new techniques and products is essential. Workshops, seminars, and certification courses play a vital role.
  • Specializations: for those looking to niche down, additional certifications in areas like advanced skincare, hair coloring techniques, or specialized nail art can add value.

In conclusion, understanding the requirements to be a cosmetologist involves recognizing the perfect blend of personal traits and formal qualifications. When these elements harmonize, the result is a professional equipped to beautify with both passion and precision.

How to become a cosmetology specialist

Becoming a cosmetology specialist is like assembling a puzzle; it requires fitting the right pieces together in a specific order. Here's a straightforward step-by-step guide to set you on the right track:

Age restrictions

Before delving deep, it's important to address one of the primary cosmetologist requirements: age. While specific age criteria can vary based on region or state:

  • Most cosmetology schools and licensing boards require candidates to have completed high school or hold an equivalent diploma.
  • Typically, the minimum age requirement ranges from 16 years. Ensure you check the exact prerequisites for your state.

Choose a cosmetology school

The heart of your cosmetology journey lies in the right educational institution. When making a choice, consider the following:

  • Accreditation: ensure the school is recognized by relevant authorities, ensuring your certification is valid and acknowledged.
  • Curriculum: scrutinize the syllabus. It should offer a comprehensive overview of all foundational cosmetology aspects.
  • Faculty: experienced instructors can provide valuable industry insights, mentoring you beyond just textbook knowledge.
  • Facilities: modern equipment, practice labs, and real-world simulation environments can make your learning experience enriched.
  • Placement opportunities: some schools offer job placements or have partnerships with salons and spas, which can kickstart your career post-certification.

Complete coursework

Once enrolled, your primary task is to absorb knowledge:

  • Theory: understand the science behind beauty, from skin types to product formulations. This will empower you with the ‘why’ behind each treatment or technique.
  • Hands-on training: practical sessions allow you to hone skills in a controlled environment. Whether it's hairstyling, makeup application, or skincare, practice makes perfect.
  • Workshops & seminars: these provide insights into the latest trends, ensuring you're always updated with the evolving beauty landscape.
  • Internships: if your school offers it, take up internships. This real-world exposure is invaluable, teaching you client interaction and salon management nuances.

Choose a specialty

While a general cosmetology program provides knowledge across various beauty domains, specializing can offer a competitive edge:

  • Hair stylist: dive deep into hair cutting, styling, coloring, and treatment techniques.
  • Esthetician: focus on skincare, understanding facial treatments, advanced skin therapies, and rejuvenation techniques.
  • Nail technician: specialize in manicures, pedicures, nail art, and nail health.
  • Makeup artist: master the art of makeup, from everyday looks to high-fashion or bridal specialties.

Your choice can be driven by passion, market demand, or even a combination of both. Remember, specialization doesn't limit you; it differentiates you.

Pass a license

The final step towards becoming a cosmetologist is obtaining a license. It's a testament to your skills, knowledge, and adherence to professional standards:

  • State requirements: every state or country may have its own set of licensing criteria. Familiarize yourself with these to ensure smooth sailing.
  • Examination: typically, you'll have to clear a licensing exam. This consists of both a written test (based on theory) and a practical test (to assess your hands-on skills).

Renewal & continuous learning: many states require license renewal every few years. Staying updated with new techniques and attending refresher courses will not only help in renewing the license but also in elevating your expertise.

For example, in state Washington you must renew your license every two years, and there will be a late fee if you don't renew before the expiration date.

In essence, the journey to becoming a cosmetologist is clear-cut. Follow the steps, gain the experience, and always be open to learning. Each stage prepares you for the next, ensuring that by the end, you're not just qualified but also confident in your skills.

Pros and cons of becoming a cosmetologist

Like every profession, cosmetology has its highs and lows. However, understanding both sides of the coin helps in making informed decisions. Here's an objective look at the advantages and challenges of stepping into the world of beauty and aesthetics.


  • Creative freedom: cosmetology is an art. Whether it's experimenting with rainbow hair colors or creating a dramatic smoky eye, every day offers a canvas to display your creativity. Imagine turning a client's hair into a vibrant masterpiece or giving them the perfect winged eyeliner they've never been able to achieve on their own.
  • Flexibility: many cosmetologists can set their schedules, especially if they're self-employed. This can be a boon for those who like to balance work with other commitments. Think about working four long days to enjoy a three-day weekend or adjusting your hours during the school holidays.
  • Endless learning: the beauty industry is ever-evolving with new trends, products, and techniques. For the curious mind, this means there’s always something new to explore and master. Remember the sudden surge in popularity of K-beauty products or the boom in organic, sustainable beauty practices?
  • Personal Interaction: if you're a people person, this job is a goldmine. Every day you meet new clients, understand their stories, and play a part in their transformations. Like being the person someone trusts to get ready for their wedding day or a big job interview.
  • Job opportunities: from salons to film sets to cruise ships, cosmetologists can find job opportunities in a myriad of settings. For instance, you could work in a bustling city salon or be the go-to stylist for a theater troupe.


  • Physical demands: standing for extended periods, repetitive motions, and constant use of hands can be tiring and may lead to physical strains. Imagine eight hours on your feet, constantly moving, bending, and reaching.
  • Inconsistent income: especially when starting out, income can be low. It might take time to build a loyal client base. Plus, factors like seasonality can influence earnings. Consider how the wedding season might be booming, but things could slow down in the off-peak months.
  • Long hours: depending on the workplace, cosmetologists might face long, irregular hours, especially during peak seasons or special events. Think about the prom or wedding season, where back-to-back appointments can lead to 12-hour workdays.
  • Continuous investment: staying updated might mean regularly attending workshops or buying the latest products for practice. This requires time and money. Like enrolling in a course to learn the newest facial technique or purchasing the latest line of vegan makeup products.
  • Client pressures: managing expectations can be challenging. Not every client will be clear about what they want, and not every outcome might be to their liking. Imagine a scenario where a client shows you a picture of a celebrity haircut but isn't happy when it doesn't look the same on them.

Final thoughts

In the dynamic realm of cosmetology, the pathway to success is both invigorating and challenging. While the journey of becoming a cosmetologist offers unparalleled creative freedom and human connection, it also demands dedication, continuous learning, and resilience. For those aspiring to dive into this field, it's essential to have a holistic understanding—from the nitty-gritty of licensing to the day-to-day rewards and challenges. 

A career in cosmetology isn't just about mastering techniques; it's about weaving art with science, trends with timeless beauty, and, above all, passion with professionalism. As you contemplate this profession, remember that every brush stroke, every snip, and every interaction shapes not just a client's look but their confidence and self-perception. In essence, cosmetology is more than a job; it's a vocation that leaves an indelible mark on both the artist and the canvas.

Frequently asked questions

How to become a cosmetologist?

Start by completing a state-approved cosmetology program, followed by passing the necessary licensing exams.

What do you need to be a cosmetologist?

You need formal education, a valid license, and a blend of technical and soft skills.

Is it hard to become a cosmetologist?

It's challenging due to the training and continuous learning involved, but passion and dedication make the journey manageable.

What are good skills to have as a cosmetologist?

Good communication, creativity, dexterity, and understanding of beauty products and trends are essential.

How many years does it take to become a cosmetologist?

Typically, it takes between 1-2 years of formal training, depending on the program and state requirements.

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Last updated on Oct 11, 2023

“What Changed” in this article? Everything. It's packed with the latest findings, the ripest data, and a fresh analysis you won't find anywhere else.

A subject-matter expert wrote the content, and reliable, official sources support it. Recent research has been incorporated to maintain relevancy and accuracy.

Key sources and research references: Indeed, WSDL

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