Becoming a Beautician: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a beautician's job duties, salary, training and license requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of becoming a beautician to decide if it's the right career for you.
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A Beautician Career: Pros and Cons

Beauticians provide a variety of services related to personal appearance. Read below about the pros and cons of a beautician career to see if it's right for you.

Pros of a Beautician Career
Two years of schooling or less is required*
Can work in many locations (department stores, salons, spas, resorts, hotels and nursing homes)*
Opportunities to be creative*
Many continuing education opportunities are available**

Cons of a Beautician Career
Low median annual salary ($23,120 per year as of May 2014)*
May only find part-time work*
May need to stand for long hours at a time*
May work with chemicals, which can cause skin irritation*
Must meet the cosmetology licensure requirements of your state*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Professional Beauty Association

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beauticians, also called cosmetologists, provide beauty services to customers, including cutting, coloring and styling hair (www.bls.gov). You might recommend lotions to improve clients' skin, shape eyebrows, curl eyelashes and massage scalps to improve hair health. Other services include cleaning, painting and polishing fingernails and toenails. O*Net Online added that you may also need to be able to assess the condition of your clients' hair so that you can recommend ways for them to care for it and suggest styles they may like (www.onetonline.org). You'll also be responsible for keeping your salon area clean and complying with health and safety standards in your state. Building your own clientele is important too.

Job Prospects and Salary

The BLS projected that employment of barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists would increase by 13% between 2012 and 2022, which equals average job growth for all occupations. A high number of these workers were self-employed, and many worked part time or on weekends and evenings. You might find a job in a department store, personal care store, salon, hotel, spa, or resort. You may also start your own business or lease out space from established salons.

As of May 2014, the median annual salary for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists was $23,120, according to the BLS. In general, the average wage was higher than the median in urban areas and lower in rural areas.

Training Requirements

To become a licensed beautician, you need to complete a training program, which includes logging salon hours. Through your practicum, you will gain real-world experience in building people skills. You can earn a diploma, a certificate or an associate's degree in cosmetology from a community college or beauty school. These programs typically address hair styling, hair coloring, manicuring, aesthetics and the basics of cosmetology. Some programs also include studies in business, including record keeping and accounting. You could be in school for as little as nine months or as long as two years, according to the BLS. The following are some useful skills for this position: creativity, customer service, time management, listening skills, cleanliness, safety knowledge and physical stamina.

Licensing Requirements

After you complete your training, you must earn a license, the requirements for which vary by state, but include passing a state-licensed program. Additionally, many states have age requirements; for instance, you must be at least 16 years old in Tennessee, while Indiana requires you to be 18 years of age. Other requirements include completing a certain amount of schooling, (such as passing 10th grade or earning your GED), obtaining 1,500 hours of training and passing your state board examinations. Most state exams consist of practical and theoretical exams, according to the BLS.

Employer Expectations

Since people enjoy being pampered and taken care of, there are many job opportunities for cosmetologists at salons and in nursing homes. You're usually expected to already hold a license, and while many positions are part time, you could gain more hours as you acquire more clientele. The following are some job postings for beauticians from November 2012:

  • An upscale salon in Wisconsin searched for a cosmetologist with 2-5 years of experience.
  • An Ohio healthcare service wanted to hire an independent, licensed beautician to work with the elderly 1-2 days per week.
  • A professional service company in Minnesota looked for a beautician to work part time shampooing, dyeing and styling hair for the elderly. The ideal candidate would also be able to offer manicures and pedicures.
  • A healthcare service in Washington advertised for a licensed beautician with 1-2 years of experience who could shampoo, condition and treat hair, maintain safety regulations, help customers decide on a style and provide high-quality service. The ideal candidate would be energetic, customer-oriented and comfortable working with the elderly.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Beauticians need their clients to have confidence in them so they can acquire and keep their business. To do that, you'll need experience, creativity and the ability to communicate effectively, so you can understand what they want. It's important to keep up on current trends so you can recommend styles to your clients and create the hairstyles they request. The ability to talk encouragingly to your clients can help them relax and feel comfortable, increasing your rapport with them.

Continuing Education

Some states, such as Georgia and Texas, require you to meet certain continuing education requirements every year or two to keep your license, but even in states where continued education is not required, continuing learning can help you stand out. You can complete these credits at a college near you or by attending events, conferences and seminars. For instance, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) offers opportunities to learn and network during the PBA Beauty Week in Las Vegas every year (www.probeauty.org).

Other events are available for hair, skin and makeup professionals at beauty expos around the country, so you have plenty of opportunities to brush up on new techniques, trends, tips and changes in the industry. The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) also offers seminars, conferences and conventions throughout the year where new teaching methods and current industry trends are introduced (www.beautyschools.org).

Alternative Career Paths

Skincare Specialist

If you want a job in cosmetology, but you don't want to work with hair, or you want to earn a little more money, you might consider becoming a skincare specialist. Skincare specialists are beauticians who have additional training in skincare, and they can give facials, massages and other skin treatments to remove dead or dry skin and improve clients' skin health. Some develop lotions and other skincare products. You'll need to complete a training program and then earn your special skincare license. The BLS projected that the employment of skincare professionals would increase 40% between 2012 and 2022, which was faster than average. As of May 2014, they earned a mean annual salary of around $33,810 per year, according to the BLS.

Massage Therapist

If you like interacting with a variety of clients, but you don't want to work with all of the chemicals that beauticians use, you might consider becoming a massage therapist. These professionals also work in spas and salons, but they massage muscles and tissues to promote relaxation. According to the BLS, you'll need to complete a massage therapy training program and usually get your state license or certification. The BLS also reported that massage therapists earned a mean annual salary of $41,790 as of May 2014, and employment was projected to increase by about 23% from 2012-2022.

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