We are a nation obsessed with beauty. Take one gander at the $380 billion-a-year global beauty industry and it’s undeniable. The desire to be beautiful is nearly as old as civilization itself, and almost everybody visits the salon at least occasionally for a little preening, primping, coloring, grooming, fussing, and adorning at the hands of a professional. Even Cindy Crawford, likely heralded as one of the most beautiful women in America once said, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”
Beauty matters—and America’s cosmetology industry is reaping the rewards.
Cosmetology is a broad term used to describe the business of beauty – and cosmetologist is a broad professional term that can be used to describe an individual educated, trained, and licensed to work with: hair, skin, makeup, and nails. A cosmetologist may be skilled in all of these areas, in just one area, or in a combination of two or more areas. However, hair styling and design tends to be the main area of focus for licensed cosmetologists.
Cosmetologists must hold a state license to practice their trade, and separate state licenses are required to perform different cosmetology services.
Cosmetologist Job Description According to Setting and Industry
The best approach to describing cosmetology jobs and careers in cosmetology is to break down the settings in which cosmetologists may work:
A salon is one of the most conventional settings for cosmetologists and is likely the first job environment for newly licensed cosmetologists. A salon provides the ideal backdrop for cosmetologists learning the skills of the trade, and for those looking to the future and thinking about going into business for themselves. Newly licensed cosmetologists may be relegated to answering phones, booking appointments, greeting clients, and shampooing, although the experience gained by being part of a salon team is invaluable.
Experienced cosmetologists very often work as independent contractors or commission-based employees in a salon setting. They work to grow their business by building their client lists and referrals.
Large salons often have cosmetologists skilled specifically in certain areas, such as hair, nails, and makeup, while smaller salons may have a solid team of cosmetologists who move seamlessly from one area of the salon to the next.
Hotels and Resorts
Hotels and resorts often have their own salons or spas that offer everything from basic services, such as manicures and hair styling to indulgent services, such as massages and facials. Unlike standard salon settings where cosmetologists have a client base, hotels and resorts cater to a temporary clientele who may use the hotel services just one time.
Most resorts and hotels with salons and spas cater to a more demanding customer who expects superior services designed for pleasure and relaxation. Many cosmetologists enjoy working in resort salons and spas, as it affords them the opportunity to work in luxurious, scenic, and exciting locations where they have the opportunity to meet new people every day.
Some cosmetologists enjoy traveling to their clients instead of having their clients come to them in a salon setting. Mobile cosmetologists provide on-site services for the clients they serve, whether it is makeup and manicures for a bridal party or hair cutting and styling for incapacitated/home-bound/disabled/sick individuals.
Television, Film and Theater Industry
One of the most lucrative areas of cosmetology is the film/theater/television industry. In fact, the US Department of Labor reports annual, average earnings of more than $100,000 for beauty professionals in the entertainment industry. Cosmetologists working in this capacity are often independent contractors who sign on with a theater or production company to perform cosmetology services on the set or backstage.
Others work exclusively for a television or news program, providing services for actors or television personalities on a full-time basis. Working as a cosmetologist in television, theater, and film also often affords cosmetologists the opportunity to travel to exciting, often exotic destinations. Some cosmetologists are even specially trained to create special effects makeup.
The fashion industry is an exciting endeavor for cosmetologists. These professionals, who may work on-site or in a photography studio, may provide their services at magazine shoots and fashion show runways.
Cosmetologists in the fashion industry must have a pulse on the latest trends and fashions and be able to pay close attention to the specific needs and wants of fashion photographers, designers, and stylists.
Many cosmetologists enjoy lucrative, rewarding careers as sales representatives, who are responsible for traveling to salons and talking to salon staff members about the latest products in a product line.
Their job often includes working for a specific salon brand, such as a haircare product manufacturer, and educating salon staff members about the brand and the techniques and tips for using the products.
Job Duties and the Services that Cosmetologists Provide
The job duties cosmetologists perform vary significantly depending on everything from their specialty to the setting in which they perform their services. In a typical day, most cosmetologists can expect to do the following:
- Keep all equipment, supplies, and tools clean, sanitized, and organized
- Keep workstations clean and organized
- Schedule and confirm client appointments
- Keep client information up to date
- Order and stock products
- Follow trends in the industry and modify their business to suit these trends
- Demonstrate, recommend, and sell beauty products
- Perform client consultation to understand their needs and wants and to make suggestions regarding hairstyling, makeup, and skincare
Specific job duties may include:
- Shampooing, trimming, conditioning, straightening, curling, and coloring hair
- Designing, trimming, and fitting wigs, hairpieces, and extensions
- Trimming, shaping, and coloring eyebrows
- Facial and body hair removal
- Cleaning and trimming nails and cuticles
- Polishing nails and applying nail art and artificial nails
- Performing skin beauty treatments, including facials, scrubs, and masks
- Neck, head, and body massages
- Application of cosmetics, lotions, and creams
Qualifying for Cosmetologist Jobs
Every state has its own set of standards regarding the practice of cosmetology. However, state licensure is a standard requirement in all U.S. jurisdictions. Individuals interested in working as cosmetologists should educate themselves on the specific requirements for state licensure, which generally includes completing a cosmetology program and taking a written examination.
Basic cosmetology programs, which are generally between 9 and 15 months in duration, typically meet state-mandated requirements for completing between 1200 and 2000 hours of formal training and coursework. Associate’s degree programs are more comprehensive, preparing students to sit for state examinations in various specialties.
Beyond a state license, however, to be successful in this field, cosmetologists must possess a number of specific qualities, including:
- The ability and willingness to work long hours
- The desire to provide excellent customer service
- Tact and discretion
- Friendly and outgoing
- Pleasant and approachable
- The ability to think creatively