Cosmetologists are in the business of making people look good. They use their skills and training to take care of their clients’ skin, hair, and nails. In other words, cosmetologists enjoy providing personal care services.
Are you a people person who enjoys working in a fast-paced environment? Do you enjoy doing hair, nails, or makeup? If you’re interested in a career in cosmetology, it takes more than just talent. To legally work as a cosmetologist in the US, you must earn a cosmetologist license.
Getting the required education or training is the first step in earning a cosmetologist license. The education or training you need heavily depends on your location. Different states have different educational requirements for cosmetologists.
You may or may not have to attend a beauty school. Also, you may or may not need continuing education classes. It all depends on your state and its requirements.
Cosmetology Continuing Education
Some states require cosmetology continuing education. Continuing education for cosmetologists (often referred to as cosmetology CE) is when licensed cosmetologists take additional classes to further their education.
The purpose of these classes is to learn new skills in the field of cosmetology. You’re not preparing for an exam or a degree. These are simply classes to improve your knowledge.
Cosmetology CE classes are often available in different formats. You might have to attend an in-person class for hands-on training. Or you might have the option of self-directed online courses. You have to finish these classes before renewing your license, which is generally done every two-years in most states.
If you’re licensed in a state that requires cosmetology CE, you must earn a specific amount of continuing education units (CEUs). The amount of CEUs required varies by state.
For example, Alabama requires cosmetologists to take continuing education classes. And you need 8 CEUs (8 hours) to have your cosmetologist license renewed in Alabama. If you’re an instructor, Alabama requires 16 CEUs (16 hours) for renewal.
Connecticut is another state that requires continuing education for cosmetologists. However, unlike Alabama, Connecticut requires 10 CEUs (10 hours) for cosmetologists and instructors.
Some states – such as Alaska and Idaho – don’t require any continuing education for licensed cosmetologists. This is why it’s important to know the specific rules for your state.
When you enroll in a class, the class information will state how many CEUs the class provides.
Some salons offer in-house continuing education classes for employees. Local beauty associations and beauty schools often have classes as well. Make sure your local Board of Cosmetology officially recognizes any classes you take.
What To Expect in a Continuing Education Class
In the world of cosmetology, new techniques are created all the time. When you’re a student, you’re exposed to all kinds of new techniques and ideas.
When you’re working full-time – and school is over – it’s easy to lose touch with industry developments. This is where continuing education helps.
You might learn a new method that’s a popular way to cut hair. You could learn about new tools that make your job easier. Or, perhaps there’s a new and improved way to apply acrylic nails.
The continuing education classes can also teach about the business side of things. Professional development classes are usually available with those that focus on beauty techniques and skills.
For example, a management class might help you learn to attract and retain clients. Or you could learn how to become a better salon owner.
Think of continuing education classes as a way to keep your skills current. You want to make sure you can compete in a field with new people entering all the time.
Apprenticeship or Beauty School
Most people think that becoming a licensed cosmetologist always involves attending beauty school. And in most states, that is how it goes. But if a cosmetology apprenticeship is possible in your state, you might prefer that over going to school.
Doing an Apprenticeship
Successfully graduating from an approved beauty school is often a requirement for a cosmetologist license. However, some states make it possible to complete an apprenticeship instead of attending school.
How the Cosmetology Apprenticeship Works
First of all, it’s important to understand that an apprenticeship is a serious business. It’s just as serious as attending a traditional school. So if you think serving an apprenticeship is an easy way to get your license, you’re very wrong.
Just like in a beauty school, the apprenticeship requires learning specific skills. You’re also still responsible for fulfilling the licensing requirements specified by your local Board of Cosmetology.
What’s different is in one situation, you learn in a beauty school, and in the other situation, you learn in a salon.
Each state specifies which topics cosmetology trainees must learn. And a salon offering an apprenticeship program must make sure to teach the required skills. Since the core educational requirements vary by state, it’s important to check
The basic educational requirements for earning a cosmetology license are similar, no matter the state. But there are also some differences from state to state. Contact your local Board of Cosmetology for more information on the requirements.
The Length of an Apprenticeship
In most states, you need at least 1500 hours of instruction before taking the cosmetology licensing exam. However, this rule applies to trainees, who are attending a traditional beauty school.
The hours of training required for an apprentice vary by state. But the hour requirement is generally always longer than for those in beauty school.
For example, a cosmetologist apprentice in Alabama must receive 3,000 hours of training within 3 years.
After completing those 3,000 hours, the trainee can take the licensing exam. But a beauty school student in Alabama needs 1500 school hours before taking the exam.
For some trainees, the choice between beauty school and an apprenticeship is a matter of finances.
Beauty school can cost up to $20,000. And unless the trainee can get a scholarship or other financial aid, they have to pay the tuition out of pocket. An apprenticeship is free. The main cost associated with an apprenticeship is the fee for the application.
How to Find an Apprenticeship
A cosmetology apprenticeship occurs within a licensed salon. And there’s a contract between a licensed cosmetologist and the trainee. This choice basically observes cosmetologists at work in a salon instead of relying on classroom learning.
Not all salons offer an apprenticeship. A salon needs a state permit to offer an apprenticeship. There are also state guidelines to follow. If you’re interested in an apprenticeship, you’ll have to research salons in your area.
A cosmetology apprenticeship gives you hands-on training in the field. You’ll spend your time doing things such as:
- Learning the curriculum specified by your state.
- Training to perform practical skills, such as washing hair.
- Providing customer service and helping other stylists
Most importantly, you’ll observe the other stylists observe what they do. And you’ll gain knowledge about a variety of services. This is often beneficial over learning in a classroom, which follows a strict timeline and set schedule.
However, an apprenticeship isn’t right for everyone. Some people learn better in a classroom setting. If you’re unsure about which option to choose, find a salon that offers an apprenticeship. Ask if you can participate for one day to get an idea about what to expect.
Is a Beauty School More Efficient?
A beauty school offers more structure than an apprenticeship. The school has a set curriculum specifically designed to prepare students for the licensing exam.
Students get a solid idea of what to expect from the class. And they are clear about what the instructor expects in the classroom setting. Students in the classroom might also have a better idea about what to expect on the exam.
As you can see, there are benefits to classroom learning. The goal of classroom learning is to teach the necessary skills within a specific time. And you might find this style of learning more efficient than an apprenticeship. But you also might find it too structured.
Apprenticeships have to follow state guidelines, but the person in charge of the program (a proctor) can teach however they want. The proctor has to submit progress reports that highlight the trainee’s progress. But as far as the teaching method, that’s up to the proctor.
An Apprentice and the Classroom
An apprenticeship is certainly less rigid than learning in a classroom. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to attend a formal class.
Some states require apprenticeship students to attend occasional lessons in a classroom. If this is the case, the state will specify how many hours the student must spend in the classroom. California is an example of a state that has this requirement.
In California, a student must take pre-apprentice classes before becoming an apprentice. And Washington D.C. requires a cosmetology student to receive 500 hours of classroom study before officially becoming an apprentice.
Passing the state exam is the first step to becoming a legally employed cosmetologist. You need the license to find legal employment, and you can’t get the license without meeting the educational requirements.
Apprentice and Money
The purpose of a cosmetology apprenticeship is to gain experience. You’ll spend time in the salon just like all the other paid-stylists. But as an apprentice, you might get paid, or you might not.
An apprentice doesn’t always earn a salary. This is because they are allowed to accept tips for the work they do in the salon. And if they do earn a salary, an apprentice will likely earn lower than minimum wage. The US Department of Labor allows this in jobs where a worker can earn unlimited tips.
On average, an apprentice cosmetologist can earn around $13,000 per year. But apprentice income is also affected by location. For example, an apprentice in California can expect to earn up to $15,000 per year on average. Larger cities offer the ability to earn more income.
Apprentice Work Hours
The state determines apprentice work hours. For example, an apprentice in Wisconsin can work for up to 7 hours a day. And they can’t work for more than 40 hours a week.
Some states count hours by the month. For instance, an apprentice must work at least 80 hours a month. But they can’t work for more than 120 hours a month.
If you choose to do an apprenticeship, the salon you choose will have certain requirements as well. You might have to work nights. You might have to work on holidays and weekends. Make sure you can handle the schedule before you agree to anything.