Cosmetologist Salary

A passion for beauty, an eye for detail, and a way with people may very well translate into a successful career in cosmetology, whether stationed behind a chair or traveling the globe.

The latest statistics released by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) show that salon professionals, such as cosmetologists, average about $50,000 a year, including tips. The actual salaries of cosmetologists, however, are difficult to gauge, as actual tip income is often underreported. This means that estimates tend to be low and actual earnings are considerably higher than reported.

The NACCAS also revealed that cosmetologists have been able to increase their earning power, thanks to a severe shortage of licensed salon professionals in the U.S. and a very low unemployment rate. Like most professions in the salon industry, a number of factors determine a cosmetologist’s salary:

  • Size of the salon
  • Location (demographics) of the salon
  • Area competition
  • Hours worked
  • Tipping habits of clients
  • The ability to bring in and maintain regular clients

Cosmetologists may earn a salary based on hours worked, although in salon settings, it is more common to earn commissions based on the value of the services provided. The salaries of cosmetologists also include the tips they receive and often the additional commission received from the products they sell. It is also common for cosmetologists to earn bonuses based on the number of new clients they bring into the salon.

Cosmetologist Salaries by Industry

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported salary and job statistics for cosmetologists, as of May 2013. There were nearly 352,000 individuals employed as cosmetologists, hairdressers, and hairstylists during this time, earning a mean, annual salary of $27,530 or an hourly wage of $13.24. The BLS reported the top 10 percent of professionals in this industry earned a mean, annual salary of $44,220, or an hourly wage of $21.26.

Salaries among cosmetologists, hairdressers, and hairstylists, however, varied significantly based on the industry in which they worked. For example, those working for performing arts companies earned the largest, annual salaries, averaging $72,580, as of May 2013. The top 10 percent of makeup artists in theatrical and production settings earned an impressive salary of $121,910 during this time. Forbes even named makeup artists in production and theater settings among its list of “America’s 20 Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs.”

Cosmetologists in the death care services industry also earned a higher-than-average salary, averaging $34,650 a year, while cosmetologists in health and personal care stores earned an average, annual salary of $33,850.

Specific professions in cosmetology earned the following mean annual salaries during the same period:

  • Manicurists/pedicurists: $21,790
  • Massage therapists: $40,400
  • Skincare specialists: $32,990

The top-paying states for cosmetologists, as of May 2013, were:

  • District of Columbia: $43,830
  • Hawaii: $36,080
  • Delaware: $35,690
  • Washington: $35,400
  • Virginia: $33,930

The top-paying metropolitan areas for cosmetologists during the same period were:

  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, California: $39,220
  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington: $39,180
  • Springfield, Illinois: $37,220
  • Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington: $36,710
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: $36,380
  • Yakima, Washington: $36,240
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD: $36,200
  • Tacoma, Washington: $36,020
  • Salinas, California: $35,730
  • Richmond, Virginia: $35,550

The top-paying nonmetropolitan areas for cosmetologists were:

  • North Central Colorado: $38,760
  • Southeast Alaska: $38,050
  • West Central North Dakota: $35,440
  • Southwestern Wyoming: $33,720
  • Northwest Massachusetts: $33,300

The US Department of Labor also provides a state-by-state analysis of cosmetologist salaries nationwide (2013):

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Alabama
3670
24250
Alaska
370
29730
Arizona
6300
25860
Arkansas
1660
25050
California
24300
27590
Colorado
6570
28710
Connecticut
5970
28960
Delaware
1640
35690
District of Columbia
1070
43830
Florida
23840
26460
Georgia
8870
25000
Guam
180
18360
Hawaii
810
36080
Idaho
1420
21610
Illinois
16820
28260
Indiana
7000
25320
Iowa
4070
25950
Kansas
3290
23260
Kentucky
3280
24300
Louisiana
3090
23800
Maine
1050
28160
Maryland
9960
29540
Massachusetts
10290
32190
Michigan
12410
24980
Minnesota
9980
27530
Mississippi
1210
27940
Missouri
6250
25920
Montana
710
27480
Nebraska
2910
25580
Nevada
2760
22170
New Hampshire
2580
25490
New Jersey
15070
29440
New Mexico
1160
26570
New York
24590
28500
North Carolina
7610
27620
North Dakota
1230
30800
Ohio
19960
25290
Oklahoma
2290
22730
Oregon
3340
29670
Pennsylvania
24850
25910
Puerto Rico
880
20930
Rhode Island
890
26070
South Carolina
3140
23020
South Dakota
890
28700
Tennessee
5340
27430
Texas
20840
27420
Utah
2630
28420
Vermont
760
27010
Virginia
11790
33930
Washington
8940
35400
West Virginia
1260
26370
Wisconsin
10750
25270
Wyoming
490
26910

The Value and Growth of the Salon Industry

A May 2014 Professional Beauty Association publication revealed that the salon industry includes more than 1.1 million establishments and annual sales of $46 billion.

In 2012, just 93,000 salon establishments had payroll employees, while 1.045 million were categorized as non-employer salon establishments. The number of non-employer salon and spa establishments increased a whopping 83 percent in the last decade alone, with sales jumping an also-incredible 93 percent. In comparison, the number of employment-based salon and spa establishments increased just 16 percent over the last decade, with sales increasing 39 percent.

It’s no surprise that Americans’ disposable income plays a large role in the health and vitality of the salon and spa industry. In 2009-2010, as the nation was climbing out of the depths of the recession, the salon and spa industry grew by almost 1,600 locations across the U.S., an increase of 1.7 percent. During the same period, the overall economy grew by just 0.3 percent. The salon and spa industry continues to outpace the general economy, says the Professional Beauty Association. In the last 3 years, more than 3,800 salon and spa business locations opened—a 4.2 percent gain. In comparison, the overall economy added about 284,000 private-sector business establishments—an increase of just 3.3 percent. Overall, job growth in the salon industry has outperformed the overall economy in 11 of the last 14 years.

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