Cosmetology Degrees: Associates, Bachelors & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associates or bachelors degree in cosmetology? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and cosmetology degrees.
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Studying Cosmetology: Degrees at a Glance

If you love styling hair and applying makeup for others, a degree in cosmetology may be a good step towards starting a career. An associate's degree in the field can prepare you to become a hair stylist, skin specialist, manicurist or theatrical makeup artist. With a bachelor's degree, you might gain the business acumen to open your own salon or cosmetology operation.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of cosmetologists and related jobs to grow by 14% between 2010 and 2020, pay for many of these jobs is relatively low. Competition for the highest-paying jobs, which can be found at a small number of upscale salons, is expected to be very strong.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those who enjoy cutting and styling hair, applying makeup and helping others improve their appearance Those interested in managing a cosmetology business
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) -Hairdresser/Stylist/Cosmetologist ($22,000)*
-Skincare specialist ($29,000)*
-Salon manager (unavailable)
-Casino spa manager ($58,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years (full time) 4 years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements -Typical associate's degree core requirements
-1,000+ hours of practical experience in salon work
-Typical bachelor's degree requirements
-Experience or schooling in cosmetology
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability None found Yes (business or management programs)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 stats), **Salary.com (As of July 2012)

Associate's in Cosmetology

An associate's program in cosmetology should teach you the skills of cutting, styling, and dyeing hair, applying makeup and caring for skin and nails. Skills in the field are taught through hands-on experiences in salon-type settings. In this way, you will be able to hone your customer service skills while under the supervision of instructors. In addition to skills in cosmetics and hair care, you will also learn skills necessary to manage a salon.

All states require cosmetologists to be licensed. An associate's degree program should prepare you for the licensing test and may require that you complete the test before graduation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ability to gain direct training in your chosen field
  • Potential to work in theater or cinema as a makeup artist
  • Pleasant, well-lit work environment

Cons

  • You may be applying for many of the same jobs as those who have completed shorter educational programs
  • There will be heavy competition for the better-paying job opportunities in high-end salons
  • Work often requires stamina to spend long periods on your feet

Courses and Requirements

Courses in this program focus on different aspects of hair care, makeup application, nail care and skin care. Courses you may find include:

  • Hair cutting
  • Hair styling
  • Manicuring/pedicuring
  • Permanent waving

Online Course Info

Cosmetology programs and courses are largely taught through hands-on work. Learning is often done in a salon setting, where you can learn and improve your skills through practical application, with a trained instructor present for guidance. As such, it is unlikely that you will find an online course in this field.

There are online programs available for cosmetology management or salon management, which focus on the business aspect of cosmetology. These programs differ from a typical cosmetology program in that they don't teach cosmetology skills, and thus don't prepare you for licensure as a cosmetologist.

Stand Out with This Degree

To ensure success as a cosmetologist, you should master the basics of coloring hair, networking to build a client base and keeping on top of current trends. One way to help build all of these aspects is to find a successful cosmetologist in need of an assistant.

As a cosmetologist's assistant, you'll get plenty of practice with the basics, as well as a chance to learn about current trends. You will have a more personal look at methods of interacting with clients and will have a chance to begin building a customer base.

Bachelor's in Cosmetology

Bachelor's programs in cosmetology are usually aimed at the business or management aspect of cosmetology, rather than improving beauty skills. These programs are rare, but can be of use if you are interested in managing a salon or spa.

These programs are more likely to be connected to a business school than they are to a school of cosmetology. The programs are often designed to build on students' previous experience in the field or on courses taken in a cosmetology program at technical school.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can teach you to manage an extant spa or salon
  • Can prepare you to open your own cosmetology business
  • Courses on resource management, communication and organization can help with a non-management cosmetology career.

Cons

  • Program does not necessarily train you for a cosmetology license
  • Spa or salon management positions may require several years' experience in a related field
  • You may be applying for the same jobs as individuals with an associate's degree, or even with no degree

Courses and Requirements

Courses in this program cover topics of business management. Many of the courses are typical to a general business or management degree, but allow you to specialize in a particular area of interest. Programs may combine business courses with cosmetology-specific training, or may include previous experience and schooling in cosmetology to create a degree program that teaches how to manage a salon or spa.

Courses typical to this program include:

  • Human resource management
  • Business law
  • Ethics
  • Leadership

Online Course Info

Online courses and even programs are available for this degree. Unlike the standard cosmetology courses, much of what is taught, such as ethics and business management, lends itself to distance learning. If the program includes cosmetology training, it will still be taught through hands-on training in a salon setting.

Stand Out with This Degree

Those looking to hire spa or salon managers are often most interested in experience, either in management or in the cosmetology field. Programs that combine cosmetology training as well as business management courses will give you a chance to develop experience within cosmetology. Once you are licensed as a cosmetologist, working as an assistant to an established cosmetologist would provide a chance to see the way a successful salon is run.

Alternately, seeking an internship in a spa or salon will provide valuable experience. If an internship cannot be found in this specific field, an internship in the broader hospitality industry is a further possibility.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

Yuba College

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Vincennes University

Texarkana College

Stanly Community College

Spokane Community College