How to start a cosmetology career

The field of cosmetology can provide rewarding career choices.
A career in the field of cosmetology can be diverse and rewarding if an individual seeks the right training. Cosmetologists not only provide hair care services, but often also work as manicurists and pedicurists, skin care and cosmetic consultants, permanent makeup (tattoo) artists, and many go on to work as estheticians and massage therapists.

With a little research you can determine the best path for your advancement.

How to start a cosmetology career

There are two basic tracks for entering the field of cosmetology. The first, and most typically pursued, is through a local trade or cosmetology school. Major cities and many smaller communities will have an educational facility in close proximity. The schools have programs based on specific state requirements for the number of hours of education, and many schools offer full-time and part-time enrollment options. In a school your time will be divided between classroom study and time in the school’s clinic. In the beginning, you will be provided with a manikin head to practice working with hair color chemistry and cutting techniques. As you progress and move into the clinic, you will provide hair and nail care services under the supervision of your instructors to people in the community. Once you have completed your required hours of instruction, you will be eligible to take your state licensing exam.

The second path available to those interested in a career in the cosmetology field is less structured. A number of salons provide their own education and training courses to prepare individuals for state licensing exams. This means that you learn your trade as an “apprentice” rather than a “student.” You are still required to complete a specific number of training hours before you take the state exam, but your hours are spent in the workplace. This option may appeal to individuals who are working full time and are unable to attend a school. However, your options in the job market are potentially limited if you have trained through a salon.

After you pass your state licensing exam there are again two options available to you as you look for a salon to work in. There are salons who “hire in” stylists, and those that operate on a rental basis. If you chose to work in a “hire in” salon, your training may continue many months past your hire date. Often, but not always, well known salons require you to work under the supervision of a more experienced stylist before allowing you free reign. These salons want to ensure that a client coming in will receive the same quality service by any stylist working in the company, and so they endeavor to fine-tune your abilities. This may mean working at minimum wage and sharing tips for 6 months while the boss assesses your abilities. Once you are allowed to work independently, you will be paid based on a percentage of the fee for the services you have provided. You should also be aware that many hire-in salons require a contract to be signed when you begin working. This contract may bind you to the company for as many as five years with the contingency that if you leave before the contract is up you will not work in a specified radius of their location. In a salon that has multiple locations, this may pose a difficulty in finding another place of employment in the case that you need to leave before the contract expires.

In the second case, you pay a fee to the salon for the space in which you work. This can mean you have more flexibility in the charges you assess, and at the end of the day you take home most, if not all, of the money for the services you provided. This may sound like the more preferable arrangement, but it is best to keep in mind that this type of salon can be a difficult place to start. These salons often have less walk-in traffic, which limits your ability to quickly develop a client base.

Before pursuing any new career idea, make sure to carefully research the options available in your location in regard to training and the job field. The area of cosmetology can be flexible and fulfilling if you make choices that compliment your personality and have a plan that will lead you to success.

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