Have you ever wondered what it takes to have a successful and fulfilling career in the beauty industry? If you’re artistically inclined and want to help people look their best every day, a career in cosmetology may be right for you. But before deciding, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
So, is cosmetology a good career? With strong growth projections, ample creativity, and the ability to make your own schedule, cosmetology offers significant advantages for the right individual. However, potential drawbacks like chemical exposures, commissioned pay structures, and standing for long periods should also be considered.
This in-depth guide on cosmetology careers will cover everything you need to know about expected income, job outlook, work environment, required education and training, advantages and disadvantages, and more. After learning what it takes to succeed as a cosmetologist, hairstylist, esthetician, nail technician, or related role, you’ll have the insights to determine if it’s a good career path for you.
What is Cosmetology?
Cosmetology is a broad field encompassing many specialized careers related to personal care and beauty services. Some of the most common cosmetology professionals include:
- Hairstylists – Provide hair cutting, styling, colouring, extensions, and other haircare services. Many work in salons while some are independent.
- Estheticians – Specialize in skincare treatments like facials, waxing, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and lashes. Most work in salons and spas.
- Nail Technicians – Provide manicures, pedicures, artificial nail services, paraffin wax treatments, and other nail care. They often work in salons or nail-specific businesses.
- Barbers – Primarily cut, style, and groom men’s hair along with beard and moustache trims. Most are employed in dedicated barber shops.
- Makeup Artists – Apply makeup for events, photography, theatre productions, TV, film, and more. May work freelance or for cosmetics companies, studios, theatres, etc.
No matter the specific role, cosmetology professionals help clients look and feel their best. The ability to provide pampering services and boost self-esteem makes cosmetology a rewarding career path for those who thrive in a service setting.
What is the Job Outlook for Cosmetology Careers?
The job growth projections for cosmetology are very strong compared to other industries. Here are some key statistics:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% growth for barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations (8%).
- Esthetician and skin care specialist roles are expected to grow 17% during the same decade, more than twice the average rate.
- Manicurists and pedicurists also have an above-average outlook of 14% growth by 2030.
Several factors contribute to the rosy projections:
- Growing populations and disposable income levels lead to increased demand for hair, skin, and nail services.
- Ageing populations are driving demand for anti-ageing skincare and related services.
- The public’s growing emphasis on personal appearance and self-care boosts demand for pampering services.
- Automation poses a lower risk of job loss for cosmetology roles that rely on personalized customer service and human skills.
The strong growth rates suggest it’s a great time to start a career in cosmetology. Job security and abundant opportunities are likely for the foreseeable future.
How Much Do Cosmetologists Earn?
Cosmetology salaries can vary substantially based on your specialization and experience level. Here are the national averages:
- Hairstylists earn a median annual salary of $30,197 according to 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% make over $54,000 per year.
- For estheticians, the median yearly pay is $37,559. Top earners exceed $59,000 annually.
- Nail technicians have among the lowest earnings with a median of $27,980 per year. The top 10% make above $43,000.
- Barbers fare better than hairstylists with a median pay of $33,185 per year. High earners make over $59,000.
In addition to base pay rates, tip income can dramatically affect total compensation in cosmetology fields. Hairstylists and barbers often make $200 to $500 per week in tips, adding $10,000 or more in annual income. Established experts with loyal clientele can earn far more in gratuities.
The earning potential also rises for those who own independent businesses or work for high-end salons and spas. Overall, cosmetology careers provide solid middle-income wages with the potential to earn more based on reputation and tips.
What is the Work Environment Like?
Most cosmetology professionals work full-time in salons, spas, dedicated barber shops, nail salons, or other businesses related to personal care services. The work settings can include:
- Salons and spas – Most hairstylists, estheticians, and nail technicians work in salons focused on haircare, skincare, nails, or a combination. Day spas also employ estheticians.
- Barbershops – Primarily serve male clients with haircutting, shaving, grooming, and facial services performed by barbers.
- Nail salons – Focus specifically on manicures, pedicures, and nail enhancement services performed by nail technicians.
- Cruise ships and resorts – Employ various cosmetology workers to provide services for guests and patrons.
- Theatres, studios, and events – Hair stylists and makeup artists support productions and work on location for events.
The work schedule often includes evenings and weekends to accommodate client availability outside of traditional work hours. It’s a fast-paced, service-oriented environment focused on providing excellent care and personal attention.
Some disadvantages include standing for long periods, the use of harsh chemicals that require safety precautions, and physical strain from repetitive motions. But overall, cosmetology careers afford a creative, social, and community-oriented work setting for those who enjoy working with people.
What Education or Training is Required?
While talent helps, cosmetology careers require formal training and licensure. Here are the typical steps to becoming a licensed professional:
- Complete a cosmetology degree or certificate program at a community college or accredited beauty school.
- Programs take 9 months to 2 years depending on your specialization and state requirements.
- Coursework covers topics like hair styling, cutting, colouring, skincare, manicures, pedicures, safety, sanitation, salon management, and more.
- Participate in hands-on training during supervised instruction of real clients.
- Pass the written and practical state board licensing exam for your speciality.
- Specialties like massage therapy or microdermabrasion require additional licensing.
- Some states mandate a minimum number of hours of supervised training.
- Continuing education is required to maintain your license over time.
While not strictly required, many aspiring professionals boost their skills through apprenticeship programs at salons or by completing additional training focused on certain services, techniques, or products.
The education, training, and licensing ensure professionals have the skills and qualifications to provide quality, safe services to clients. Key areas of expertise include sanitation practices, the use of tools and chemicals, customer service, and technical abilities specific to the specialization.
What are the Pros of a Cosmetology Career?
If you’re cut out for the work, cosmetology offers many advantages and upsides:
- Unleash your creativity and artistry – Cosmetology allows you to express your originality and talent through your work. Making clients look their best is incredibly rewarding.
- Build relationships with clients – Regulars rely on their stylists, barbers, estheticians, and nail techs. Those bonds and community feel can be very fulfilling.
- Flexible schedule – Many cosmetologists set their own hours and days. And part-time work is common in the field, offering work-life balance.
- Strong job growth and demand – The robust outlook provides job stability and abundant opportunities to build a clientele or customer base.
- Earn tips and commissions – In addition to base pay, tips and commissions on products and services sold give you upside income potential.
- Be your own boss – Experienced cosmetology pros can open independent businesses or rent salon space to have full control over their work.
- Mobile options – With a license and portable equipment, you can provide in-home services or visit clients in hospitals, nursing homes, or at their workplaces.
- Work anywhere – Cosmetologists are employable anywhere in the world. Your skills allow freedom to relocate and work abroad.
For those seeking a hands-on career that fully leverages creativity, flexibility, and interpersonal skills, cosmetology is an excellent choice. The ability to build community and nurture self-esteem through service to others is incredibly rewarding.
What are the Cons of a Cosmetology Career?
The career does come with some downsides and challenges:
- Standing all day – Hairstylists, estheticians and nail techs are on their feet all day long. This can take a physical toll over time. Proper shoes and anti-fatigue mats can help.
- Exposure to chemicals – Disinfectants, dyes, polishes and other chemicals require safe handling and ventilation to avoid burns, rashes, or breathing issues.
- Physical strain – Repetitive motions like massaging, scrubbing, and fingering when cutting and styling put stress on hands, arms and shoulders which can lead to injury.
- Licensure requirements – Obtaining and keeping a cosmetology license to legally work can be a hurdle and deter career changers.
- Pay variability – Commission-based pay leads to instability and uncertainty in income, especially when building a clientele.
- Working nights and weekends – Accommodating client schedules often requires late hours and weekend shifts which can conflict with family or social lives.
- Long periods of standing – Being on your feet all day leads to fatigue and varicose veins for some. Proper footwear and anti-fatigue mats are a must.
- Self-employment challenges – Cosmetologists who open their own businesses take on risk and administrative duties like marketing, accounting, inventory, HR, and rent.
The work definitely isn’t for everyone. But the disadvantages can be managed for those with passion. And the positive aspects seem to outweigh the downsides for most working in the field.
Is Cosmetology a Good Career?
Deciding if cosmetology is a good, viable career path ultimately depends on your interests, personality, and professional goals.
The ideal cosmetology professional thrives in service roles, enjoys working with the public, seeks a creative outlet, and has an entrepreneurial spirit. If that sounds like you, a career as a stylist, esthetician, nail tech, makeup artist or barber could prove incredibly rewarding.
The field offers ample opportunities for self-expression, flexible scheduling, continued learning, social bonds, community impact, and establishing your own business. The robust job growth suggests job security, an abundance of opportunities, and demand for your services.
However, the standing, physical demands, chemicals, and commissioned pay may deter some. Weighing the pros and cons relative to your needs, desires, and skills will determine if venturing into cosmetology is a good move.
For many, the chance to turn passion into an artistic, socially rewarding, and potentially lucrative career is highly appealing. Cosmetology requires hard work and dedication like any field. But the chance to make your own path and help clients daily provides a fulfilling journey for those ready to put in the effort to build expertise and a loyal client base.
So for creatively inclined, people-focused individuals not deterred by the challenges, few careers can match the blend of artistry, flexibility and service found in cosmetology roles. Styling, colouring, cutting, grooming, and caring for the beauty needs of others is an immensely gratifying way to spend your work life.
If you have the passion for it, the talent for it, and are willing to get the training for it, then yes – cosmetology can undoubtedly be an amazing and rewarding career.