There are so many careers in the world, let alone in the beauty industry. So, how can you be sure becoming a cosmetologist is right for you? It’s important to think this decision through and make the right choice, is an esthetician career worth it, as it directly impacts your future?
If you are great with people, have a good sense of business, and are passionate about the beauty industry, you’ll probably love being a cosmetologist. If you want an easy, high-paying job, aren’t a people-person, or prefer other fields, obtaining your cosmetology license may prove to be a mistake.
Let’s look into what a cosmetologist does, and dig into the pros and cons of the profession. This way, you can make an informed, solid decision.
What is a cosmetologist?
A cosmetologist is a beauty professional who is licensed to provide various hair, skin, and nail services. There are different specialties that fall under each category, making it a broad field.
With a cosmetology license, you can fulfill roles such as:
- Nail technician
- Salon manager
- Cosmetology instructor
- and more!
Exploring other fields in addition to cosmetology can broaden your job opportunities as well.
Cosmetologists cannot be barbers without additional licensing. This means they cannot perform services such as shaving hair with a razor or straight razor without additional training.
If you know you aren’t the chatty, bubbly type that is common among hairdressers, or you know you’d rather focus in on the specialty of skincare, you can always just get your esthetician license.
In most cases, you can take a shorter program that focuses only on skincare. You would be prepared for your esthetics state exam and, if you pass, you would be licensed to practice many forms of skincare – but not hair or nails.
Connecticut is the only state where this does not apply. Connecticut does not have a separate license for estheticians, so you would have to complete an entire cosmetology course even if you just wanted to focus on the skincare aspect of things.
How do I become a cosmetologist?
To become a cosmetologist, you must be at least sixteen to eighteen years old, depending on your state laws.
Some states also require you have a high school diploma or GED, while others require schooling up to a certain grade level.
If you meet your state’s requirements, you can begin cosmetology school or an apprenticeship at a workplace licensed in cosmetology. Apprenticeships are not allowed in all states, so check in with your state board if that was a path you are planning to take.
Every state has a designated number of educational hours required before you can take a test to obtain your cosmetology license. This number varies, but you can generally complete your hours in less than a year if you are dedicated and take many classes.
However, some states require a timeframe of up to two years of experience, along with your educational hours. This could slow you down considerably if you wanted to be a beautician just because of the quicker schooling.
You also have the option, if you’re a busy person, to complete your hours more slowly. There’s absolutely no rush! Some people take years to obtain their licenses because they have other things going on in their lives.
Take our free cosmetology practice test to see if you’re ready to pass the exam!
After obtaining your license, you will also need to continue your education with additional hours every so often. This is required in order to renew your license and continue legally working as a cosmetologist.
Do cosmetologists make good money?
You want to do what you love, but of course, we all have to think about money as well! That said, I’m sure you’re wondering how much cosmetologists make per year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cosmetologists make a median salary of $29,680. Some will make more, while others are paid less. This is due to a variety of factors, such as:
- Experience: Hairstylists tend to make more when they’re 5-10 years in.
- Location: Cosmetologists in certain cities tend to make more than most rural areas.
- Place of work: Whether you work in an upscale spa or a chain salon will have an impact on your income.
There is also additional income to be considered. Customers may leave you tips that increase your revenue, and you can earn commission by selling products as well.
What are the benefits of becoming a cosmetologist?
Many cosmetologists love what they do! It can be an incredibly rewarding career for the right person. Let’s break it down and see if you’re suited to a career in cosmetology.
Here are some pros to becoming a cosmetologist:
You can make customers feel good
As a cosmetologist, you’ll feel rewarded knowing you made a customer feel good about themselves.
Whether you’ve given them a beautiful new haircut that frames their face just right, or a manicure for a big event, you have the amazing opportunity to make people leave feeling better than when they walked in the door.
As I’m sure you know from experience, even small changes in our appearance can make us feel more happy and confident in ourselves!
You have a variety of career opportunities
Cosmetologists can work in a number of careers involving hair, skin, and nails.
In addition, you can always go back to school to further your education and obtain new licenses. This will expand your reach further and could even up your salary as well.
Plus, you might find yourself enjoying a particular niche – like dying hair, for example. You could become a hair colorist and focus exclusively on what you love, all while still being able to comfortably support yourself!
You can work for yourself
Not all cosmetologists work for themselves, but there is potential for you to open your own business with a cosmetology license.
This allows you the freedom to work when you want, and you don’t have to let anyone else run the show!
And even if you never open up your own salon, you could always rent a booth in someone else’s shop. In that case, you would still act as though you were your own boss, just with a little less hassle.
You don’t need a college degree
If traditional schooling isn’t for you, the hands-on practice of cosmetology school might be right up your alley!
Earning a cosmetology license can also take much less time than earning a degree. This way, you can begin your career earlier.
Not to mention, it’s a lot cheaper than your average four-year degree! This is an understated bonus, because we see the debilitating effects of student debt all over the headlines.
And, like we’ve mentioned before, in some states you can do an apprenticeship instead of your traditional schooling. Some people learn better in a real-life work setting vs a classroom – and that’s totally okay!
What’s hard about being a cosmetologist?
Of course, cosmetology isn’t all sunshine and happiness. There are drawbacks to any career, and nothing can be suited to every person out there.
The following are some disadvantages to becoming a cosmetologist.
You might not make much money at first
The median income for cosmetology can be considered low for some people. You might be working a lot while being paid little, especially when you’re just starting out.
Though you have many opportunities to advance your career, it is possible to get stuck in a low-paying job.
You also have to factor in the costs of doing business, such as keeping the lights on if you run your own salon or paying rent to work in someone else’s space.
You may have to work long hours
Especially due to cosmetologists’ low salary, some have to work overtime to pay the bills. Depending on your profession, you could end up working inconvenient hours, as well.
For example, holidays can become extremely busy in the beauty industry, as everyone’s getting ready to see family and friends. They want to look their best!
This means business for you, but it can also make it difficult to find time to prepare for the holidays yourself.
Weekends and evenings are also busy times for cosmetologists. So, if your friends have jobs with more traditional hours, you might miss out on a lot of coffee dates.
You may not receive benefits
If you decide to start your own business or work part-time as a cosmetologist, you won’t receive benefits. This can be difficult to handle, especially when coupled with a potentially low salary.
Some benefits you lose when you work as your own boss are:
- Health Insurance: You’ll be responsible for your own health insurance, which can be very costly.
- Taxes: You won’t necessarily be paying more in taxes, but you’ll be responsible for paying the correct amount on time, since they won’t be withheld by an employer.
- Vacation Time: You won’t be getting a paid two weeks per year for vacation unless you save up for it yourself, and even then taking a few weeks off might be difficult.
Customers may be demanding or rude
If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that people can be less than courteous. They may undervalue your skills and time, or demand that you provide services that you cannot give them.
Or, their personalities could simply clash with your own, and you might be stuck spending hours styling someone’s hair who you don’t necessarily get along with.
Standing for a long time is hard on your body
Your back, legs, and feet might be sore after a long day at work. This can be tough if you are working long hours and don’t get much time off.
If you already have health problems that don’t allow you to stand for long periods, this might make cosmetology a difficult career for you. This is also true if you are or are planning to become pregnant.
Although, you can always get stools or chairs to try and help ease your pain and give your body a break. Plus, you can take breaks more often if need be.
Regardless, it is a physically demanding career, and that is not the type of work for everyone!
You cannot do it all
This is true of any profession, but you cannot offer every beauty service with a cosmetology license alone.
You might want to take your knowledge and love of skincare to the next level by being a medical or paramedical esthetician. However, you might need to take extra training programs to become licensed to do certain things in those fields, like laser hair removal or dermaplaning.
Or, perhaps you want to focus on men’s hair services, which would require you to be a barber instead of a cosmetologist – and they aren’t the same thing!
Is an Esthetician Career Worth It?
If you have a passion for hair and beauty, and you love interacting with other people, you’ll overcome the challenging aspects of cosmetology as a career and feel rewarded for all the effort you’ve put in.
Being a cosmetologist is also great for those who want flexibility and the ability to be your own boss!
If that sounds like you, you should definitely consider becoming a cosmetologist!
However, it can be difficult to climb the ladder to higher-paying opportunities. Having good business sense can help you tremendously in this department, especially if you are self-employed.
Some people cannot afford to work for low pay at first, or they simply cannot put in long hours. For these people, cosmetology is less than ideal, as most cosmetologists will have to put in a lot of work before they earn a higher wage.
In the end, it depends on who you are as a person and whether or not this career fits you. We hope this post has helped you answer this question for yourself, and we wish you all the best if you decide to pursue an amazing career as a cosmetologist!
If you are interested in taking the esthetician exam, you can try out our free practice test to help you efficiently prepare for the exam.