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Cosmetology School & Career Resources

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Cosmetology is the line of work in which beauty experts, including hair stylists, massage workers, manicurists and pedicurists, practice their work on paying clients. The professions of a barber and a cosmetologist specifically deal with offering services for hair care and the improvement in appearance of customers. Barbers typically work with male clients exclusively, trimming, shampooing, and styling their typically shorter cuts. Shaving and hairpiece fittings might also be offered by these professionals. There are several job titles that all describe those workers who are experts in handling hair: hairdresser and hair stylist, in addition to cosmetologist. Some cosmetologists may also be trained in manicures and pedicures, facials, advice on makeup and hair care, and the cleaning of hairpieces.

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Estheticians are yet another type of skin care worker, who specialize in giving facials, massages to the head and neck, and full body beautifying. Most cosmetology professionals count on a minimum of 40 hours of work each week, with additional effort exerted on weekends and evenings, the two most preferred time for clients to make appointments or drop ins. Workers in this field should take care to guard their health and energy levels, as many hours will likely be spent on their feet or working with equipment.

Many states require that cosmetology professionals earn additional training in the work before applying for licensing and serving clients, and this process cannot begin without a high school degree or its equivalent. These training programs typically last for a minimum of nine months and groom students in such skills as hair styling and trimming techniques, with the best schools offering additional teaching in business and marketing -- very important knowledge for a field in which many professionals own and run their own operation.

Career Specializations

  • Barber: These cosmetological employees most often restrict their work to solely those clients of the male gender, offering them shaves, masculine haircuts, and toupee fittings, among other possible services.
  • Esthetician: A thorough cleansing of the skin is the aim of these professionals, who concentrate on facials, neck and head massages, and sometimes even makeup application work.
  • Manicurist / Pedicurist: Sometimes referred to as nail technicians, these workers have earned expertise in caring for the hands and feet, respectively.
  • Shampooer: True to the job title, workers in this position take care of administering shampoos and conditioners to clients, lathering their locks, and rinsing them well.

Degree Levels

  • Certificate in Cosmetology: up to 9 months to complete
  • Associate Degree in Cosmetology: 2 years to complete

Education & Certification Requirements

Those students who demonstrate an interest or a curiosity in what cosmetology employees do can begin exploring the field during, or even before, their years in high school. Many professionals in this field have gained experience by assisting or apprenticing for a more experienced hairdresser, barber, or the like. Relevant job experience is an important facet to the goal of securing work in this industry; gaining work on the job at an early stage is a smart step. Most states require training from a licensed cosmetology or barber institution, and those institutions most often demand that a high school degree accompany a prospective applicant. Once in a schooling of some sort, students can expect to learn the skills needed to successfully pass the licensing process, after this postsecondary education has concluded.

Every state mandates that estheticians, barbers, and other workers in cosmetology secure the proper licensing. This license is particular to each state and may or may not transfer to others in the country. Only shampooers are free to skip this step, and they may not even need to secure training in order to work (making it a good position for high schoolers and younger aspirants of cosmetology). Licensing consists of passing an exam with a written component and a concomitant practical test, where students demonstrate their skill set live and on the spot. Oral testing may also factor in here. Nail and skin care, and other like specialties, often demand licensing for each extra specialization.

Salary Information

The pay for those in cosmetology is reported by hourly wage, not by yearly sum. Commission pay is very common in this field, as are tips and the occasional bonus. Cosmetologists, hairdressers and hair stylists at the outset of their careers take in just over $8.50 hourly; this increases to $11 with experience, and the best in this specialty reap more than $20 per hour. Beginning barbers earn $7.50, increasing to $11.50 over time, and those at the peak of the field are rewarded with $19 or more hourly. Estheticians and other skin care experts take an average of $14 an hour. Manicurists/pedicurists and shampooers earn $9.50 and $8, respectively. (BLS)

Job Outlook

By the year 2018, estimates prognosticate that the number of jobs overall in cosmetology will leap by 20 percent, a whopping figure. Barbers will enjoy a more modest growth of 12 percent, and manicurists and pedicurists relish 19 percent employment increase. Most excited of all should be estheticians, who will appreciate a nearly 40 percent anticipated growth into the future. Customer service and communication skills are paramount in determining hiring choices, as are experience, proper licensing, and the demonstration of multiple-licensed specialties. (BLS)

Related Careers

Massage therapists and cosmetology professionals are naturally related career paths. Estheticians and other skin care professionals might in fact moonlight in massage when away from the salon. Various specialties in massage include deep tissue and Shiatsu. Vocational schools that offer cosmetology education are also likely to prepare aspiring masseuses for this profession as well.

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