How to Become a Cosmetologist in Massachusetts

According to the Massachusetts Department of Labor, job opportunities for hairdressers and cosmetologists in the commonwealth are expected to increase by almost 25 percent between 2012 and 2022. This is great news if you wish to become a cosmetologist in Massachusetts. Opportunities for advancement exist in the commonwealth as well, as many cosmetologists start at the operator level, then advance to the hairdresser/cosmetologist level. Teaching others in the field of cosmetology is even an option if that is your goal.

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In Massachusetts, cosmetologists are licensed and regulated by the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Cosmetologists.

To become a licensed cosmetologist in Massachusetts, follow the steps in this guide:

Get your Cosmetology Education and Training
Apply for the Massachusetts Cosmetology Examinations and License
Pass the Necessary Examinations and Receive Your License
Maintain your License Through Continuing Education



Step 1. Get Your Cosmetology Education and Training

If you are at least 17 years old and have, at minimum, a 10th grade education, you may pursue a cosmetology license in Massachusetts. There are three levels of service that cosmetology education in Massachusetts will prepare you for:

Operator – Type 2 Most prospective Massachusetts cosmetologists start at this level. The requirements to become an operator- type 2 include completing a training course that is at least six months long, including 1000 hours of professional training in a Board-approved cosmetology school. The duties that an operator-type 2may perform include:

  • Cosmetic services under the supervision of a licensed hairdresser/cosmetologist Type 1
  • Aesthetic services under the supervision of a licensed hairdresser/cosmetologist Type 1 or an aesthetician Type 6
  • Manicure services without supervision

Hairdresser/Cosmetologist – Type 1 – In order to become a cosmetologist at this advanced level, you must have at least two years of practical experience as an Operator-Type 1 under the supervision of a licensed hairdresser/cosmetologist. The duties that a hairdresser/cosmetologist type 1 may perform include:

  • Unsupervised cosmetic services
  • Supervision of operators, aestheticians and manicurists

Cosmetology Instructor – Type 4 In order to become an instructor of cosmetology in Massachusetts, you must have at least two years of experience as a hairdresser/cosmetologist Type 1or a junior assistant instructor. Duties that a cosmetology instructor Type 4 may perform include:

  • Work in a cosmetology salon, manicuring salon or aesthetics salon ONLY if the cosmetology instructor type 4 also holds a hairdresser/cosmetologist type 1 license
  • May instruct in a cosmetology school

There are 24 cosmetology programs in the state of Massachusetts that are accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, in cities such as:

  • Lowell
  • Framingham
  • West Springfield
  • Ludlow
  • Fitchburg
  • Brockton
  • Boston
  • Fall River
  • Taunton
  • Quincy

Cosmetology programs in Massachusetts are typically at least 1000 hours in length (as this is the licensing requirement by the Board of Cosmetology). Training is usually divided into classroom and salon sections. In the classroom portion of your training, you will take classes on all sorts of cosmetology topics, such as:

  • Haircutting
  • Permanent wave
  • Design
  • Chemical relaxing
  • Skin care
  • Nail care
  • Hair treatment
  • Hair coloring

During the salon portion of your training, you will work in a practical clinic, practicing the skills you learned in the classroom. You will also be assessed on your working knowledge of state laws and regulations. Your program will be taught and your performance assessed by licensed Massachusetts cosmetology instructors.



Step 2. Apply for the Massachusetts Cosmetology Examinations and License

Once you have completed your education and training to become a Massachusetts cosmetologist, you are ready to take the required examinations to become an Operator – Type 2. Registering for the examination occurs at the same time as submitting a licensure application. Your school will provide you with an Education Completion/Licensing Application Form, which you must submit to Pearson Vue prior to scheduling your examination. The director of your school must complete the School Certification portion of the application. You must pass the examinations within two years of completing your cosmetology education, or you will have to submit a new application.



Step 3. Pass the Necessary Examinations and Receive Your Massachusetts Cosmetology License

The Massachusetts Cosmetology Examination is administered by Pearson Vue testing centers located in Framingham, West Springfield and Malden. You must call Pearson Vue at 800-274-2021 to make an examination reservation. When you call to schedule your exam, you will pay the exam fee of $120 at that time.

The cosmetology examination is made up of two parts – Written and Practical.

Practical Exam

The first part of your cosmetology exam is the practical portion. You are tested on 16 timed tasks, and have 3 ½ hours to complete them. You must bring an adult model and your own supplies to the exam. A complete list of supplies that you will need for the exam is here. You must get a score of 80 or better to pass the exam. Your results will not be revealed to you until you have taken the Written Exam. Examples of skills that may be tested include:

  • Infection control and safety
  • Facials
  • Makeup application
  • Manicures
  • Polish application
  • Haircolor – retouching
  • Haircolor- highlighting
  • Relaxer – chemical and virgin
  • Permanent wave
  • Braiding
  • Finger wave and pin curls
  • Shampoo
  • Basic layered haircut with shears/scissors
  • Thermal styling –blow-drying
  • Thermal styling – curling iron

Written Exam

The written exam for operators consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. You are given two hours to complete it. You must get a score of 75 or better to pass the exam. The content of the exam will include:

  • Rules, regulations and safety
  • Trichology
  • Styling
  • Shampoo and scalp analysis
  • Haircutting
  • Hair coloring/bleaching/lightening/tinting
  • Permanent waving
  • Chemical straightening and relaxing
  • Esthetics
  • Nails


When you have passed both the practical and written portions of the exam, your licensing fee of $68 will be collected at the Pearson Vue test center (payable via certified or cashier’s check or money order only). You will then immediately be issued a photo license, which will allow you to begin work as an Operator- Type 2 right away.



Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your Massachusetts Cosmetologist License

Congratulations! You are now a licensed operator-type 2 in Massachusetts!

Your first license renewal will occur one year after your licensure date. After that, your cosmetology license in Massachusetts will renew every two years on your birthday. You must pay $68 to renew your cosmetology license, and no continuing education is required for license renewal in Massachusetts. However, it is recommended that you take continuing education to stay current in the cosmetology industry.

If you wish to upgrade to a Hairdresser/Cosmetologist – Type 1 license after you have gained two years of experience, you may file the Cosmetology Type 1 application, along with a fee of $82 via money order only, payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You will also need a passport-sized photo of yourself, a copy of your Operator’s Type 2 license, a copy of your driver’s license, and a copy of your social security card. Finally, you must submit a notarized affidavit signed by your manager(s) attesting that you have worked as an operator for at least two years. Mail the information to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure, 1000 Washington St, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118-6100.

If you wish to become a Cosmetology Instructor after you have two years of experience as a Cosmetologist Type 1, file this application. You must include all of the information listed above with the Cosmetologist Type 1 application, as well as a copy of your high school diploma or GED. Additionally, you must pass the Written Exam-Instructor administered by Pearson Vue.

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