How to Become a Cosmetologist in Virginia

Imagine that every morning you wake up and go to a job where you express yourself artistically while helping appreciative clients feel good about themselves. A career in cosmetology also allows you to set concrete goals that may include becoming your own boss one day. While this may sound like a dream, as a licensed cosmetologist in Virginia, this could be your life!

Enter Zip:

Whether you are working with upscale clients in the trendiest districts in Virginia Beach or going for a more chic approach with customers in the DC metro area, working as a stylist of hairdresser in Virginia will allow you to express your creativity while providing you with flexible working hours.

To perform hair treatments such as cleansing, curling, waving, and cutting you will need to obtain a cosmetology license by meeting training requirements set by the Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology. To become a cosmetologist in Virginia, follow these three easy steps:

Complete an Approved Cosmetology Education Program
Pass the Cosmetology Examinations
Develop your New Career as a Cosmetologist in Virginia



Step 1. Complete an Approved Cosmetology Education Program

The Virginia Board of Barbers and Cosmetology requires all prospective cosmetologists to graduate from a licensed cosmetology school that includes at least 1,500 hours of study.

There are more than 200 licensed cosmetology schools in Virginia to choose from, located in places like:

  • 13 in Richmond
  • 12 in Virginia Beach
  • 9 in Newport News
  • 9 in Alexandria
  • 7 in Norfolk
  • 7 in Chesapeake
  • 6 in Hampton
  • 6 in Roanoke
  • 6 in Fairfax

By law, cosmetology degree programs in Virginia must include courses on the following topics:

  • Professional ethics, state laws, and state regulations
  • Natural and artificial manicuring and pedicuring procedures
  • Anatomy, physiology, and chemistry
  • Sterilization techniques
  • Shampooing and rinsing
  • Hair styling
  • Scalp treatments
  • Permanent waving and chemical relaxing
  • Hair cutting
  • Hair bleaching and coloring
  • Make up and skin care
  • Hair pieces and wigs
  • Business ethics and salon management

Option to Substitute an Apprenticeship for Formal Education

The Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology will also allow you to be eligible for a cosmetology license if you complete an acceptable apprentice program in lieu of attending a program through a licensed cosmetology school.

You will need to sign up for an apprenticeship through the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and complete at least 3,000 hours of training and education.

Out-of-State Cosmetologists

If you completed a cosmetology training program or hair stylist school in a different state you may still be eligible for a Virginia license if your education program meets either of the following requirements:

  • It was at least 1,500 hours in length and covered similar subjects as those covered in Virginia cosmetology schools
  • It was somewhat less than 1,500 hours in length but had an equivalent curriculum as Virginia cosmetology schools, and you have at least six months of work experience as a cosmetologist

Contact the Board for Barbers and Cosmetologists directly if you have also already passed a cosmetologist practical and written examination and are licensed in another state, as you may be immediately eligible for a reciprocal license in Virginia. Otherwise you will still need to complete Virginia’s cosmetology testing requirements.



Step 2. Pass the Cosmetology Examinations

Virginia contracts with the evaluation company Ergometrics/National Testing Network (NTN) to conduct both cosmetology exams you must pass to become licensed:

  • Cosmetology Written Exam
  • Cosmetology Practical Exam

You will be eligible to sign up for these exams once you have graduated from your cosmetology education program. To do this you can apply online with NTN. When you apply you will also have the option to apply for a temporary 45-day cosmetology permit that becomes active between the time you complete your exams and you receive your official license.

Both the practical and written exams are offered at testing sites across Virginia. You can start to prepare for these exams by reviewing the NTN’s Candidate Information Bulletin (CIB) for prospective Virginia cosmetologists.

Once you have passed both these examination you will need to log in to your NTN account and click on the Licensure Fee Notice button. Print off this payment form and send it and your license fee to the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR). NTN will notify the DPOR that you have passed your exams, and once your license fee is received you will be granted approval for licensure directly from the Virginia Board for Barbers and Cosmetology and issued a license through the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.

Cosmetology Written Exam

This examination is given on a computer over the course of two hours, with a total of 120 multiple-choice questions. Exam content includes:

  • Infection control, safety, and sanitation – 30 percent
  • Cosmetology services – 24 percent
  • Cosmetology tools and equipment – 17 percent
  • Chemistry and product knowledge – 13 percent
  • Virginia state laws, rules, and regulations – 11 percent
  • Anatomy and physiology – 5 percent

Cosmetology Practical Exam

This examination will have you demonstrate your real-life skills in front of an evaluator. You will need to bring two mannequin heads to the exam facility on test day. You will also need to bring the necessary supplies to demonstrate the following procedures. You will have two minutes to transition from one service to the next:

  • Setup and disinfection – 10 minutes
  • Blood spill procedures – 10 minutes
  • Thermal curling – 10 minutes
  • Haircut – 30 minutes
  • Blow dry – 10 minutes
  • Eyebrow wax – 10 minutes
  • Chemical waving – 20 minutes
  • Hair coloring – 32 minutes total
  • Patch test – 2 minutes
  • Color retouch – 10 minutes
  • Virgin hair lightener – 10 minutes
  • Hair foiling – 10 minutes
  • Chemical relaxer retouch – 10 minutes
  • Disinfection and cleanup – no time limit



Step 3. Develop your New Career as a Cosmetologist in Virginia

Once you have obtained your license you will be ready to strike out on your own in your new profession. This could mean moving to the big city, or to the trendy salon you’ve always gone to down the street. Virginia’s cosmetologists are no strangers to success, with nationally recognized, award winning local establishments in the state that include:

As you start establishing yourself as a talented cosmetologist, don’t forget to renew your license; it expires every two years at the end of the month in which it was issued.

Cosmetologists will tell you that one of the best advantages to working in the field is the freedom and flexibility it offers. Once you’ve built a reputation for yourself, and established a loyal base of clients, you can think about moving up to a classier establishment, going into business with a respected colleague, or even opening your own place.

Whether you want to move to the big city or a quaint town, the nice thing about being a cosmetologist in Virginia is that where you work is entirely up to you. Also tied to flexibility is your customer base; if you are skillful, artistic, talented, and care about your customers they will demonstrate their appreciation and loyalty by coming back and referring friends.

Back to Top