How to Become a Cosmetologist in Texas

Working in the salon industry in Texas will give you the opportunity to specialize in everything from hair design and styling to spa treatments and skincare. As a licensed cosmetologist, you will be able to express yourself creatively, while at the same time giving clients the confidence that comes with looking their best – and what could be better than that?

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You will also enjoy the stability and flexibility of a career that allows you the freedom to rent a chair in an established salon, find a salaried position, or even open a salon of your own. Whether developing new looks for hip young clients in one of Austin’s trendy salons, or maintaining classic styles for a mature clientele in Dallas, you will enjoy a career that’s all about promoting health, wellness and beauty.

Follow these steps to learn how to become a cosmetologist in Texas:

Complete a Cosmetology Education and Training Program
Pass the Cosmetology Exams Required for Licensure Texas
Consider Additional Licensing Options
Explore your Career Options

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is responsible for licensing you as a cosmetologist in accordance with requirements set by the Texas Advisory Board on Cosmetology. A Texas Cosmetology Operator License – also known as an Operator License, and referred to here as a cosmetology license – will allow you to practice in any and all areas of cosmetology:

  • Esthetics
  • Manicuring
  • Eyelash extension
  • Hair weaving
  • Hair braiding
  • Wig specialization

Without a cosmetology license, you would be required to hold specialty certification in each of these areas.



Step 1. Complete a Cosmetology Education and Training Program

The first step to earning a cosmetology license in Texas is education. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation recognizes three qualifying pathways of education that will make you eligible for a cosmetology license:

  • Complete a cosmetology school program whose curriculum includes at least 1,500 hours of instruction
  • Complete a cosmetology school program whose curriculum includes at least 1,000 hours of instruction plus 500 hours of high school courses in a vocational or technical cosmetology program
  • Complete 300 hours of instruction in a cosmetology training program and hold a Class A Barber Certificate

Depending on the school you choose you may need to fill out a Student Permit Application as directed by your program.

Whichever path to eligibility you take, you will study subjects like:

  • Theory and practice of hair cutting and styling
  • Hairdresser training
  • Hair coloring
  • Cold waving
  • Salon management and practice
  • Makeup training
  • Manicuring
  • Chemical hair relaxing
  • Facials
  • Chemistry
  • Hair and scalp treatments
  • Texas rules and laws

You can find a list of licensed cosmetology schools in Texas (Inquiry by License Type – Cosmetology Schools) provided by the Department of Licensing and Regulation. By the most recent count, there were 454 approved cosmetology training programs in Texas, including:

  • 65 in Houston
  • 31 in San Antonio
  • 16 in El Paso
  • 14 in Austin
  • 12 in Fort Worth
  • 12 in Dallas
  • 8 in Arlington
  • 3 in Corpus Christi
  • 3 in Plano
  • 3 in Laredo



Step 2. Pass the Cosmetology Exams Required for Licensure Texas

Once you have completed the required education you will be ready to take the cosmetology written and practical exams, which are administered through the third-party company PSI. You will need to pass the written exam first, followed by the practical exam.

Your application to take these exams will also serve as your application for licensure with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. When submitting an application you must be able to show that you are at least 17 years of age and that you have earned a high school diploma or GED certificate.

If you graduated from a cosmetology school in Texas, you are eligible to apply for testing and a Cosmetology Operator License online. You can also apply through the mail by submitting a paper application. Applications are made with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and once approved the Department will notify PSI that you are eligible to take the written cosmetology examination. PSI will then send you a registration postcard that will tell you how to register for this first test. Once you pass this test, you will be able to schedule your practical cosmetology examination.

Once you have passed both exams, PSI will notify the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation that it should begin processing your license.

If you pre-pay for your cosmetology license when you first apply, you will be able to obtain a temporary non-renewable 21-day permit that will allow you to practice immediately upon passing your practical exam.

When preparing for your cosmetology exams, a good first step is to review the Candidate Information Bulletin (CIB) provided by PSI.

Texas Operator Written Examination

The written exam is offered at testing centers in the following cities:

  • Abilene
  • Amarillo
  • Arlington
  • Austin
  • Corpus Christi
  • Dallas
  • El Paso
  • Fort Worth
  • Harlingen
  • Houston
  • Lubbock
  • Midland
  • San Antonio
  • Tyler
  • Waco

This exam is given in a multiple-choice format on a computer, and is comprised of 100 questions which you will have two hours to complete. Questions are taken from the following topics:

  • Disinfection, sanitation, and safety
  • Shampooing and conditioning of hair
  • Hair cutting and hair styling
  • Braiding and braid extensions
  • Hair coloring
  • Chemical texture services
  • Licensing and regulations
  • Skin care
  • Nail care

Texas Operator Practical Examination

The practical exam is offered at testing centers in the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Amarillo
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
  • El Paso
  • Greater Houston
  • McAllen
  • Midland

Because the practical examination is a demonstration of your skills in front of an evaluator, you will need to bring a person to act as a model for the manicure and facial portions of the exam, as well as a mannequin for the remaining portions of the exam. The model you bring must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 16; models older than 18 will not need parental permission
  • Have a clean face that is free of skin diseases
  • Must be wearing eye makeup
  • Have all nail polish removed except for one fingernail, which should have a dark-colored polish

More information about your model and the materials you will need to bring with you are detailed on page 11 of the CIB.

The practical examination itself will last 200 minutes and evaluate you on the following procedures:

  • Set-up and disinfection
  • Manicure performed on your live model
  • Facial performed on your live model
  • Chemical services – preparation, virgin tint, virgin relaxer, bleach retouch
  • Shampoo service
  • Hair shaping service
  • Permanent waving service
  • Curl demonstration and roller placement
  • Blow drying and thermal curling
  • Clean-up disinfection



Step 3. Consider Additional Licensing Options

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider applying for any of the following:

Booth Licenses and Mini-Salon Licenses

Recent legislation passed in Texas now allows you to rent a booth in a salon with no additional license required; you simply need to have a valid and current cosmetology license.

However you will need a Mini-Salon License if you plan to operate a mini-salon, which is defined as follows:

  • Mini-salons are located inside licensed beauty salons, specialty salons, or dual shops
  • A mini-salon is a room or suite enclosed by walls and operated independently of the facility in which it is located
  • Mini-salons must meet the same legal requirements as other types of salons

You can apply for a mini-salon license either online or by sending in an application by mail.

Out-of-State Applicants

As an out-of-state applicant, you will generally be eligible for reciprocal licensure as a cosmetologist in Texas if the education and testing requirements you completed in your home state are similar to those of Texas. This includes all the states that are not listed below in this section.

If you are from any of the following states or territory you will need to have at least one-year of work experience before being eligible for a reciprocal cosmetology license in Texas:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virgin Islands

If you are from Florida or New York, you will need to have two-years of work experience as a cosmetologist before being eligible for a reciprocal license in Texas.

Texas does not consider an apprenticeship to be equivalent to academic training.

Once you have fulfilled these licensing requirements, you can submit an Application for Licensure by Reciprocity.



Step 4. Explore your Career Options

Your Cosmetology Operator License is valid for two years. In addition to paying the renewal fee and returning the renewal form or renewing online with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, you will also need to complete at least four hours of continuing education from approved continuing education providers during each two-year period. This biannual continuing education must include:

  • One hour of education regarding sanitation
  • At least three hours of education in subjects covered in your initial cosmetology school’s curriculum

After gaining experience in a local salon and demonstrating your motivation and creativity, you may consider moving to a different location and expanding your clientele. There were 20,840 cosmetologists licensed in Texas as of 2014, with the greater-Houston area home to one of the highest concentrations of health and beauty professionals of any metropolitan region in the nation.

One of the most appealing aspects of cosmetology jobs in Texas is that you are in control of your career’s destiny. Your success will depend on your drive as much as on your talent. If you make it as far as being successful with a mini-salon license, the next step may be to open your own studio and hiring your own employees!

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