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Almost everyone loves getting their hair done. From dramatic dye jobs to simple trims, any visit to a salon makes one feel more attractive and better groomed than they did going in. A hairstylist knows this, and a good one does their best to ensure that each client, no matter what they have done, leaves the salon feeling like a million bucks.

Hairstylists do one, some, or all of these duties: They shampoo, rinse, dye, perm, wave, frost, cut, shape, and shave the heads of men, women and children. They give advice on products, hair treatment, and scalp care. They consult with each customer to discuss the desired change. And a good stylist listens, gives unobtrusive advice, and follows orders as much as possible. It is the rare customer who tells the hairstylist, "I don't care what you do. Do whatever you want." Usually a customer has a set idea, and it is up to the hairstylist to get the cut as close to that vision as possible - even if the stylist disagrees with the decision.

Hairstylists often act as confidants and friends. The relationship that develops between the stylist and the customer can be intimate, as the client feels relaxed and safe under the stylist's capable hands. Therefore, hairstylists must be sure they are patient, gentle, and talkative people, who are excellent listeners when necessary.

Some stylists get into theater and film work, styling the hair of actors and extras. This type of work can be less stable, and the hours are more irregular than work in a salon. The basic principles apply, however, there may be some more restrictions to the work. If they work on a period film, for example, they may be required to research historical hairstyles. However, work in futuristic films will allow for more creativity.

Regardless of whether they work in film studios, high-class salons that provide massage, oil treatments, and intensive dye jobs or inexpensive family salons that just do the basics, hairstylists must be professional, creative, and dedicated workers. They have a lot of stamina, and good attention spans. They know that each haircut is as important as the last, and do their best to leave their clients satisfied, relaxed, and ultimately, happy.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Successful hairstylists are creative, confident, and artistically inclined with an interest in fashion and hair trends. A hairstylist should be a skilled listener, as well as a good communicator, and should enjoy meeting people, working closely with them, and helping them achieve the hair style they want. They should be respectful, patient, detail-oriented and able to follow instructions. Hairstylists have a tendency to be well-groomed, polite, punctual, and trustworthy. Some management skills are beneficial.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Discuss cut and style options with clients
  • Wash, cut, and dry hair
  • Sell products
  • Advise on hair treatments
  • Maintain cleanliness of work area, including equipment
  • Color and perm hair
  • Tend to administrative duties
  • Order supplies
  • The typical day for a hairstylist involves a lot of hair. Washing, cutting, dyeing, and drying. A stylist's tasks do depend, however, on the size of the salon. In larger salons, the stylist may be involved only in the styling, while assistants take care of shampooing and coloring is done by a color technician. Each day involves some chit-chat, making small talk with clients, as well as engaging in more in-depth discussions. Hairstylists meet many people everyday, from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. It is not a job that allows for much travel, unless they work as a house-call stylist, which would take them all over their community.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Hairstylists work in film and television studios; upscale salons; discount chain shops; barber shops; and independently, traveling to private residences, hospitals, and retirement centers. They work indoors, standing for hours on end. The atmosphere can be hectic, loud, and smell of chemicals. They generally work long days, including evenings and weekends, as they must work around their clients. They work alone, but usually alongside other beauty specialists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Hairstylists can open up a salon, or start up a private home hair care business. They can enter the film and television industry. They can branch into cosmetology, train as an esthetician, get into product sales, or begin instructing at beauty schools. They can become fashion consultants, beauty writers, or branch into any other career field that deals with freedom of expression.

  Educational Paths  

There are a few routes to take in order to become a hairstylist. First, it's a good idea to finish high school. While it's not mandatory, a high school diploma certainly helps with promotions and management positions in the long run.

The next step is to choose to either enter an apprenticeship training program (this lasts about two years, and involves both in-class and on-the-job training with a mentoring stylist) or you can complete a two- to three-year college or private school training program, which may or may not include on-the-job training. Either route will work, as long as at the end of the training, you are able to pass a licensing exam.

The advantage to the apprenticing route is the schools which are affiliated with the programs and provide opportunities in different ways to the students. If you choose to attend a private college, make sure you check out its credentials before you hand over your tuition money.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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