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Everyone loves being pampered. From dramatic hair cuts to facial treatments, from simple trims to an elegant manicure, any visit to a beauty salon makes one feel more attractive and better groomed than they did going in. A cosmetologist 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.

Cosmetologists are trained in many areas of beauty care, and do one, some, or all of these duties: They shampoo, dye, perm, and cut hair; they apply conditioning treatments to the hair and scalp, they give facials, manicures, pedicures, neck and scalp massages, and wax off unwanted hair. They might even clean and style wigs.

They consult with each customer to discuss the desired treatment. And a good cosmetologist listens, gives unobtrusive advice, and follows orders as much as possible. It is the rare customer who tells the cosmetologist, "I don't care what you do to my hair/toes/face. Do whatever you want,". Usually a customer has a set idea, and it is up to the cosmetologist to get the cut as close to that vision as possible - even if the hairdresser disagrees with the decision.

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

Some cosmetologists get into theater and film work, styling the hair of actors and extras, applying the actors' makeup, or nail polish. 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 or not 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, cosmetologists must be professional, creative, and dedicated workers. They have a lot of stamina, and good attention spans. They know that each treatment 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  
If you want to be a cosmetologist, you need to be creative, confident, and artistically inclined. As well, you should be interested in fashion and hair trends, as well as natural health and beauty care. You need to be comfortable with people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. You should be a skilled listener, as well as a good communicator, and you should enjoy meeting people, working closely with them, and helping them achieve what they want. You should be able to follow instructions. You should be respectful, patient, and detail-oriented. You need to be well-groomed, polite, punctual, and trustworthy. You may need some management skills.

  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
  • Provide facials, waxing, pedicures and manicures
  • Tend to administrative duties
  • Order supplies
  • The typical day for a cosmetologist involves tending to clients' individual haircare and skin care needs . Washing, cutting, dyeing, waxing, cleansing, buffing...are all in the day's work of a cosmetologist. A cosmetologist's tasks do depend, however, on the size of the salon. In larger salons, the cosmetologist may be involved only in the hair treatments, while others may take look after pedicures and manicures. Each day involves some chit-chat, making small talk with clients, as well as engaging in more in-depth discussions. Cosmetologists 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 cosmetologist, which takes them all over their community.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Cosmetologists work in film and television studios; upscale beauty salons; discount chain shops; spas, on cruise ships, at resorts, and independently, traveling to private residences, hospitals, and retirement centers. They work indoors, often 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  
Cosmetologists can open up a salon, or start up a private home beauty care business. They can enter the film and television industry. They can 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 cosmetologist. 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 cosmetology 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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