Most people know that cosmetologists specialize in hair, skin, or nails. Lots of people also know that they frequently double as a therapist for their clients! Other than that, our beautician friends are often underappreciated for the amount of work they do on a day-to-day basis.
Full-time cosmetologists generally work 40-60 hours per week – and they spend that time doing more than just beautifying their clients. Along with cutting long locks, dying hair, giving facials, and painting nails, cosmetologists also undertake administrative duties and excel in proper sanitation techniques.
How many hours do cosmetologists work per week?
As with most jobs, a full-time cosmetologist can expect to work at least 40 hours per week. However, many cosmetologists actually report working well over the standard 8-hour workday. Some beauticians even work 12-hour days regularly!
The number of hours you work is largely dependent on two major factors:
- Where you work
- Whether you schedule clients or accept walk-ins
If you work in a chain salon – like Great Clips, for example – you’re more likely to have a set 8-hour workday. Then, after your shift is over, you go home and someone else comes in to work the next shift.
But let’s say you rent a booth in an upscale salon. In most cases, you can probably make your own hours (although some salon owners require their stylists to be there for a certain amount of time). Even if you chose to be there the whole day, high-end boutiques are generally open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What Happens When You Have Your Own Salon?
When you own your own salon, that’s when your days can get really long. Most salon owners spend up to 12 hours per day in the shop, at least until they get to where they can rent out their own booths. Even then, you’re looking at a workday that’s significantly longer than the typical American’s.
Another factor to consider is whether you schedule clients or accept walk-ins. And yes, there will probably be a point in your career where you’re doing both. The goal is to build up your own clientele, after all!
If you’re mostly accepting walk-ins, you might be at the salon all day only doing a couple of quick cuts and blowouts. That is, until someone who just got off work rushes in five minutes before you were planning on going home. And they desperately need those highlights for that wedding they’re going to tomorrow.
Suddenly, you could be there for at least an extra hour – probably two, since they need a blowout and a quick trim, too. There might be days when you need to take a rain check on those dinner plans you had with your friends. The extra money might be nice, but if you were expecting a steady nine-to-five, you’re going to be disappointed.
How To Have Steady Work Hours
That situation might be avoided, though, if you’re scheduling your own clients. You’ll have more control over who comes in, what they want, and how long it will take. And you’ll know what happens when you try and squeeze in one last client near the end of your day.
Thus, when you schedule your own clients, you’ll probably have a steadier 40-hour work week than your friend who only takes walk-ins.
And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you plan, how well-prepared you are, and how perfectly you’ve scheduled your clients for the day. Things happen. Mary’s hair isn’t taking color as it should. Any wants her hair to look like Kylie Jenner’s, and you don’t know how to tell her it’s actually a wig.
Regardless of what happens, cosmetologists are in the service industry, and if a client’s needs take longer than expected, then you’ll probably be working later than you originally thought.
So, if you’re a cosmetologist (or planning on becoming one), you can safely expect to work a minimum of 40 hours a week, but it can quickly get up to 60 hours per week or more depending on your specific work situation.
By the way, if you are planning on becoming a cosmetologist, your cosmetology exam will come easy with the help of the ultimate cosmetology exam cheat sheet!
Is shift work involved in cosmetology?
Shift work is when a business operates outside the standard eight-hour, 9 to 5 workday because they need to run more than just the traditional hours.
For example, a factory producing tiles has three shifts: the day shift, the swing (or afternoon) shift, and the night shift. Those three shifts cover a 24-hour period. The day shift works from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the swing shift works from 4 p.m. to midnight, and the night shift works from midnight to 8 a.m.
That’s considered “shift work,” and about 15% of full-time workers in the U.S. participate in it. And that includes some cosmetologists.
Yes, shift work is involved in cosmetology in some cases. While there might not be a need for a beautician to work a graveyard shift, there is a need for people to work early mornings and late evenings.
Why is Shift Work a Good Idea For Cosmetologists?
The reason for that is that certain people can’t make it into the salon between the once-standard hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A lot of people have a similar work schedule and, as much as we would love it, we can’t just leave work mid-day to get our hair or nails done (I know, it’s a bummer).
Another reason for a beauty parlor to be open later is one whose clientele base is mostly children. Most kids go to school from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Therefore, it makes sense for that salon to be open later than normal to accommodate parents taking their little ones after school in the late afternoon and early evening to get their hair cut.
Most of the places that do implement shift work would be chain salons. Supercuts, for example, is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and they typically have two overlapping shifts: one in the morning and afternoon, and one in the afternoon and evening.
While shift work might be a part of the job for some cosmetologists, many others make their own schedules or work during the more traditional business hours. It really depends on the type of salon you want to work at!
Is travel involved in cosmetology?
As with most things in the industry, whether or not you travel depends on a couple of things. Most salons don’t have a requirement for travel. However, if you have your own clientele base, are a freelance makeup artist, or just have a bad case of wanderlust, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get out of the parlor and on the road!
With a conventional salon, clients walk in and services are provided on-site. However, say you have your own salon and clients, and say one of your regular customers gets engaged. You’ll most likely be asked to style the hair for the wedding!
Sometimes you’ll style a bride’s hair in the salon. Other times, however, they might request you meet them at their wedding venue to style their coiffure. On a more infrequent basis, you might be asked to stay a half or full day to assist with touch-ups, and pictures, or even to completely change the style in between the ceremony and reception!
Another common cosmetologist position that travels frequently is a freelance makeup artist. Different from an esthetician, makeup artists focus on only that – makeup. And they typically go to their client’s homes to apply and beautify!
How To Combine Your Love of Travel and Cosmetology?
While not a required aspect of the job, there are always trade shows and educational seminars that some professionals enjoy traveling to. It’s an excellent way to keep up-to-date on the latest trends and innovations while giving you an excuse to get away from the salon for a day or two.
But say you have a strong desire tugging at your heartstrings that are just begging you to go explore the four corners of the world. How can you couple that with your job as a beautician? Well, there are actually things called traveling cosmetologists, and they do just that – travel! And I’m not just talking locally, either. I’m talking about cruise ships.
It’s simple: cruise ships have salons and spas, and they need people to work in them! Some cruise jobs offer higher pay and less shore time, while others offer commission only with more off-duty time. Either way, if you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, it’s a great way to incorporate international sightseeing into your career.
A day in the life of a cosmetologist
So maybe you don’t mind being on your feet for 12 hours a day or working some abstract shifts. But what does a typical working day for a hairdresser look like?
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Well, for starters, you wake up early. Assuming that your salon opens at 8 a.m., you’ll wake up at about 6:00 a.m.
Next, you shower and get ready. And don’t underestimate this step. As a cosmetologist, you know that looking well-put-together is essential and, more importantly, looking disheveled and groggy won’t help you earn points with clients.
After a simple blow dry and some natural makeup, you throw some mixed berries and almond milk in a blender and whip up a frothy breakfast smoothie. You guzzle it down and toss the cup in the sink to (maybe) wash later that night before rushing out the door.
Preparing for The Day
Get to work about twenty minutes early – barely enough time to restock the coffee station and straighten out those haphazard magazines you missed last night. Power up your Mac and look over your schedule for the day.
You see that your first client only wants a trim, so you go to the back room, grab your tools, and quickly sanitize them.
Then you check to see how many clients want chemical treatments, and you strategically place the necessary products and mixing bowls to help things run smoothly later on.
Eight o’clock hits, but your first customer shows up fifteen minutes late. Thankfully, you manage to get back on track. As you’re covertly eyeing the receipt to see what tip they left you, your next customer walks in.
You’ve been secretly dreading adding a brand new set of highlights and lowlights on the woman with the ponytail that goes down to her mid-back. Regardless, you sit her down and get right to work mixing those well-placed chemicals into a blueish paste.
After wrapping the client’s hair in foil, you bring her to the chair so she can start processing her color. Then you sneak off to the back room and eat a handful of almonds to keep your stomach from gurgling.
After finishing off that client (and receiving a generous tip), you move on to the next. Another chemical treatment. By this time, you open a window to get some fresh air and let out all those toxic fumes.
Unfortunately, after three more clients, you started running a bit behind. That 30-minute lunch you had planned at noon turned into a 5-minute break at about 2:30. You manage to scarf down your food and take a phone call to schedule another client a few weeks out.
Finishing The Day
Finally, four clients and three-and-a-half hours later, you plop down in your chair to give your aching feet a quick rest as you respond to clients’ emails, Facebook messages, and texts. Pick up your broom and give your parlor one final sweep. You finish cleaning up before finally walking out the door, never to return until tomorrow.
Get home a little past 7:00. Your plans for a healthy dinner are shot. You microwave a Lean Cuisine and sit on the couch just in time to watch The Bachelorette. Not long after the show ends, you find yourself in bed ready for another day.
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