Becoming a Stylist: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a stylist career? Is it worth the training and education requirements to become a stylist? Read some real job descriptions to get the truth about career prospects in order to find out if becoming a stylist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Stylist

A stylist provides beauty tips and services to customers in order to help them feel and look good. Check out some of the pros and cons of becoming a stylist to find out if it's right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Stylist
Slightly faster than average job growth (13% from 2012-2022)*
Good job opportunities for licensed stylists in entry-level positions*
Self-employment possibilities*
Flexible scheduling*

Cons of Becoming a Stylist
Keen job competition can occur at high paying salons*
The average income of stylists is lower than the national average ($27,940 mean wage)*
Long hours (including nights and weekends)*
Irritation can occur from long-term expose to chemicals used in hair and nail care.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Salary Info

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the states paying stylists the most were the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Delaware, Washington and Virginia (www.bls.gov). Stylists who were employed in the District of Columbia earned around $37,000 on average annually. Across the entire nation, stylists reported average earnings of slightly more than $13 an hour, which amounts to a yearly average income of nearly $28,000. The industries that paid stylists the best included performing arts companies and professional, scientific and technical services.

Job Description

Stylists or cosmetologists provide a wide variety of beauty enhancement treatments to customers, including cutting, dyeing or chemically restructuring hair. However, the term stylist can encompass other careers, like shampooers, nail technician and esthetician. Your job duties are dependent upon your employer, but you could be assigned to give manicures or pedicures, facials, massages, waxes and apply makeup. When transactions are performed, you'll accept payment from clients and keep track of sales records. During downtime, you might help order supplies, advertise for your salon, perform inventory records or hire new employees.

Education and Licensure Requirements

A GED or a high school diploma is needed for most stylists. As an aspiring stylist, you can benefit by enrolling in a program at a cosmetology school. These programs differ, but typically examine topics in hair, nail and skin care. In some cases, you might even find programs at vocational schools or high schools. A cosmetology program can result in a professional certificate or an associate's degree. The exact lengths of the program vary, but typically include a set amount of hours to meet licensure requirements.

State License Requirements

Personal appearance workers have to be licensed by the state in order to work. The prerequisites for a state license can vary, but generally, you'll have to possess a high school diploma and have graduated from an approved training program. To prove that you've been properly trained, you'll have to take a licensure exam, which may include a written and practical test. In some states, there are separate licensing examinations for different areas of cosmetology, like skin care, pedicure, manicure and barber.

What Employers Want in Stylists

Due to hygiene concerns, employers want stylists who are neat and clean. Beyond keeping up your own personal appearance, you'll need to regularly clean and disinfect your workstation and tools. In order to draw in repeat business, employers are looking for stylists who are friendly, nice and attentive to customers. CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com in March 2012 had several job postings for stylists.

  • A salon in Kansas wants a stylist willing to work weekend and nights.
  • A Colorado salon requires a stylist with an established clientele.
  • In California, a haircutting business needs a stylist willing to go through waxing and coloring training to keep up on the newest trends.

Standing Out as a Stylist

The more talents a stylist possesses, the more diverse their career opportunities can be. For example, if you've only trained yourself in hair styling, then you're limiting the number of employers who could be interested in you. By obtaining experience in nail care, skin care and waxing, you'll have a broad set of skills that will boost your job prospects.

A strong educational background in business can help set you apart from other stylists. By taking the time to understand how the industry works, you'll be able to suggest potential changes that could lower costs and enhance productivity at a salon. Employers often look at stylists who have business experience when they're looking for someone to manage a salon.

Other Occupational Opportunities

Fitness Workers

If you like the idea of helping improve someone's self-image but you want to help through exercise, you could become a fitness trainer. A fitness trainer helps someone workout and train in order to improve their health, strength and endurance. These workers might work individually with a client or instruct an entire group. Fitness workers typically complete a training program and gain certification. In May 2010, the BLS found that fitness trainers and aerobics instructors made around $36,000 on average in a year.

Make-up Artist

If you enjoy the job duties of a stylist but you want to apply them towards film, theater or television, then look into becoming a theatrical and performance makeup artist. Before a performance, a theatrical makeup artist helps prepare an actor for their role by applying makeup, assisting with wardrobe and styling hair. In this career, you might be self-employed and receive temporary jobs through contract positions or you might find full-time employment with a production business. The BLS reported that theatrical and performance makeup artists earned an average $51,000 in May 2010.

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