Hair Stylist Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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Do you have a passion for hair products and hair styling? Is it worth the training and licensure requirements? Take a look at real job descriptions and read the truth about career prospects to learn if becoming a hair stylist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Hair Stylist Careers

Hair stylists help customers look and feel good about their hair. Take a look at the pros and cons of a career as a hair stylist by reading the following list.

Pros of Being a Hair Stylist
Fast as average job growth (13% growth from 2012-2022)*
Good job prospects due to retirement and career transfers*
Work scheduling flexibility*
Work in a comfortable environment*

Cons of Being a Hair Stylist
Keen job competition for high paying positions at salons*
Constant exposure to hair chemicals can cause irritation*
Prolonged periods on your feet*
May have to work nights and weekends to accommodate customers*

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

Job Description and Salary Information

Hair stylists provide many basic hair care services for customers, like trimming, cutting, buzzing and styling. More advanced services might include braiding and hair coloring, highlighting and bleaching and waves. A hair stylist might recommend various beauty service products suitable to the client, like hair gel or mousse. Additionally, basic business tasks, like ordering supplies, cleaning up the shop, sanitizing work stations and accepting customer payment regularly require the attention of the hair stylist.


The median yearly income for hair stylists in May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was around $23,000. Hair stylists in the top ten percent generated about $45,000 annually, which amounts to about $22 hourly.

The BLS noted that as of May 2014, the top paying industries for hair stylists were performing arts companies; outpatient care centers; offices of health practitioners; accounting/tax prep offices; and scientific/professional and technical services. If you're looking to be employed in one of the top paying states for hair stylists (as of 2014), you'll want to work in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Delaware, Washington and Virginia.

Education, Training and Licensure Requirements

While in high school, you may want to inquire if there are any vocational programs for hair styling offered at your school. These programs can be offered at some vocational schools as well. Most hair stylists enroll in postsecondary cosmetology programs that can take nine months to a year to complete. Sometimes, these options result in an associate's degree or an educational certificate.


A hair stylist must have a state license to work, according to the BLS. The exact licensure requirements can vary in each state; however, in most states, you'll need to have graduated from a licensed cosmetology school. Other requirements might include being at least 16 years old, possessing a high school diploma or GED and completing a state examination. Continuing education may be common when it comes to renewing your state license.

What Employers Want in Hair Stylists

Since many hair stylists work extended shifts and have to stay on their feet all day, employers look for applicants who have the stamina to work the necessary shifts. Due to sanitation concerns, hair stylists who display a commitment to hygiene and sanitation are preferred by employers. Possessing a friendly demeanor and effective customer service skills can do a lot to help make a hair stylist appealing to an employer. Find out what real employers were looking for in hair stylists from job postings in March 2012.

  • In Kansas and Missouri, a hair styling franchise needs a hair stylist willing to work at night and during the weekend.
  • A hair stylist opening in Wisconsin offers ongoing job training to keep them updated on the latest styles and trends.
  • A New York salon requires a hair stylist who can track customer information and communicate effectively with clients to ensure that there is excellent customer service.
  • An athletic club in Illinois requests a hair stylist who has a CPR certification and been certified by a credible beauty school.
  • A school in Pennsylvania prefers hair stylist applicants who can speak Spanish.

How to Stand out as a Hair Stylist

Possessing knowledge of fashion trends and the latest styles can help you stand out from other hair stylists. By knowing what is popular, you can make informed suggestions to customers. This may help you develop a regular and loyal clientele. By taking some business classes at a community college, you can learn how to market your skills or open your own salon.

Other Career Choices

If you like the personal touch that hair stylists have, but you want to reduce stress and relieve muscle tension for customers, you can become a massage therapist. By completing an educational postsecondary program in massage therapy, you'll learn about physiology, anatomy and business ethics. A massage therapist normally makes appointments with clients and spends sessions with them massaging specific areas like the back, shoulders and neck to provide relief or relieve pain. Before deciding to pursue this career, learn about the licensure requirements for your state. The average earnings of a massage therapist were about $40,000, according to the BLS in May 2011.

If you like the cosmetology aspects of being a hair stylist, but you're interested in working in theater, television and films, you can become a makeup artist. Some makeup artists are self-employed or are hired by a production company. Depending on the creative project, a makeup artist will change or enhance the appearance of the actors to capture the appropriate look. The BLS found in May 2011 that theatrical and performance makeup artists made around $53,000 on average that year.

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