Do you love working with people? Have a knack for skin care and the use of makeup, and feel right at home when you are helping others to look and feel their best? You may be an ideal candidate for a career in cosmetology!
What is a Cosmetology License?
For those interested in earning a cosmetology license, there are specific steps that you need to prepare to take. Commonly, they involve varying lengths of formal classroom and hands-on training, in addition to satisfactorily passing required tests in school, and obtaining a state license.
A licensed cosmetologist will be a recognized expert in the field of makeup, skin care, nail care and beauty products, as well as hair styling and coloring. Clients will look to you for advice in dealing with their own skin and hair issues.
Specializations within the field may include:
• Skin care
• Hair removal specialist
• Hair coloring
• Nail specialist
Regardless of the specific practice that you are interested in, there will be licensing requirements that vary by state.
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Why Licenses are Required
Licensing is the process by which a state board grants you written permission to legally perform certain practices within the field of cosmetology. Licensing is a requirement because a specific set of skills are needed to practice cosmetology in a safe manner and in accordance to state regulations. This protects consumers from receiving services from untrained persons, which could cause undesirable outcomes to their appearance, or even cause bodily harm.
Each state licensing board has specific requirements for obtaining a license in the desired field. For example, you will need training in proper sanitary practices as well as training that teaches you proper evaluation of clients for their particular hair and skin needs.
Having a state license is verification to your client that you have received the necessary training and experience to be able to independently evaluate those needs and can safely and effectively implement the service that they are seeking.
Several steps are involved in becoming an expert in this field.
Eligibility for Cosmetologist Training
You should always begin by verifying that you meet the minimum qualifications for the field that you are interested in. Generally, the initial eligibility requirements are similar across most states, but be sure to check with the school that you are interested in for their specific recommendations.
Some schools require a minimum age of 16 to start. Some will prefer that you are a little older and have already graduated with a high school diploma or have passed a GED (general educational development) test. There are even some programs that let you start taking some required classes while still in high school and then you will have less school left upon graduation.
Other requirements include the ability to complete the required training from a physical standpoint.
For example, if you are unable to stand for long periods at a time, you may be ineligible for hair training at some schools. If you do not have sufficient arm and hand coordination, then you may not be a good candidate for makeup expert. The same applies if you have visual deficits that can’t be overcome with correctional lenses.
You must be able to handle the required curriculum and pass each required course by the minimum standard outlined by each school.
You should generally be considered a “people person” as well. All sub-fields in cosmetology involve directly working with your clientele; the more personable you are, the more successful you will be at retaining customers as well as getting the ever important word-of-mouth advertising.
Find a Program that Matches your Goals
Not every program teaches you the specific skills that you are looking for.
Some schools specialize in makeup and skincare and aren’t as focused on other aspects of the field. Some schools may only teach you to do hair styling and coloring.
It is very important that the school provides you with the training that you will need in order to get into your desired area of expertise. You should research each program thoroughly to ensure that you are going to get what you are looking for.
You certainly don’t want to spend time and money completing a program that is not suited to meet your specific career goals!
Complete your Formal Beauty School Coursework
You will need to apply, be accepted, and successfully complete all required courses within your specific cosmetology program. Courses will vary by program and this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, but most will include training in:
• Cosmetology tools
• Hygiene and sanitary practices
• Nail technology
• Chemical safety
• Hair cutting and designing
• Hair treatments and coloring
• Skin care products
• Makeup application
• Skin diseases and conditions
You may also receive instruction to prepare for the business side of the field, such as: labor laws, bookkeeping, obtaining and retaining clients, worker’s compensation, ethics, state and local laws.
Some programs may allow you to have choices, or electives, that allow students to tailor their education to their specific needs. Refer to the program of your choice for their specific curriculum.
Ensure you Meet your State’s Licensing Requirements
Requirements for licensing vary between the states. Most state boards will list a required number of hours of formal training and potentially a specific number of hours of apprenticeship practice. They will also specify any minimum age requirements as well as testing requirements.
For example, in the State of Georgia, a cosmetology license requires 1,500 hours of formal education plus 3,000 hours documented as an apprentice (meaning you will be working but still supervised by a fully licensed professional).
You will need to pass a licensing exam, and will also have to be at least 17 years of age.
You must also be of good moral character. What makes up “good moral character” is somewhat subjective; but don’t worry. Having some minor blemishes on your record likely will not harm your chances too much. Be prepared to explain any excessive problems in school or any past criminal record history.
Reciprocity Between States
Some states offer what is called “reciprocity” for specific licenses. This means that if you already have a license in one state, you may be eligible to obtain a license in another state without having to go through the full process of meeting their specific requirements.
Reciprocity varies from state to state, so be sure to check with your licensing board for details or eligibility.
The bottom line here is that every state is different in their requirements for licensure, so you need to be aware of the specific needs for the state in which you would like to practice. This information is usually pretty easy to find with a simple internet search. Be better prepared by getting informed!
Pass the Cosmetology License Exam in your State
The culmination of your formal classroom training, hands-on training, and apprenticeship is the state licensing exam. The exam content and format will vary between states (that seems to be a common theme here), so again, be sure to check with your state on what will be tested.
Preparation for the exam should be taken seriously. Programs do their best to prepare you for licensing exams, but if you want to ensure success, you really cannot study too much.
There are many books, flashcards, and other study materials that are available for those who are test-prepping for their state license. Use these study materials and your chances of passing your test the first time will go up significantly.
Also, if you learn best in a group setting, partner up with some classmates who are also prepping for their exams. It often helps for you to question each other on potential exam material. Others may also have different study materials available to share with the group.
Be aware of the required fees that you will need to sit for your license, as well. Fees vary greatly, so prepare for that in advance. Once again using the State of Georgia as an example, you will pay $30.00 to take the exam for cosmetologist and another $30.00 for any additional exam such as hair design or nail technician.
Also familiarize yourself with your state board testing process. They may have rules that you must follow or specific materials for you to bring with you on your testing day. Be sure to find out ahead of time what to bring.
Follow State Guidelines for Cosmetology License Renewal
So, you have finished school, you’ve met all of the state requirements, and you’ve passed your state’s licensing examination. You get a copy of that license in your hand, and . . . woo hoo! You are now a licensed professional and are one step closer to accomplishing your goals of a successful career in cosmetology.
So that’s it, right? Well…not quite.
Unfortunately, state licenses expire. It would be great if they did not, however, the reality is that you will have to maintain that license forever (or at least for as long as you desire to work in the field).
Continuing with the State of Georgia example, you will need to renew your license for cosmetology on even years (every two years) for a fee of $50.00. Additional skills require additional renewals, such as esthetics or nail technician renewal on odd years for a fee of $45.00.
The fees go up tremendously if you let your license lapse and you have to pay for a reinstatement. In Georgia, that means a $200.00 fee to get a reinstated cosmetology license, so be sure to keep up those renewals in a timely manner.
It’s a bummer to know that you have to keep paying fees; but remember, if these license maintenance fees are not reimbursed by an employer, they are tax deductible. Be sure to keep those receipts!
Final Thoughts on Getting Licensed
Cosmetology can be a perfect career for the right person. Be sure to know if you are eligible before starting. If you are, and you love the excitement of helping someone else look and feel terrific, then go for it!
Find a program that fits your goals. Study hard and be successful in school. Pass the test for your state board and get that license in your hand and on your wall. Be sure to maintain your licensure and avoid those extra fees.
Above all else, love what you do, have a passion for it, be great at it, and it will reward you in more ways than you know!