Beauty Schools

We are a nation passionate about beauty. We appreciate the importance of looking and feeling our best, and we jump at the opportunity to pamper ourselves. We are mindful and attentive to all aspects of our health and well-being, which often includes rewarding ourselves with salon and spa services.

We look to beauty salon services to not only beautify our outward appearance, but also to relax, uplift, unwind, rejuvenate, and invigorate us. Yes, we love the value of beauty salon services, and recent industry statistics support our delight with everything from a polished manicure to a perfect blow out.

Beautician Schools: Opportunities and Options for an Education in Beauty

The beauty services industry is a multi-faceted one. There are a number of specializations within this industry, and just as many state licensing options. The first step to state licensure in all states is the successful completion of a beauty school program, which may be designed as:

Cosmetology Programs

A full cosmetology program, which may be designed as an associate degree or as a certificate/diploma program, is the most comprehensive type of beauty program, as it includes study in one, some, or all of the following:

  • Haircutting, hairstyling
  • Hair coloring and design
  • Manicuring/pedicuring
  • Makeup application
  • Esthetic skin care
  • Marketing, communication, business skills

A cosmetology program prepares students to become fully licensed cosmetologists who are proficient and adept at performing a wide array of beauty procedures and techniques.

From the principles of haircutting and the science of hair coloring to the basics of skincare and the art of makeup application, cosmetology programs are designed to allow students to explore the many facets of the beauty salon industry and the seemingly limitless career possibilities that result from possessing a comprehensive education in the services that make up the salon industry.

Makeup/Makeup Artistry Programs

Makeup artistry is a unique subset of cosmetology that studies skin tones, facial features and the special techniques required to apply colors, tones, and shades to enhance a client’s appearance. A makeup beauty program prepares students through a combination of theoretical study and practical, hands-on experiences. Many programs also provide study in marketing and communication skills as to allow students to build their own business in makeup artistry.

The curriculum of a program in makeup artistry often includes:

  • Advanced makeup artistry
  • The business of makeup artistry
  • The fundamentals of makeup artistry
  • Runway, editorial, fashion makeup artistry
  • Theatrical makeup artistry
  • Clinical makeup

A basic makeup program teaches fundamental principles such as color theory, facial anatomy, and application techniques, as well as more advanced techniques and corrective techniques that utilize the principles of highlight and contour.

Unlike many other areas of cosmetology, makeup artistry is a profession that is most often performed outside of the salon, on television and film sets and in theatrical shows, fashion shows, and magazine and catalog shoots.

Manicurist/Nail Technician Programs

Nail technology is the study and art of the manicure and pedicure. As such, a nail technology program includes training in all aspects of manicuring and pedicuring, as well as study in the health and safety aspects of nail procedures, such as sanitation and sterilization. A nail technology program is designed to combine theoretical discussion and lecture with practical performance demonstrations and applications.

Nail technicians (often referred to as nail artists or manicurists) are also educated and trained in a number of innovative nail applications and designs, including:

  • Paraffin treatments
  • Gels, wraps, and acrylic applications
  • Nail art
  • Airbrushing
  • Specialty
  • Manicures

The theory curriculum of a typical nail technician program consists of:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Ethics
  • Customer care and consultation
  • AIDS/HIV and universal precautions (EPA, OSHA)
  • Physiology and anatomy of the hands, arms, and legs
  • Massage techniques
  • Nail structure, disease, and disorders
  • Salon business and operations
  • Business development and marketing

Electrolysis Programs

Electrology is the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal. The method of electrolysis involves inserting a small, electrified needle into the hair follicle to destroy growth tissue. Electrolysis can be used on many areas of the body or face.

An electrology program educates students on the art of electrolysis through two treatments, galvanic and thermolysis, while also providing study in areas such as:

  • Hygiene and personal grooming
  • Bacteriology
  • Anatomy and physiology of the skin and hair
  • Principles of electricity and equipment
  • Thermolysis
  • Dermatology

Currently, 33 states regulate and license electrolysis technicians. A cosmetology license, in most states, does not cover the field of electrolysis; therefore, licensed cosmetologists who want to practice electrolysis must complete a program in electrolysis and earn an electrolysis state license.

Esthetics Programs

Estheticians are skincare therapists trained in the cosmetic treatment of the skin. An esthetics program focuses on the study of skin care, thereby preparing students to perform a number of cosmetic procedures on the skin. Estheticians may work in salons, spas, or other specialized clinical settings. Esthetics programs teach students about the process of beautifying the skin through a variety of services, including:

  • Facials
  • Laser and light therapy
  • Makeup artistry
  • Mask therapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Pore cleansing
  • Skin analyses
  • Skin care regimens
  • Tweezing
  • Waxing

Theory curriculum in an esthetics program typically includes study in:

  • Anatomy and physiology (muscular, nervous, circulatory, endocrine, digestive systems)
  • Clinical practice (sanitation, time management, etc.)
  • Personal development
  • Communication
  • Scalp and hair analysis
  • Bacteriology infection control
  • AIDS/HIV, hepatitis
  • Skin disorders
  • Nutrition
  • Ingredient analysis

Many times, estheticians work alongside dermatologists and plastic surgeons and in medical spas, where they perform a number of advanced treatments, such as chemical peels, ultrasonic treatments, and non-invasive injectable treatments, such as derma fillers and Botox.

Meeting Cosmetology Licensing Requirements

The salon industry is a regulated industry, and the professionals who practice are licensed through the board of cosmetology or the department of public health in the state in which they practice. Only those beauty professionals who complete a program of training and/or education and are able to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through the completion of a state licensing examination are eligible to earn licensure and practice their craft.

Each state sets its own requirements for licensure; therefore, beauty school requirements vary. More specifically, the number of hours of study to sit for state board examinations and become licensed varies somewhat from one state to the next. For example, students in Arizona must complete at least 1,600 hours of education in a beauty school to achieve a cosmetologist license; 600 hours to achieve an esthetician license; 500 hours to achieve an electrolysis license; and 600 hours to achieve a nail technician license.

Students in Missouri, on the other hand, must complete at least 1,500 hours to achieve a cosmetologist license; at least 750 hours to achieve an esthetician license; and at least 400 hours to achieve a nail technician license. Electrolysis technicians in Missouri are not required to achieve a license to practice.

The majority of beauty school programs accept students who are at least 16 years old and/or who have completed at least the 10th grade. Therefore, most states license cosmetologists, hairdressers, nail technicians, manicurists, and makeup artists who meet the same age/education requirements. However, most esthetician and electrolysis programs require students to be at least 18 years old and to possess a high school diploma. Similarly, licensure for both estheticians and electrolysis technicians is reserved for individuals who meet the same requirements.

Many beauty schools, in addition to offering comprehensive cosmetology programs and individualized programs in areas such as manicuring, esthetics, or makeup artistry, are also home to a number of dual programs that offer combined training and education. For example, it is common to find dual programs in skincare and electrolysis or esthetics and makeup artistry.

While an associate degree in cosmetology takes about two years to complete, diploma or certificate programs usually take between 12 and 15 months to complete. Specialized beauty school programs, in comparison, usually take just a few months to complete. A typical nail technician program, for example, takes about 3 to 5 months to complete.

Although the practical aspect of a beauty school education must usually be completed through in-person demonstrations and presentations, a number of schools allow students to complete their theory coursework through online study. Further, many beauty school programs now accommodate students in different life circumstances and with different needs by offering part-time, evening, and distance learning opportunities.

The Salon and Spa Industry: Our Nation’s Love of Beauty Drives Growth

The Professional Beauty Association reported that the salon and spa industry in the U.S. boasted 1.1 million establishments and annual sales of more than $44 billion in 2012. (Globally, the salon, spa, and wellness industry was worth an estimated $3.4 trillion in 2013.) Growth in this industry has outperformed the overall economy in 11 of the last 13 years. For example, from 2011 to 2012, the salon industry added more than 1,700 locations—a nearly 2 percent increase. In comparison, the overall economy during the same time added just 54,400 establishments—an increase of just 0.6 percent.

Directly mirroring the rise in salon and spa establishments, salon industry job growth has also seen large increases in recent years and is expected to continue to do so through 2020. The largest job growth is projected to be among skin care specialists, with job growth between 2010 and 2020 topping out at 25 percent. Manicurists and pedicurists, and hairdressers (hairstylists) and cosmetologists are also expected to enjoy unprecedented job growth, with increases of 17 and 16 percent, respectively.

Due to the meteoric growth in the salon industry and the strict regulations regarding state licensure, the number of beauty schools also continues to increase.

With a plethora of options for an education in the salon industry, it is important to be able to: distinguish between the types of programs; understand the requirements for those programs; and recognize if they meet state requirements for licensure.

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