The beauty and personal care industry is a goliath, raking in $454 billion in annual sales worldwide. While it encompasses everything from the most common haircare products to the most luxurious cosmetics and perfumes, at the end of the day the industry relies completely on the guidance of talented beauty academy graduates with an eye for esthetics and a keen sense of style.
Recognizing that the best products deserve an artist’s touch, even big players like Paul Mitchell and Aveda are now getting into the beauty school game.
Not only do today’s beauty schools offer curriculum related to hair, skin, and nails, many academies now offer training in areas like bodywork, spa treatments and makeup artistry. To prepare students to meet the needs of a more discriminating and health conscious clientele, beauty schools are also beginning to offer programs in holistic health treatments like reflexology and hydrotherapy as a way to incorporate complete health and wellness services into the salon experience.
With makeup artists like Bobbi Brown and hairstylists like John Frieda now achieving celebrity status, formal training in cosmetology and esthetics is opening doors to dream careers that involve glamorous engagements, exciting travel opportunities, and the chance to work with big names in film, television, fashion, and theater.
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Choosing a Beauty School
Whether you are interested in becoming a cosmetologist (hair stylist and designer), esthetician (skincare specialist), electrologist (permenent hair removal specialist), nail technician (manicurist and pedicurist), makeup artist or barber, keep these things in mind when choosing a beauty school:
State Licensing Requirements
Virtually every state has a Board of Cosmetology that requires salon professionals to meet certain license requirements. Cosmetologists, estheticains, nail technicians, and barbers are required to be licensed in just about every state, while a few states also have separate licensing requirements for electrologists and makeup artists.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a program is whether or not it meets the requirements for becoming licensed in your state. Many states maintain lists of approved schools and programs, while others recognize programs that are recognized by specific accrediting organizations.
The primary consideration is whether the program includes the minimum number of clock hours your state’s Board of Cosmetology requires. Click on your state above for details on the requirements set by your state’s Board of Cosmetology.
Program Design and Structure
When choosing a beauty school program, you should always investigate the program’s structure and design to make sure it is a good fit for you. Some schools focus on traditional methods and techniques, while others incorporate all-natural products and the most cutting edge techniques.
It’s a good idea to ask about a school’s philosophy and worldview to see if it meshes with your own ideas and the type of clients you expect to work with.
Some of the questions you might ask when exploring a beauty school include:
What is the class size/student-teacher ratio? You may prefer a smaller class size that allows for more personal interactions with instructors and other students.
What is the course curriculum? You should make sure the course curriculum blends well with your career goals.
Does the program offer practical business skills? Most beauty professionals benefit from the integration of business classes, such as management and marketing, as many salon professionals work as independent contractors, freelancers, or business owners.
Does the program offer exam preparation? Most programs offer exam prep courses that will prepare you for the licensing examinations your state requires.
What is the school’s relationship with the industry? A beauty college that employs instructors who have industry contacts or are still active in their field may provide you with better professional opportunities when you graduate.
Does the school offer a student salon? You may feel that a full-service student salon is critical, since it will allow you to begin practicing on clients in a real-world setting.
Choosing a beauty school that is accredited often ensures it offers programs that meet the minimum requirements for a license and a curriculum that is in line with today’s dynamic beauty industry.
Three of the largest accrediting bodies for beauty schools in the U.S. include:
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSS): Accredits more than 800 academic institutions that more than 250,000 students attend.
- The Council on Occupational Education (COE): Serves as a regional accrediting agency of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is the successor agency to the Commission on Occupational Education Institutions.
- National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS): Serves as an autonomous, independent accrediting commission and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The NACCAS accredits more than 1,500 institutions that serve more than 120,000 students.
What to Expect from Beauty School
Smaller, private beauty schools are perhaps the most well-known, although beauty programs can also be found in junior schools, vocational schools, and even some colleges and universities. A number of beauty school programs are now offered online, allowing today’s busy students to enjoy a more flexible schedule through distance learning that involves all the same instruction and practical training, but performed on manikins from the comfort of home.
Beauty school will provide you with both classroom and practical study, with many now boasting state-of-the-art salons where you can practice your budding skills on real clients.
Some beauty schools offer such interesting features as flexible program schedules, including accelerated programs and part-time programs. They also offer instruction from industry experts and top names in beauty, as well as mentors that will guide you throughout the program, and even as you start your career.
Depending on your chosen area of study, beauty school can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year to complete. A comprehensive cosmetology program, which generally ranges from 1,600 to 2,100 practice hours, may take between 9 and 18 months to complete. An abbreviated program in esthetics typically takes about half as long, while a nail technician program may take just a month or two.
Many beauty schools now offer dual programs for students interested in being licensed in two or more specialties. For example, a beauty school may offer a dual esthetician/massage therapy program. A larger beauty college may offer a wide array of programs for various specialties, while smaller beauty schools may focus on just one area of specialty. For example, it is quite common to find beauty schools that focus only on esthetics or makeup artistry. Dedicated barbering schools are also commonplace.