How to Become a Hairstylist – How Long Does it Take and How Much Can I Make?

By Jamie Fabel •  Updated: December 12, 2022  •  9 min read  •  Trade & Vocational
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The short answer to how long it takes to become a hairstylist is between 9 months and 24 months. There are a few variables depending on what state you want to become a licensed hairdresser in, but you will likely need to complete 1,000 to 1,500 training hours.

How much you can make as a hairstylist varies based on your experience, employment decisions, and areas of expertise. Current data shows that a hairdresser in the US makes an average of $21.23/hour.

Interested in becoming a successful, licensed hair stylist; let’s get down to the hairy details of what it takes to get started in this cosmetology career.

how to become a hair stylist

How to Become a Hair Stylist

Finish High School or Get a GED

Hairstylists will need a high school diploma or GED to get into the right cosmetology program. Your high school may have a cosmetology program, if so you can learn a lot while getting your diploma. Or you can also work in a salon and start learning the ins and outs of what a hair stylist does.

Complete a Training Program

It’s common for hair stylists to complete cosmetology or beauty school. However, the school you will attend needs to allow prospective hair stylists a training program approved by the state. This might take you 9 to 24 months to complete, depending on the beauty schools you attend.

During your schooling, you will be cutting hair, styling hair, and coloring 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 client’s hair, braiding techniques, and handling specialized chemical treatments. If you plan to open your own salon, you might also start taking business classes 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 additional training will help you gain hands on experience. In addition, you will likely learn the salon systems, such as how they schedule appointments and the products they sell. This can be very helpful if your dream is to open your own salons one day.

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 a state-licensing exam, including cutting, technical skills, and styling skills on hair of a mannequin. It may be necessary to apply chemical treatments properly to get your license, as well.

Some states require hair stylists to get a cosmetology license, you will likely need more hours of training. This type of license will also include a licensing exam. Usually, you will be able to apply makeup and handle nail care with this license, as well.

Every state has different requirements so be sure to do your research on exactly how many hours of training you will need to become licensed hair stylists.

Tools for Hairstylists and Hairdressers

Whether you’re just starting out your career as a professional hair stylist or you are an experienced hairdresser, these tools can be helpful. Some can even save you money in the long run.

Hairstylist and Hairdresser – What’s the Difference?

Is there a difference between a hairstylist and a hairdresser? Yes, there is. While both will need to go to cosmetology school to become licensed, they actually perform slightly different duties.

A hairdresser will cut your hair, shampoo and condition your hair, hair coloring, add hair extensions, and get creative with fun colors for amazing looks.They will also simply style your at the end of an appointment.

A hair stylist will curl your hair, perm your hair, and create amazing updos for weddings, proms, or style hair for any special occasions.

But, really a professional hair stylist or successful hairdresser will be certified to do all of these things.

Job Duties of a Hair Stylist

The job duties of a hairdresser may seem rather straightforward. Their main job is to provide hair styling 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, color methods, and haircuts; this may require some extra training but becoming well versed in a new trend can build your clientele. Your job will include making color and style recommendations for your clients as well.

Here are a few more duties that you will need to do as a hairstylist:

Helpful Skills for Successful Hair Stylists

If you want to become a hairstylist, having these skills can be extremely helpful to build a big clientele. These are just a few key skills that will make your day to day easier and more enjoyable.

Beginner Courses for Aspiring Hairstylists

If you are just starting your career as a hairdresser, these courses can be beneficial to help you jump-start your learning process. Or, if you are just looking for something new to try at home, check out these courses for some useful tips and tricks.

  1. The Secrets to Curling Hair
  2. The Secrets to Curling Hair

    This Course Will Teach You How To Create Beautiful Curls Using Traditional Curling Iron, A Wand, and A Flat Iron!

    Create Beautiful Curls

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  3. Hair Braiding Course for Beginners - Learn 7 Basic Braids
  4. Hair Braiding Course for Beginners - Learn 7 Basic Braids

    This course will help you get started by learning the fundamental techniques - It's a mini version of our FULL course!

    Start Braiding

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  5. Hair Cutting 101
  6. Hair Cutting 101

    Paul Goes over the fundamentals of cutting hair and shows the proper technique for various types of haircuts. This class is a great place to start if you want to cut friends' or family's hair or if you want to become a stylist.

    Start Learning

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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Hairdresser

How much do hairstylists make?

The average pay for a hairstylist is about $21 per hour, according to Sometimes it depends on your employer, a high end salon will pay more than a box store haircut place. Of course, more experience may allow you to make a higher average wage, too.

How much can I make in tips as a hairstylist?

When people are deciding how much to tip a hairdresser, they consider the quality of the cut, color, and style. Did you listen to what they wanted, and did you deliver what they asked for? If what they wanted wouldn’t work for them, did you talk to them about this and come up with something better?

Most clients will tip 15-25%, with most tipping around 20%. Keep in mind, you set your prices so know your worth.

What type of benefits do hairstylists get?

It’s rather common for hair stylists 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 hair stylists have a high school diploma or GED. 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 salon management, or an alternate career or even open your own business. For example, many hair stylists become licensed to provide cosmetology, skin care services, manicures, and pedicures. It’s also common for hairstylists to become fashion consultants and make-up artists.

How many hours are common for a hairstylist to work?

It’s common for a hairstylist to work full-time hours. A 40-hour work week is common, and regular 9-to-5 hours are also common. However, some hairstylists may work 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 hair stylist, 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 what state you are in.

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 a state-licensing exam, which can cost between $75 and $125. You will also need to take continuing education classes to keep your state issued license active, which varies by state.

What is the work environment like as a hairstylist?

While some hairstylists will work on movie sets, TV programs, 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 either work for a company or become self employed, and will rent space at a salon. 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.

Jamie Fabel

Jamie Fabel

Hey y'all! I'm Jamie, the Editor at When I'm not homeschooling my four kids or doing the mom thing, I am working to make this site the best version of itself!