How to Decide if a Cosmetology Apprenticeship is Right for You



A future in cosmetology is in your sights. You know that preparing for a career in cosmetology is an important first step in your journey to becoming a state licensed cosmetologist, and you also know that in addition to a formal cosmetology program, a cosmetology apprenticeship may be an option. You want to find the best method of preparation for state licensure, so you’ve been weighing the benefits of completing a formal cosmetology program or an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships have been a trusted and long-standing method of preparing workers for jobs while satisfying the need for a highly skilled workforce. Unlike a formal educational program through a cosmetology school, trade school, or junior college, apprenticeships follow an employer-driven model that combines on-the-job training and related curricula.

Apprenticeships are not for everyone, but for the right person, they are a valuable and worthwhile path to state licensure and an exciting career as a cosmetologist.

Apprenticing as a Cosmetologist: How to Decide if a Cosmetology Apprenticeship is Right for You

Not everyone qualifies to become an apprentice, and not everyone will find an apprenticeship to be the right type of training to become a cosmetologist. In other words, before you decide to pursue a cosmetology apprenticeship, you will want to decide if this type of training is right for you. Here’s what you will want to know:

Not all states allow cosmetology students to complete an apprenticeship in lieu of a formal cosmetology program.

The first step will be to check with your state board of cosmetology or similar regulatory agency. The following states currently permit cosmetology apprenticeships as a path to licensure:

Apprenticeship hour requirements are often longer than traditional cosmetology program hour requirements.

In most states, earning your cosmetology license via an apprenticeship will take longer than it would via a formal cosmetology program. For example, in Georgia, cosmetology students must complete a formal cosmetology program of at least 1,500 hours to sit for the cosmetology licensing exams and earn state licensure. However, cosmetology students choosing an apprenticeship in lieu of a formal program must complete at least 3,000 hours of training before qualifying to sit for the state exams and become licensed.

Similarly, cosmetology students in Pennsylvania are required to complete a formal cosmetology program of at least 1,250 hours to qualify for licensure, while students choosing an apprenticeship as a path to licensure must complete at least 2,000 hours of training.

In Maryland, students of formal cosmetology programs are required to complete 1,500 hour of education/training, while those in an apprenticeship must complete at least 24 months of apprenticeship training.

A cosmetology apprenticeship doesn’t mean you are exempt from traditional classroom learning.

Most states require students of cosmetology apprenticeships to complete a minimum number of hours in formal classroom instruction as to supplement their on-the-job training. In California, for example, cosmetology apprentices are required to complete 3,200 apprentice hours in a salon setting, as well as 220 hours of supplemental instruction in a classroom.

Likewise, cosmetology students in Washington D.C. are required to complete a formal cosmetology program of at least 1,500 hours to qualify for licensure, while those students choosing an apprenticeship as a path to licensure must complete at least 1,500 hours of training, as well as 500 classroom theory hours.

In Washington State, the 144 hours of related classroom instruction focuses on:

  • The cosmetology business
  • Customer service skills
  • The importance of customer service skills and their use in the workplace

Classroom instruction includes eight, two-day workshops that focus on the synergy of the apprenticeship, responsibility and accountability, how to treat clients, how to become part of the salon team, how to project the proper image, and secrets of a successful professional salon.

Selecting a program sponsor to oversee your cosmetology apprenticeship involves meeting a number of requirements.

Boards of Cosmetology have specific rules and regulations in place to ensure apprentices receive a high-quality course of training through an apprenticeship. More specifically, students are often required to:

  • Apply for a work permit and pay the applicable fee
  • Train in a licensed shop under a licensed cosmetologist or cosmetology instructor (often referred to as sponsor during the apprenticeship period)
  • Complete their apprenticeship within a specific period of time and/or work a minimum number of hours per week

Apprentice instructors must also meet a number of requirements, including:

  • Remaining licensed through the Board of Cosmetology
  • Keeping a detailed log of the total earned apprentice hours and submitting them to the Board as required
  • Following a curriculum that meets state requirements

Cosmetology Apprenticeships: What to Expect

The typical cosmetology apprenticeship consists of the following components:

  • Business Involvement: Cosmetology instructors are the foundation of an apprenticeship, playing an active role in building the apprenticeship program and remaining deeply involved during the course of the apprenticeship. Many Boards of Cosmetology maintain a list of licensed salons with an established apprenticeship program to facilitate the task of finding an instructor to train under. also maintains a list of cosmetology apprenticeship programs and contact information, by state.

  • Structured, On-The-Job Training: Apprentices receive training from an experienced cosmetologist or licensed instructor at the job site. The training of a cosmetology apprentice focuses on the skills and knowledge required to be fully proficient.
  • Related Instruction: An important component of any apprenticeship is related instruction in cosmetology theory. Students of cosmetology apprenticeships must complete study in cosmetology theory, either through self-study, online study, or classroom study.

Before beginning a cosmetology apprenticeship, you must ensure you and your program sponsor are registered with your Board of Cosmetology. In most states, you will also be required to complete a pre-apprenticeship program, which provides you with all of the necessary information needed to apprentice at a salon.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships remain a popular form of training for cosmetologists because it benefits both employers and students.

Benefits of an apprenticeship to employers:

  • Customized training tailored to the specific needs of the business produces highly skilled employees
  • Enhance employee retention – According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 91 percent of apprentices are still employed at the same location nine months later.
  • Reduction of worker’s compensation claims, due to an apprenticeship’s emphasis on safety.
  • Produces a stable and reliable pipeline of qualified cosmetologists

Benefits of an apprenticeship to students:

  • Provides hands-on career training that results in improved skills and competencies
  • Provides real-world experiences to prepare students for a career in cosmetology
  • Apprenticeships often translate into job offers upon state licensure

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