What does a Cosmetologist do?

Median Pay $24,900
Growth Rate 13%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

A cosmetologist may treat and style hair but the root of the word is Greek and means beautifying. As such, a cosmetologist can be found performing a variety of beauty treatments which include cutting, color, or hair extensions. Some also specialize in skin care and may do pedicures, manicures, facials, or apply make-up to a client. You might even find cosmetologists working to remove hair by waxing or through more permanent measures such as using an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL).

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How to Become a Cosmetologist


A cosmetologist must go to an accredited cosmetologist school and be licensed in the state that they practice. It is recommended you consider several different cosmetology schools before making a final decision as they may vary greatly. Cosmetologist should be educated and skilled in esthetics (some states require a license to do esthetics), which focuses specifically on skin care, such as wraps, facials, or hair removal.

Many programs take less than a year and there are time requirements you must meet and these requirements can vary by state. Along with classroom work, you’ll also have hands-on training and you’ll need to pass your exams. From there, you can then work on any specialization you may be interested in. This can give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs.

Job Description of a Cosmetologist

A cosmetologist may choose to specialize in various areas of cosmetology so pending on their specialty, their daily tasks will vary. All cosmetologists are responsible however to maintain a working environment that is clean, safe, and free of pathogens that may pass from one person to another.

Cosmetologists are professional beauty consultants that communicate well and are creative in styling hair, nails, or qualified in recommending products. A cosmetologist salary may greatly depending on location. For example, a city may pay more than a rural area.

Cosmetologist Career Video Transcript

The people who cut, style, and color hair, and sell specialty beauty products are barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists. They creatively enhance each client’s appearance, and keep up with hairstyle trends. Hairstylists and barbers listen carefully to clients’ preferences and make sure they are satisfied with their results, while finishing in time for their next appointment.

Barbers usually serve male clients for shampoos, haircuts, and shaves. Some fit hairpieces and perform facials. Hairdressers, or hairstylists, provide coloring, chemical hair treatments, and styling in addition to shampoos and cuts, and serve both female and male clients.

Cosmetologists perform scalp and facial treatments and conduct make-up analysis. While some barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists work in spas or hotels, most work in barbershops and salons. Some lease chair space from a salon owner, others open their own shops after gaining experience. These workers are on their feet for most of their shift, and often wear gloves or aprons when giving chemical hair treatments.

Many work full-time, including nights and weekends. However, part-time positions are also common. Salon owners work long hours and manage employees, inventory, ordering, and bookkeeping. Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists must complete a program in a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school and obtain licensure. Full-time programs in barbering and cosmetology usually last at least 9 months.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 39-5012.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.