How to Become a Cosmetologist in Iowa

A career in cosmetology can be fun, rewarding, and exciting. The growth rate of cosmetology jobs in Iowa, including hairdressers and hairstylists, is about 2.1% annually. This means 365 new jobs are available to cosmetologists each year – and this doesn’t count the cosmetologists that go into business for themselves!

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When pursuing a career in cosmetology, you will want to become familiar with the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, which is a subsection of the Iowa Bureau of Professional Licensure. The Board evaluates all cosmetology license applications in the state.

To become a licensed cosmetologist in Iowa, follow these steps:

Attend Cosmetology School
Pass the NIC Cosmetology Exam
Complete an Application for Cosmetologist Licensure
Renew your License Bi-annually
Find Work in Iowa’s Beauty Industry



Step 1. Attend Cosmetology School

Attending cosmetology school is fun, fast, and it fulfills the Iowa State educational requirements for cosmetology licensure, as long as the school provides at least 2,100 hours and is Iowa Board-approved. The Board provides a list of approved cosmetology schools on their website.

Cosmetology school will give you both theoretical and practical instruction, as well as prepare you for examination, licensure, and your career as a cosmetologist.

These courses are exciting and cutting-edge, teaching you everything from the basics of hair cutting to the retail and marketing industry as a cosmetologist. Some courses taught within these programs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hair and Scalp Treatments
  • Hair Arranging
  • Chemical Waving
  • Chemical Relaxing
  • Hair Coloring
  • Facial Treatments
  • Hair Removal
  • Natural Nail Care
  • Acrylic Nails
  • Iowa Law
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Personal/Business Development
  • Career Management

Many beauty schools also offer continuing education courses, which you can take in order to stay in the know on the latest, cutting-edge fashion and beauty trends. Being able to offer more services with better excellence will please your clients, and since your salary will include tips, you will want to keep your client’s needs and desires in mind!



Step 2. Pass the NIC Cosmetology Exam

You must take the National-Interstate Council cosmetology exam (NIC exam), which you must pass with at least a 75% or higher in order qualify for licensure. PSI administers the NIC exam, which includes two sections:

  • The National Cosmetology Written Exam (90 minutes)
  • National Cosmetology Practical Exam (three (3) hours)

The practical exam assesses your ability to perform the following cosmetology duties:

  • Set up and Client Protection
  • Thermal Curling
  • Haircutting
  • Chemical Waving
  • Virgin Hair Lightening
  • Hair Color Retouch
  • Virgin Relaxer Application
  • Relaxer Retouch
  • Candidate Summary
  • Final Cleanup



Step 3. Complete an Application for Cosmetologist Licensure

If you are a first time applicant for licensure, you will apply for licensure based on examination. If you have been licensed before, you may need to apply for licensure based on endorsement.


To apply for licensure, you must complete the following steps:

  • Submit a completed, board-approved, cosmetology application
  • Submit cosmetology application fee of $60
  • Submit your official transcripts or diploma from cosmetology school
  • Official scores from the NIC Exam


If you are applying for licensure based on endorsement, which means that you have held a currently license in another state for at least twelve (12) of the previous twenty-four (24) months, you will also need to submit the following materials:

  • Notarized copy of passing score on national theory exam
  • Original letter of verification of licensure sent to Iowa Board of Cosmetology

Submit all licensure application materials to the board at the following location:

Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences
Professional Licensure Division
5th Floor Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319



Step 4. Renew your License Bi-annually

Once you attain licensure, it will be considered active for a two (2)-year period. After that, you must renew. The renewal period for Iowa begins on April 1st and ends on March 31st every two years. You will receive a renewal notice in the mail at least 60 days before your license expires, and you must renew your license before that time.

In order to renew your license, you are required to complete continuing education. Completing these courses not only allows you to renew your licensure, but it also helps you learn cutting-edge techniques, which will please your clients and your employers.

The minimum continuing education requirement is eight (8) credit hours per biannual renewal cycle. The credit hours must meet the following requirements—

  • A minimum of four (4) hours should be in the discipline of cosmetology
  • A minimum of two (2) hours should be in the content area of Iowa cosmetology law, rules, and sanitation

The only exemption for continuing education credits is new licensees, who do not need to complete the credits for their first renewal period. Any credits you do complete as a new licensee will be counted toward your second license renewal credit requirement. Other than your first renewal period absolutely no hours of credit may carry over to the next biannual renewal cycle.

The Board does not approve specific education sponsors or providers, so it is your responsibility to make sure that your program meets the requirements of the Board. Some specific requirements for education courses include:

  • Make sure the organized program of learning contributes directly to your professional competency as a cosmetologist
  • The program must be conducted by an individual who is specially trained and knowledgeable on a specific area; they must be qualified to teach this subject matter
  • There must be a course title and stated goals or objectives
  • There must be a certificate of completion or evidence of successful completion

You will be responsible to keep track of your continuing education hours and what specific areas you were trained in, for each year the Board will choose a random percent of licensees to audit. Your documents must include the following information about your courses:

  • Course Title
  • Date(s)
  • Contact Hours
  • Sponsor
  • Licensee’s Name



Step 5. Find Work in Iowa’s Beauty Industry

Once you attain your license, you will legally be able to work as a cosmetologist in Iowa, using your creativity knowledge of the latest techniques to please your clients and impress your employer.

Some of the top salons in Iowa where you could look for a job or rent a chair include:

  • Michael Tschantz Salon – Iowa City
  • Groovy Katz Salon – Iowa City
  • Buzz – Iowa City
  • Estilo Salon and Day Spa – Iowa City
  • Rumours Salon – Iowa City
  • Bella Salon and Spa – West Des Moines
  • G Spot Hair Design – Iowa City

Along with this, you can join the Cosmetologists and Barbers of Iowa Professional Association. Once a member of this statewide association, you will have access to fun events, competitions, conventions and charity events. This association will not only keep you in the know about the industry, but it will also connect you through fun events with cosmetologists all over the state. To become a member, print and download the application.

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