Anyone who wants to become a cosmetologist should prepare to learn a wide range of skills. Those who pursue this career learn techniques for everything from shampooing, hair cutting, and styling to manicures and makeup application. Special cosmetology schools teach the coursework in plans that usually last at least one year for a certificate and two for an Associate's Degree.
The field of cosmetology is a fairly stable business. There were nearly 400,000 beauty related salons and businesses in the early 21st century, with annual growth rates in the teens. With specializations rising in number, the decision to become a cosmetologist can provide excellent future job prospects.
The requirements to become a cosmetologist vary between states. To enter cosmetology school, most schools require a minimum age of 16 years old, while some require a high school diploma. Vocational schools accept high school students who are interested in learning the trade while completing their high school diploma.
The coursework varies depending on the school and area of specialization. Those seeking a basic cosmetology certificate will likely have coursework in a variety of areas such as hair styling, make-up, skin-care and nail care. There are some schools that offer intensive work in one particular field of cosmetology such as makeup application, nail technology, or massage therapy. These specialized schools allow students to focus on just one field intensely rather than many fields generally.
Those who wish to become a cosmetologist sometimes want to specialize in a particular area within their basic cosmetology training, such as hair coloring. Most schools offer advanced coursework in certain topics to provide their students with extra knowledge in the area of their individual interest. This specialization is a great idea for someone just entering the field, because it provides an extra level of marketability during the hiring process.
Schools generally offer training by hours. Every state requires different hours, but the national average for a full cosmetology certificate is around 1500. Other specialization specific programs require less hours. For example, nail technology requires an average of 650 hours, while esthetics requires around 300. The exact hours are usually decided by the individual state's licensing board.
After receiving a certificate of cosmetology, most states require the graduate to take a test before becoming licensed. Many schools will offer test preparation coursework to help their students get ready for this test. The exams to become a cosmetologist are generally written with a pass or fail grade.