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Cosmetology Degrees

Cosmetology is a practice that covers several different areas within the realm of beautification. Cosmetologists work with clients to make changes and improvements to their hair, skin, and nails. Depending on individual interests cosmetologists may specialize in many different areas or they may choose to just focus on one. Aspiring cosmetologists should seek post secondary education either in the form of a certificate or associate degree in order to gain the skills and hands on experience needed to succeed in the industry. Cosmetologists should also have excellent communication skills in order to fully understand their customers' needs and wants. Cosmetologists who own their own salons will also be in charge of managing their employees, inventory, and financial situation. 

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Associate Degrees in Cosmetology

Aspiring Cosmetologists can earn their associate degree in two years through both traditional study and practical training in student salons and clinics. Students will learn how to style and cut hair, give skin treatments, and how to give manicures and pedicures. In addition to these basic skills students will also learn about different skin disorders and how to treat them, sanitation, and business. Many cosmetologists go on to be self-employed so the business knowledge they gain in school is very helpful in their future careers. Common courses included at the associate level are hair cutting and styling, nail and skin care, state regulations, salon management, health and safety, and hair coloring. Some programs will also have externships readily available for graduates who wish to seek a little more hands on training before entering the industry as a professional on their own. Most programs will require that applicants hold a high school diploma or GED; however, there are programs that will accept applicants who are still in high school. Upon graduation cosmetologists will be able to put their skills to work at a variety of different settings including nail salons, hair salons, and spas. As cosmetologists advance their careers they may also find work in places such as the fashion industry or film industry. Depending on the cosmetology school being attended the total cost of tuition can range from $6,000 to $30,000. 

Certificate Degrees in Cosmetology

Aspiring cosmetologists who are not interested in earning a full degree will have the option of earning a certificate degree which can be completed in as little as nine months. A certificate program will cover all the major areas of cosmetology including hair, makeup, nails, and skincare. Students will participate in lectures and hands on training in student salons in order to gain the necessary skills in communication, decision making, hairstyling, makeup application, and the like. Typical coursework includes chemistry, tools and materials, safety and sanitation, hair analysis, client consultation, facial treatments, lash and brow tinting, and hair color. Graduates will have the opportunity to go on to work in full-service salons or even open up and manage their own salon. Similar to the associate degree admission requirements applicants should have a high school diploma or GED but some programs may accept students while they are still in high school. The total cost of a certificate program is quite affordable and can cost as little as $1,000. 


Every state requires that cosmetologists be licensed. In order to become a practicing cosmetologist applicants must pass a national licensing exam, though the eligibility requirements to take the exam vary by state. These requirements are based on number of classwork hours, educational background, and age. It is important for individuals to look into state license requirements prior to committing to a cosmetology program. 


The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS) is the largest accrediting body that grants accreditation to cosmetology programs. NACCAS is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and grants accreditation to programs based on their compliance to the educational standards set by the organization. Accreditation is a schools way of maintaining integrity towards its students and their quality of education. Students can have confidence that the education they are receiving will adequately prepare them for the professional world. 

Career Specialties

Most cosmetology schools cover a broad range of areas within the realm of beauty so most cosmetologists will be able to cover all aspects within their career. Some cosmetologists however may choose to just focus on one specialization. There are also programs available for individuals who are interested in just one specialty. 

Hair Stylist:  A hair stylist focuses on cutting, styling, and coloring hair. 

Nail Technician:  In this specialty professionals offer services to improve their clients nails such as manicures and pedicures. They also stay on top of current nail trends so that they can offer their clients unique nail designs. 

Estheticians:  This specialty focuses on the skin. Estheticians give facials and offer waxing services. Some estheticians apply makeup to their clients as well. 

Barber:  A barber usually focuses on providing hair cutting services for men. They also offer other services such as shaving facial hair and hair styling. 



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