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How do you become a hair stylist?

Before you pick up the scissors and start styling hair, you'll need training and a license!
Hair stylists are responsible for not only the look of a client’s hair, but also the health of the hair and their client’s safety. Before giving a perm or a dramatic asymmetrical cut, you’re going to need an education and a license.
The qualifications for licensure vary from state to state. In order to gain a licence as a hair stylist, most states require you to be at least 16, have a high school diploma or GED, and complete a state-licensed cosmetology program. It is important to check the licensing requirements in your state before selecting a school to complete your training. After completing the program, prospective stylists may be required to do both a written exam and a practical exam.
When selecting a cosmetology program, do your research to make sure the program is accredited and fits with your long-term goals. Cosmetology programs require a commitment of both time and money. Full-time programs typically last 9 months. In a rural area, a cosmetology program will cost at least $6,000 and that number rises to at least $10,000 in urban areas. Some private programs can cost twice that amount. One benefit of completing a full cosmetology program is that they often provide students with training in makeup, skin care, and nails, in addition to hair.
Hairstylists typically undergo additional training to master new techniques and learn about the latest products. Some states require stylists to take continuing education classes focused on style and/or public health in order to maintain their license. Even when continuing education isn’t required, reading hair magazines and participating in workshops can help you stay current and avoid giving someone a haircut that was better left in the 80s.
If you want to someday manage a salon or even open a salon of your own, taking business classes at a local community college can also help you develop important management skills to complement your styling prowess.


Barbers, Hairdressers, and Cosmetologists.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 16, 2021.
Careers in Beauty.” American Association of Cosmetology Schools. Accessed November 16, 2021.
How to Become a Hair Stylist.” By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, thebalance.com. Accessed March 18, 2017.

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