How Long Does it Take to Become a Hairstylist?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: October 2, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Trade
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

This question has a very short answer and a much longer answer. The short answer to ‘how long does it take to become a hairstylist?’ is between 9 months and 24 months. There are a few variables, but you will likely need to complete 1,500 hours of training.

The longer answer will go through the steps to become a hairstylist below. Let’s also look at some of the job duties and answer some of the other questions you might have.

how to become a hair stylist

Necessary Steps to Become a Hair Stylist

Finish High School or Get a GED

Hairstylists will need a high school diploma or a GED to get into the right training program. This is where things start. While you’re in high school, if you can work at a salon, you will be able to gain some experience, as well.

Complete a Training Program

It’s common for hairstylists to complete a cosmetology or beauty program. However, the school you will attend needs to be state-approved. This might take you 9 to 24 months to complete, depending on the school.

During your schooling, you will learn how to cut, style, and color hair. Hands-on training is a big part of cosmetology school. You will gain training with the supervision of an instructor as you work on actual clients.

It’s also possible to learn many other skills in cosmetology school. For example, you might learn how to apply facials, perform pedicures, perform manicures, and more. Some programs are as short as six months, but they can be as long as 24 months.

You may also have the option to complete advanced training. This may include learning how to cut curly hair, braiding techniques, and handling specialized chemical treatments. If you plan to open your own hair salon, you might also need to take some business marketing and management courses.

Get Some Experience

In some states, you won’t need to go to an actual cosmetology school. Instead, you will need to complete an apprenticeship under another stylist. This type of training will take one to four years to complete, but it’s usually paid.

Even if you complete a training program, you will likely get some on-the-job training when working at a salon. This type of training will provide more hands-on experience. In addition, you will likely learn the salon systems, such as how they schedule appointments and the products they sell.

Become Licensed

Depending on your state, you might need to get a hairstylist license or a cosmetology license. A hairstylist license will require fewer hours of training. However, you will need to pass an exam, including cutting and styling the hair of a mannequin. It may be necessary to apply chemical treatments properly to get your license, as well.

If your state requires a cosmetology license, you will likely need more hours of training. This type of license will also include an exam. Usually, you will be able to apply makeup and handle nail care with this license, as well.

Every state has different requirements. For example, you may need only 1,000 hours of hands-on experience, but some states require 2,000 hours of experience.

Job Duties of a Hair Stylist

The job duties of a hairstylist may seem rather straightforward. The main job duty is to provide hairstyling services, such as coloring, shampooing, styling, blow-drying, and even cutting. You will also need to stay up-to-date on the trends in styles and haircuts. Your job will include making color and style recommendations.

Some of the common job duties will also include:

As a hairstylist, your job duties may depend on where you work, as well.

Common Skills for Successful Hairstylists

If you want to become a hairstylist, working on the right skills will make a big difference. Those going down this career path should work on the following skills.

These skills will be most important when you become a hairstylist. So work on these skills while going through your training or even while still completing high school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Hairstylist

How much can I make as a hairstylist?

The average pay for a hairstylist is about $16 per hour, according to It’s also possible to earn tips as a hairstylist, which can bump up the average wage for this career. Of course, more experience may allow you to make a higher average wage, too.

Some employers pay a much higher amount per hour. Top employers may pay well above $20 per hour or even higher. Working in New York City can pay a higher hourly wage, too. Texas is the highest paying state for hairstylists.

What type of benefits do hairstylists get?

It’s rather common for hairstylists to gain access to a flexible schedule and paid time off. Health insurance with dental and vision insurance are also rather common. You might also gain access to a 401(k), an employee discount, or even loan assistance.

Do I need a college degree to become a hairstylist?

No. About 97% of hairstylists have a high school diploma or GED only. Only about 3% have college degrees, and it’s certainly not a qualification. You will need the proper training and license, but you don’t need a college degree to become a hairstylist.

Are there any advancement opportunities for hairstylists?

While you won’t have an opportunity to move up the ladder, per se, you can move into an alternate career or open your own business. For example, many hairstylists become licensed to provide cosmetology, skincare services, manicures, and pedicures. It’s also common for hairstylists to become fashion consultants.

How many hours are common for a hairstylist to work?

It’s common for a hairstylist to work full-time hours. A 40-hour workweek is common, and regular 9-to-5 hours are also common. However, some hairstylists may work some overtime. It’s also common for hairstylists to work weekends, especially when doing hair for weddings, proms, and other events.

What is the cost of a hairstylist training program?

If you want to become a hairstylist, you can expect to spend between $8K and $20K for your training. The cost will depend on the type of training program you enter into and your location.

Do I need a license to work as a hairstylist?

Yes, most states will require you to become licensed to work as a hairstylist. Usually, you will spend less than $100 to get this license. Becoming licensed will likely require an exam, which will have a cost between $75 and $125, as well. It’s also common to need to renew your license every two years.

What is the work environment like as a hairstylist?

While some hairstylists will work on movie sets, TV, or at fashion shows, many work in hair salons. It’s also common for hairstylists to travel to wedding venues and other event venues for their job.

Most hairstylists will stand throughout the day. You may work long shifts, which will include weekends and evenings. The environment will also include exposure to chemicals and dyes. You will need to know how to use the right protective gear, such as gloves and aprons.

If you want to become a hairstylist, the answer to the question, ‘how long does it take to become a hairstylist?’ is found in this article. It will likely take you anywhere from 6 to 24 months, depending on your state. The program you choose for training will also determine how long it will take you.

Regardless of how long it takes, this can be a rewarding career. If you enjoy working with people and doing hair, you might fit in perfectly with this career path.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!