How to Become a Cosmetologist in Tennessee

Nashville is not only home to the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Awards, it is also home to more than 1,500 cosmetologists working as stylists and hairdressers. Country music stars aren’t the only ones who need to look their best. As a beauty professional in Tennessee you will have the opportunity to style the hair and do the nails of everyone from brides-to-be to local and national celebrities. No matter who your clients are, after you are finished with them they will be ready to walk the red carpet.

Enter Zip:

The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners is the agency you will work with to become a licensed cosmetologist and begin what is sure to be a fulfilling career. To get started you will need to style your way through the following steps:

Graduate from a Cosmetology School in Tennessee
Pass Tennessee’s Testing Requirements
Become Licensed by the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners
Start Your Career as a Cosmetologist in Tennessee



Step 1. Graduate from a Cosmetology School in Tennessee

The first step to becoming a cosmetologist is to graduate from a cosmetology school approved by the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners.

There are more than 80 such cosmetology school programs in Tennessee, in cities such as:

  • 14 located in Memphis
  • 6 located in Chattanooga
  • 6 located in Knoxville
  • 5 located in Nashville
  • 3 located in Clarksville
  • 2 located in Franklin
  • 2 located in Murfreesboro
  • 1 located in Jackson

Your program must be at least 1,500 hours in length and will prepare you to be competent in the following areas:

  • Shampooing and rinsing
  • Salon psychology and sales
  • Scalp and hair care
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Business ethics
  • Chemical relaxing
  • Toning and bleaching
  • Hair shaping and styling
  • Hairdresser training
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Makeup training
  • Sanitation and sterilization
  • Brow and lash tinting
  • Hair coloring



Step 2. Pass Tennessee’s Testing Requirements

The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners contracts with the PSI testing company to administer the state’s required cosmetology exams. Your cosmetology school will submit an application for you to test with PSI as you near the completion of your academic program. Once PSI confirms that you have met the cosmetology licensing requirements in Tennessee thus far, it will send you a postcard with test registration information. You can find testing information in the Tennessee Candidate Information Bulletin.

When you have passed your exams the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners will issue you a cosmetology license after you have paid them a fee.

Cosmetology Practical Exam

You will be allowed 170 minutes to complete the practical exam, which is offered in the cities of:

  • Memphis
  • Nashville
  • Knoxville

You will need to demonstrate a variety of skills in a live situation to an evaluator, and hence you must bring necessary items to your practical exam, including:

  • Two mannequins
  • Hair cutting shears
  • Chemical cape
  • Neck strips
  • EPA-registered disinfectant
  • Blow dryer
  • Blood spill kit
  • Razor with guard

You will be evaluated on your performance of the following:

  • Set-up, disinfection, and safety
  • Chemical services
  • Virgin lightener
  • Color retouch
  • Relaxer retouch
  • Virgin relaxer
  • Removal of hair product
  • 90-degree haircut
  • Permanent waving service
  • Thermal hairstyling
  • Finger wave with at least two pin curls
  • Disinfection

Cosmetology Theory Exam

You will be allowed 120 minutes to complete the theory exam, which is offered in the following cities:

  • Chattanooga
  • Jackson
  • Johnson City
  • Knoxville
  • Memphis
  • Nashville

This exam is multiple-choice and taken on a computer. The content covered on the practical exam is as follows:

  • Sanitation, disinfection, and safety – 20 percent
  • Hair coloring – 17 percent
  • Chemical texture services – 17 percent
  • Hair styling and cutting – 12 percent
  • Licensing – 10 percent
  • Extensions and braids – 8 percent
  • Nail care – 7 percent
  • Skin care – 7 percent
  • Shampooing and conditioning hair – 2 percent



Step 3. Become Licensed by the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners

After you pass your exams, PSI will forward your scores to the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, who will verify that you have met all licensing requirements. At this point you will simply need to pay the Board a licensing fee and you will receive your license.

Out-of-State Candidates

To be eligible for licensure based on your out-of-state qualifications you will need to take a few additional steps. First, the training and testing requirements that you completed out-of-state should be equivalent or greater than those required in Tennessee. This means you must have graduated from a cosmetology school that included 1,500 hours of instruction. If you cannot meet this education requirement, you are permitted to substitute for this by demonstrating that you have worked as a cosmetologist for at least five years.

You will also need to complete an extra law exam that will evaluate your knowledge of the rules and regulations pertaining to cosmetologists in Tennessee. This is also administered by PSI, and you can apply for this and any other outstanding exams you need to complete by filling out an Application to Test.

Once you are ready you can fill out an Application for a Reciprocal License.



Step 4. Start Your Career as a Cosmetologist in Tennessee

As a newly licensed cosmetologist, chances are you will land your first job in a local salon or chain store. If you demonstrated exceptional skills and talent in your cosmetology school you may even have the chance to start out in your city’s more upscale salons.

As you make a name for yourself, you will have the opportunity to move to some of the trendier establishments in Memphis or Nashville. Once you have established that you are a talented cosmetologist you will have maximum flexibility to pursue the areas of beauty that interests you most.

Some of the most artistically gifted cosmetologists in Tennessee will also go on to open up their own salon and lead their own business. Whatever you end up doing in your future career, the good news is that as a cosmetologist your future is in your hands. For example, the stylist for Carrie Underwood just recently opened up her own salon in Brentwood.

As you progress in your career don’t forget that you can renew your license up to 60 days before it is set to expire, and you can do this by paying the $50 renewal fee and either sending in a renewal form or completing the renewal process online.

You can find cosmetologist jobs in Tennessee throughout the state wherever people want to look their best. The most recent statistical breakdown of regional employment showed the following concentrations of cosmetologists throughout Tennessee:

  • 1,560 in the Nashville metropolitan area
  • 1,390 in the Memphis metropolitan area
  • 770 in Knoxville
  • 610 in Chattanooga
  • 410 in Johnson City
  • 170 in Clarksville

You can find additional resources on how to become a cosmetologist in Tennessee with professional organizations such as:

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