How to Become a Cosmetologist in South Carolina

Imagine your dream career where you could help people look and feel their best while at the same time expressing yourself both artistically and creatively. Working as a cosmetologist in South Carolina can provide you with this exact opportunity. Whether you are working with tourists making their way through the Appalachians or touching-up celebrities who have made their way to the Charleston International Film Festival, a career as a cosmetologist will allow you to shape the trends of hair, makeup, nails, and beauty creams in a state that is making increasing overtures to attract the film industry.

Enter Zip:

You will be working with the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology as you navigate the steps to become a cosmetologist – referred to officially as a Registered Cosmetologist in South Carolina. The following licensing process is designed to ensure you have what it takes to be a successful and qualified cosmetologist in South Carolina:

Complete South Carolina’s Education and Basic Requirements
Complete the Required Cosmetology Exams
Earn Your South Carolina Cosmetology License
Maintain Your Cosmetology License in South Carolina

The sky is the limit as a cosmetologist in South Carolina, where your career advancement is tied closely to your empathy with clients and artistic abilities. Just recently a Greenville salon made it onto Elle magazine’s 2014 top-100 hair salons in the country. Not only can cosmetology be a fun and challenging career, it can also be a stable and reliable source of income considering the latest employment growth figures released by the US Department of Labor.



Step 1. Complete South Carolina’s Education and Basic Requirements

Once you can confirm that you meet the following two minimum requirements you can start scouting out approved local cosmetology training programs throughout the state:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Have completed the 10th grade or its equivalent

Your cosmetology training program must consist of at least 1,500 hours of instruction and will include courses in the following subjects:

  • Science of cosmetology
  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • Sterilization and sanitation
  • Anatomy of hair, nails, and skin
  • Professional ethics
  • Hairstyling training
  • Practice of cosmetology
  • Psychology of sales
  • Makeup training
  • Dermatology
  • South Carolina state law, rules, and codes
  • Nail technology
  • Safety precautions

You can find additional information about cosmetology training programs through the South Carolina Association of Cosmetology Schools. Once you have completed your cosmetology education program in South Carolina you can request a Cosmetology Training Affidavit to be completed that you will use later in the application process. Upon graduation you must pass the required examinations within 24 months.



Step 2. Complete the Required Cosmetology Exams

As a new candidate for licensure you will need to pass two exams:

  • Cosmetology Theory Exam
  • Cosmetology Practical Exam

These are administered by Professional Credential Services (PCS) and offered once a month in Columbia. You must register at least three weeks before a testing date, and can begin the exam registration and application process once you create an account with PCS.

Your registration for these exams through PCS is also considered to be your application for licensure as a cosmetologist with the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology. PCS will review your application and determine if you are eligible to test. If you are eligible, once you complete the tests your application for licensure and testing results will be forwarded by PCS to the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology.

You will need to provide the following with your online cosmetology testing application to PCS:

Cosmetology Theory Exam

While PCS administers your application and testing, a separate agency will proctor your Cosmetology Theory Exam, and that is the company PSI. Once you have submitted your application and registration with PCS and are approved, PCS will issue you an Authorization to Test which you can use to create an account with PSI and register for the theory exam, which is offered at the following locations:

  • Greenville
  • Columbia
  • North Charleston
  • Beaufort
  • Myrtle Beach

The Cosmetology Theory Exam is a written test over the following subjects:

  • Scientific concepts – 30 percent
    • Infection control
    • Human anatomy
    • Basic physiology
    • Body positioning
    • Basic principles of chemistry and electricity


  • Hair care and services – 40 percent
    • Trichology
    • Draping procedures
    • Massaging, brushing, and shampooing
    • Hair design principles
    • Hair cutting and styling
    • Wigs, enhancements, and extensions
    • Chemical services analysis


  • Skin care and services – 15 percent
    • Skin histology
    • Skin care consultation
    • Temporary hair removal
    • Facial procedures and makeup application


  • Nail care and services – 15 percent
    • Nail structure
    • Manicure and pedicure procedures
    • Advanced nail care

Cosmetology Practical Exam

You will need to supply your own mannequin head and hand for the practical examination. You will also not allowed to use any aerosol products during the exam.

For this test you will be evaluated on your performance of the following essential skills:

  • Client protection and set-up
  • Manicure
  • Basic facial
  • Thermal curling
  • Virgin hair lightening application and hair color retouch
  • Chemical waiving
  • Haircutting
  • Virgin relaxer application and relaxer retouch



Step 3. Earn Your South Carolina Cosmetology License

PCS will notify the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology that you have met the licensing requirements and the Board will issue you a license. This process can take up to one month, and when you receive your license you will be ready to start applying for cosmetology jobs in South Carolina.

Out-of-State Cosmetologists

If you are a licensed cosmetologist in another state you can be eligible for an endorsement license to practice cosmetology in South Carolina. You can apply for this online or with a paper application. Both of these applications will be made directly with the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology. To be eligible for licensure via this route you must have previously taken the NIC theory and practical examinations to become a cosmetologist. If you have not taken one or both of these exams you will need to do so before you can become licensed in South Carolina.

If you are from a foreign country you may be eligible for licensure if you complete all of the cosmetology licensing requirements in South Carolina and your education is determined to be equivalent. You will need to have your education evaluated by one of the following companies:

Option for Master Hair Care Specialists to Crossover to Cosmetology

If you are a Master Hair Care specialist in South Carolina you also have the option to crossover to earn a cosmetology license if you have held a Master Hair Care license in South Carolina for at least five years, or if you have this credential and can combine this with an adequate amount of approved education in the field of cosmetology.



Step 4. Maintain Your Cosmetology License in South Carolina

You will need to renew your cosmetology license every two years, however you will need to earn at least 12 hours of continuing education every year. At least three hours of your annual continuing education must be in the areas of sanitation or heath and safety for clients. You can find out more information about continuing education and approved providers of such on the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology’s continuing education webpage.

Additional resources regarding continuing education and how to become a cosmetologist in South Carolina can be found by consulting the following sources:

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