A passion for beauty, an eye for detail, and a way with people may very well translate into a successful career in cosmetology, whether stationed behind a chair or traveling the globe.
The latest statistics released by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) show that salon professionals, such as cosmetologists, average about $50,000 a year, including tips. The actual salaries of cosmetologists, however, are difficult to gauge, as actual tip income is often underreported. This means that estimates tend to be low and actual earnings are considerably higher than reported.
Find Cosmetologist and Nail Tech Salaries by State
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The NACCAS also revealed that cosmetologists have been able to increase their earning power, thanks to a severe shortage of licensed salon professionals in the U.S. and a very low unemployment rate. Like most professions in the salon industry, a number of factors determine a cosmetologist’s salary:
- Size of the salon
- Location (demographics) of the salon
- Area competition
- Hours worked
- Tipping habits of clients
- The ability to bring in and maintain regular clients
Cosmetologists may earn a salary based on hours worked, although in salon settings, it is more common to earn commissions based on the value of the services provided. The salaries of cosmetologists also include the tips they receive and often the additional commission received from the products they sell. It is also common for cosmetologists to earn bonuses based on the number of new clients they bring into the salon.
Cosmetologist Salaries by Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported salary and job statistics for cosmetologists, as of May 2013. There were nearly 352,000 individuals employed as cosmetologists, hairdressers, and hairstylists during this time, earning a mean, annual salary of $27,530 or an hourly wage of $13.24. The BLS reported the top 10 percent of professionals in this industry earned a mean, annual salary of $44,220, or an hourly wage of $21.26.
Salaries among cosmetologists, hairdressers, and hairstylists, however, varied significantly based on the industry in which they worked. For example, those working for performing arts companies earned the largest, annual salaries, averaging $72,580, as of May 2013. The top 10 percent of makeup artists in theatrical and production settings earned an impressive salary of $121,910 during this time. Forbes even named makeup artists in production and theater settings among its list of “America’s 20 Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs.”
Cosmetologists in the death care services industry also earned a higher-than-average salary, averaging $34,650 a year, while cosmetologists in health and personal care stores earned an average, annual salary of $33,850.
Specific professions in cosmetology earned the following mean annual salaries during the same period:
- Manicurists/pedicurists: $21,790
- Massage therapists: $40,400
- Skincare specialists: $32,990
The top-paying states for cosmetologists, as of May 2013, were:
- District of Columbia: $43,830
- Hawaii: $36,080
- Delaware: $35,690
- Washington: $35,400
- Virginia: $33,930
The top-paying metropolitan areas for cosmetologists during the same period were:
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, California: $39,220
- Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington: $39,180
- Springfield, Illinois: $37,220
- Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington: $36,710
- Honolulu, Hawaii: $36,380
- Yakima, Washington: $36,240
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD: $36,200
- Tacoma, Washington: $36,020
- Salinas, California: $35,730
- Richmond, Virginia: $35,550
The top-paying nonmetropolitan areas for cosmetologists were:
- North Central Colorado: $38,760
- Southeast Alaska: $38,050
- West Central North Dakota: $35,440
- Southwestern Wyoming: $33,720
- Northwest Massachusetts: $33,300
The US Department of Labor also provides a state-by-state analysis of cosmetologist salaries nationwide (2013):
The Value and Growth of the Salon Industry
A May 2014 Professional Beauty Association publication revealed that the salon industry includes more than 1.1 million establishments and annual sales of $46 billion.
In 2012, just 93,000 salon establishments had payroll employees, while 1.045 million were categorized as non-employer salon establishments. The number of non-employer salon and spa establishments increased a whopping 83 percent in the last decade alone, with sales jumping an also-incredible 93 percent. In comparison, the number of employment-based salon and spa establishments increased just 16 percent over the last decade, with sales increasing 39 percent.
It’s no surprise that Americans’ disposable income plays a large role in the health and vitality of the salon and spa industry. In 2009-2010, as the nation was climbing out of the depths of the recession, the salon and spa industry grew by almost 1,600 locations across the U.S., an increase of 1.7 percent. During the same period, the overall economy grew by just 0.3 percent. The salon and spa industry continues to outpace the general economy, says the Professional Beauty Association. In the last 3 years, more than 3,800 salon and spa business locations opened—a 4.2 percent gain. In comparison, the overall economy added about 284,000 private-sector business establishments—an increase of just 3.3 percent. Overall, job growth in the salon industry has outperformed the overall economy in 11 of the last 14 years.