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Being the person to help someone make a change in their physical appearance can be a tough occupation.
It takes a steady hand, solid awareness of beauty techniques and up-to-date fashion knowledge to keep customers in this field satisfied. But sometimes more than that, it takes empathy -- after all, you're not just making someone into the way that you think would make them look best. You're helping them look good while also giving them whatever they ask for when they come in the door.
It's a negotiation that you're very familiar with, having either gone through beauty school or already spent some time working with a salon. But now that you feel like you're ready to work in the field of cosmetology, where do you go to find that job?
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Cosmetology Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
Cosmetology requires a lot of hands-on work that many other majors don't. You have to be able to handle customer interaction while juggling a series of different tools that each have different techniques associated with them, and you have to be equipped to deal with a variety of different kinds of people and situations.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with Cosmetology degree.
Ability to multitask. No matter your specialization, as a cosmetologist you need to be able to handle customer interaction while also handling the more practical aspects of the job, like manicuring nails or cutting/dying hair.
Creativity. A cosmetology major has to be creative enough to interpret a customer's wishes in a way that the customer appreciates and allows them to feel stylish and comfortable. This requires a knowledge of aesthetics, as well as an intuitive awareness of the needs of others.
Physical dexterity. A large part of being a cosmetologist is interacting with and utilizing the tools of the trade. This takes both a practical awareness of the tools' capabilities (i.e. knowing what is physically going to occur when you take a pair of scissors to someone's hair) as well as the manual dexterity required to use these tools in a creative way.
While there are some internships available for cosmetology majors, for the most part, that's not going to be as critical to getting you a job as it would be for many other majors.
For one thing, you've got a lot less time in school -- the majority of cosmetology-based programs are going to be two-year programs rather than four, so you might find it tough to balance your work life while you're also rushing through your abbreviated school schedule.
Even so, there are at least a few internships available to you, particularly if you're looking to specialize in a specific aspect of cosmetology. Here are some common of the most common types you might encounter:
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Somewhat unique to Cosmetology is the fact that internships for students in this field come more often with the expectation that the internship will translate into a real job. As a result, your education as a Cosmetology major is intertwined with the job itself, which likely has a big effect on the entry level positions available to former Cosmetology students who are just starting out in the world.
Here are just a few of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
A fashion stylist selects the accessories and clothing for people doing photo shoots, music videos, events, advertising campaigns, and the like. It requires an eye for color and composition, as well as up-to-date fashion knowledge that a Cosmetology Major ought to have in spades.
A hair stylist focuses specifically on barbering and understanding how to treat, shape, and color human hair. This is highly focused branch of cosmetology, but most cosmetologists will have at least a general knowledge of the discipline.
A makeup artist is the person who applies makeup or prosthetics to either performers or individuals in the same sort of situations that a fashion stylist might work with (photo shoots, videos, events, ads, etc.). Makeup artists might also be required to have more general cosmetological knowledge depending on the position, and may also be responsible for things such as hair styling.
Identify Your Specialty
Cosmetology is one of those fields where practitioners can really benefit from specializing quickly and early. It's a huge, inclusive field, after all, and understanding what interests you about it or where you fit into it as a whole is an essential first step to finding a job.
Take just hair, for example. You could get a general Cosmetology degree and be qualified to start working for a salon, but if you have your certificate in Braiding Hair, and you might suddenly end up as "the one" that local customers are requesting to fulfill that niche.
Moreso than many other creative fields, Cosmetology is often a matter of mutual taste rather than simply personal taste. It's a collaborative process, and so while it's important to showcase your ability to express your creativity in this context, finding your niche in the beauty scene can be just as essential when it comes to landing you a position.
Start Your Portfolio
Cosmetology is a creative field, and like any other creative field you need proof of your aesthetic tastes and understanding of the basic principles that your medium depends upon.
Take before and after pictures of customers or friends (either way, ask first!) who you've made over in some way. Haircuts, makeup changes, differences in wardrobe or accessories -- all of these can be changed, and subsequently documented for the purposes of your own professional development.
Join a Professional Organization
Lastly, a professional organization can provide you with a vast amount of resources when it comes to networking, continuing your education, and ultimately landing a job.
Check out a few of the organizations listed at the bottom of this page, then be sure to check out your home state's professional organization. In addition to state level organizations, there are also many organizations dedicated to specific aspects of Cosmetology. Make sure you pick an association that suits your interest.
Even with a degree, most cosmetologists require certain licenses in order to be allowed to practice their craft, depending on how they in particular have specialized. Most of these licenses need to renewed after set periods of time.
Each state has their own official Board of Cosmetology that handles the majority of the associated licenses, and the particular licenses that are available to you can vary dramatically depending on the state within which you're based.
Here are a few kinds of potential licenses that may be available to you:
Continuing education in Cosmetology
Continuing your education in Cosmetology doesn't mean quite the same thing that it does for other majors. For the most part, there's no real graduate school for Cosmetology majors, which makes sense, given that two year Cosmetology programs are pretty much the law of the land.
When people in Cosmetology refer to continuing their education, what this means is that they're getting their licenses renewed so that they can continue practicing Cosmetology, or that they're taking classes in order to become qualified in different aspects of Cosmetology.
Again, the rules for how often a license needs to be renewed -- and how much education it takes to do so -- vary by the state you live in. In Texas, for example, anyone with a current license is required to take four hours of classwork in order to renew their license, with one hour of sanitation classes and three hours of cosmetology-related classes.
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The Professional Beauty Association (PBA)
The PBA is a professional organization that provides information about cosmetology to those who are interested in the practice. Memberships are available for additional benefits.
Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals
The ACSP is another cosmetology professional organization which provides continuing education opportunities, competitions, and community service initiatives.
Yet another professional cosmetology organization, the AACS also provides continuing education opportunities, but particularly stresses the networking benefits that its membership provides to students and working professionals.
Enter "Cosmetology" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Cosmetology majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.