Cosmetology Job Description: What You Will Do

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Learn about what careers you can pursue with an education in hair and skin care.

A quality hair or skin care treatment accomplishes many things. The right experience should be relaxing and soothing while treating problem areas with the client’s hair or skin. It should also positively impact the client’s self-esteem.

Cosmetologists can have highly versatile careers, specializing in beauty treatments for hair, skin, nails, or even makeup artistry. An esthetician takes a more specific, but still versatile, role in beauty treatments, by focusing on all types of skin care.

What does a hair and skin care professional do?

Hair and skin care professionals work in a variety of places, from spas to healthcare centers. Cosmetologists and estheticians don’t share many of the same duties, but they’re both expected to do the following:

  • Create a relaxing environment for the client
  • Listen to the client’s needs and preferences
  • Pay close attention to detailed work
  • Provide hair or skin care services to meet the client’s needs
  • Check in throughout the appointment ensure the client’s comfort

What education or certification will I need to work in hair and skin care?

In order to become a cosmetologist, you’ll first need to complete a cosmetology program. A good program will prepare you for your state’s board exam.

The requirements for earning your cosmetology license will depend on what state you live in. State education requirements range from 1,200 to 2,100 school hours for cosmetology licensing, and you’ll also be required to pass a written exam afterward.

Some states will also require you to pass a practical exam, in which your skills will be graded based on a set of established performance criteria. And in a few states, you’ll need to complete an oral exam, which involves explaining your steps and actions during the practical portion.

What can cosmetologists earn?

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Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

Avg Annual Salary


Projected job growth: 8.5%

Average salary information is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is based on the 2019 payroll records of business establishments. Actual salaries vary greatly depending on your location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and many other factors. Please note that salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

What career paths can I take in hair and skin care?

With your new license in the beauty and personal care industry, there are plenty of places where you might find yourself working. These places include:

  • Spas: Spas are always looking for talented, passionate cosmetologists and estheticians to come aboard. Working in a spa will require you to not only provide excellent services, but also to help facilitate a warm, calming environment for clients.
  • Salons: Particularly for those who specialize in general cosmetology, salons are an excellent place to work. Many salons offer more than just hair services, so if you’re a multi-talented beautician, you can build a clientele of people who will come to you for haircuts and coloring and also services like blowouts and eyebrow waxing.
  • Resorts: Finding work in a resort or hotel means you’ll generally be attending to guests and people on vacation, which can be a good thing. For many people, vacation is a time to look and feel great, so resort spas tend to stay busy.
  • Health care centersSome cosmetologists or estheticians specialize in advanced skin care that can be used to repair scars or damage. Skin care services like microdermabrasion or intense chemical peels are used to complement other medical treatments to solve serious skin concerns.
  • Media cosmetology: If you opt to specialize in makeup services, you might find a job in the film or TV industry. You can use your makeup artistry talents to prep newscasters or actors for the camera, so everyone looks their best.

Learn about pay and salary projections for hair and skin care specialists.

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