How to Become a Cosmetologist in Montana

Do you love beautifying hair, skin and nails? Are you a people-person? Do you love fashion and staying current on the latest style trends?

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Follow these steps to learn how to become licensed through the Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists:

Enroll in a Cosmetology Education and Training Program
Apply for Cosmetology Licensure by Examination
Pass Montana’s Required Exams
Maintain your Montana Cosmetologist License

According to Montana Workforce, there are currently 1,878 cosmetologists licensed and employed in the state. Forty-five percent of Montana’s cosmetologists are self-employed, either owning their own salon or renting a chair in an established salon. Consider the freedom and flexibility a salon career can offer, along with the tips and commissions you can earn on top of your base salary, and the decision to become a cosmetologist becomes a no-brainer.



Step 1. Enroll in a Cosmetology Education and Training Program

The first requirement that you must satisfy on your way to becoming a licensed cosmetologist in Montana is to get the education proscribed by the Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists. You must complete 2000 hours of training from a Montana Board- approved cosmetology school prior to taking the licensing exam.

A list of schools approved by the Board is available here. Approved cosmetology schools are found within the following cities:

  • Kalispell
  • Butte
  • Billings
  • Hamilton
  • Bozeman
  • Whitefish
  • Great Falls
  • Miles City
  • Missoula

Your Montana cosmetology course will include time spent in the classroom as well as time spent in a student clinic, in which you will practice what you have learned in the classroom on mannequins or real people.

The Board has mandated that the following number of hours of training in each subject be included in any cosmetology training program:

  • Manicuring – 125 hours
  • Esthetics – 150 hours
  • Shampoo and scalp treatment – 260 hours
  • Chemical services – 530 hours
  • Hair cutting – 205 hours
  • Salon management – 150 hours
  • Chemistry, sanitation, sterilization, safety, anatomy, physiology, infection control and disorders of nails, skin, scalp and hair – 80 hours
  • The remaining 500 hours are left to the discretion of each cosmetology school



Step 2. Apply for Cosmetology Licensure by Examination

The next step along your route to becoming a licensed cosmetologist in Montana is to pass the Board-approved cosmetology exam. Montana uses the cosmetology exams developed by the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology, Inc.

You must pass both a written (computerized) and practical exam prior to licensure in Montana. Before you may schedule the exam, you must submit the Application for Licensure by Examination along with required documentation and fees to the Board.

Along with your completed application, submit:

  • Fee of $80 via check/money order payable to the Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists
  • Verification from your school that you have completed the required cosmetology training (copy of diploma showing number of hours completed)
  • Copy of your high school diploma or transcripts
  • Proof of age (driver’s license or birth certificate)

Mail the above to Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, P.O. Box 200513, 301 S Park, 4th Floor (Delivery), Helena, MT 59620-0513.



Step 3. Pass Montana’s Required Exams

Upon receipt and review of your application, you will receive an admission letter from the Board allowing you to schedule the written part of the exam.

Written Exam

When you receive the admission letter from the board, go online to PSI Exam Centers to schedule the NIC Cosmetology Theory Examination Series 58. You must pay the exam fee of $50 online at the time of scheduling. Testing centers in Montana include:

  • Helena
  • Hamilton
  • Great Falls
  • Billings
  • Missoula
  • Kalispell

You will be allotted 90 minutes to complete the exam, which will consist of questions on the following content:

  • 30 percent – Scientific Concepts
  • 40 percent – Hair Care and Services
  • 15 percent – Skin Care and Services
  • 15 percent – Nail Care and Services

You must receive a scaled score of 75 in order to pass the written exam. If you take a computerized version, results will be available as soon as you finish the exam. If you take a written version, your results will be mailed to you 7 to 10 business days after the exam.

Practical Exam

Next, you must pass the NIC Practical Exam, administered through DL Roope Administrations Inc. Apply online through their website. You must pay an exam fee of $119 online at the time of scheduling it. You will be notified of the date, time and place of the exam when you schedule. You must bring your own supplies, mannequin hand, and mannequin head to the exam. A list of required supplies is here.

The practical exam lasts four hours and you will be tested on the following skills:

  • 10 minutes – Set up and client protection
  • 10 minutes- Thermal curling
  • 30 minutes – Hair cutting
  • 20 minutes – Chemical waving
  • 20 minutes – Virgin hair lightening application and hair color retouch
  • 20 minutes – Virgin hair relaxer application and relaxer retouch
  • 10 minutes – Basic facial
  • 20 minutes – Manicure

You must receive a scaled score of 75 on the practical portion of the exam in order to pass. Results will be available online within 7 to 10 business days after the exam.

You must pass both sections of the exam in order to receive your license. Once you have done so, the Board will mail your Montana cosmetology license to you and you may begin working.



Step 4. Maintain your Montana Cosmetologist License

Kudos to you! You are now a licensed cosmetologist in Montana! Remember to renew your license biennially, as it will expire on March 1 every other year. Renewal fees are $80 and renewal can be done online through the Board’s website. You must also provide proof of age (birth certificate or driver’s license) at the time of renewal.

Continuing education is not required for cosmetologists to maintain their licenses in Montana.

As a licensed cosmetologist in Montana, the state is yours. Once you have that license, you are free to work anywhere that hires cosmetologists – salons, spas, fitness centers, resorts, department stores, medical facilities, and more.

You may rent a booth in a salon as an independent contractor, or you may also opt to open your own salon using the Board’s online application. The licensing fee for opening your own salon is $85, and the inspection fee is $150. This license renews annually on July 1 at a cost of $85 per renewal.

Some examples of Montana’s most popular salons include:

  • Dillards Salons and Spas – Billings and Missoula
  • ULTA Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance, Inc. – Bozeman
  • Great Clips – Great Falls and Helena
  • JC Penney- Billings
  • Regis Corporation – Missoula
  • Smart Style – Laurel

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