One of the best things about a career in the salon industry is that your earning potential is limited only by your prowess, your proficiency, and your ability to earn a reputation as an expert in your field. Focus, determination, and a commitment to your craft through education and training will all influence your salary potential and success in the industry.
Still, with tips adding as much as 25% to the official salary statistics shown here, and commission on sales of products and services adding even more, your people skills and natural talent will be the difference between making it, or making it big.
Salary statistics for salon professionals can be quite hard to come by. For those deciding on a career path in the beauty industry, this can be frustrating. One of the main problems is that official earnings reports don’t always speak to the realities of the profession because they don’t include tips and commissions, which are a big part of take-home earnings for salon professionals.
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A survey by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) reported an annual salary of $38,843 for cosmetologists.
A recent Salon Today magazine survey revealed the following:
- Centre Salon & Spa, Denver, Colorado: Average stylist salary, $30,000 to $39,999
- Clive and Co. Hairdressing, Dallas, Texas: Average stylist salary, $50,000 to $59,999
- Dionysus Salon & Spa, the Woodlands, Texas: Average stylist salary, $60,000 to $69,999
- Douglas Carroll Salon and Med Spa, Raleigh, North Carolina: Average stylist salary, $40,000 to $49,999
- Ihloff Salon and Day Spa, Tulsa, Oklahoma: Average stylist salary, $40,000 to $49,999
- The Loft Hair Design, Escondido, California: Average stylist salary, $50,000 to $59,999
- Rejuvenation Spa, Madison, Wisconsin: Average stylist salary, $30,000 to $39,999
- Sky Salon, Strongsville, Ohio: Average stylist salary, $50,000 to $59,999
- Twist Salon, Virginia Beach, Virginia: Average stylist salary, $40,000 to $49,999
According to the NACCAS survey, estheticians earned an average salary of $40,126, while nail technicians reported an average salary of $33,148.
Beautician Salaries: Compensation Plans for Salon Professionals
One of the reasons for disparity among beautician salary statistics may lie with the fact that cosmetologists, whether they perform skincare, nail care, or haircare services, earn their salaries through a number of compensation plans, which may not be accurately reported:
One of the most common arrangements involves the cosmetologist renting a chair in a salon or spa (may also be referred to as room or booth rental). Cosmetologists, in this arrangement, work as an independent contractor, booking their own appointments and keeping the money they earn, less the lease payment to the salon owner. Many cosmetologists prefer this compensation plan because it allows them to manage their own schedule and build a client list with little risk and no overhead or initial investment. The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) reported that 33 percent of all beauticians, including barbers, were self-employed, as of 2011.
Commission-based salaries are still quite common in the beauty industry. Most salon owners determine the rate of commission pay by skill level, service, and/or experience. Some commission pay structures include retail sales commissions, as well.
Although not as common as other types of compensation, hourly wages for beauticians still exist. Many times hourly wages are supplemented with bonuses or profit sharing options for beauticians who bring in more business.
Factors Affecting Salaries for Salon Professionals
Beauticians in the salon industry, which include cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians, makeup artists, and barbers, among others, may find that their salaries are affected by a number of factors, including:
One of the most important aspects of succeeding in the salon industry involves building a solid clientele list. Experience in the industry certainly affects a beautician’s ability to earn more, mainly by being able to charge more, although offering high-quality services to clients, who then recommend the services to their friends and family and who then become clients, is often more important than experience. If marketing oneself is important to a beautician’s salary, then referrals are crucial.
Building a Reputation in the Industry
Aside from being a hit among their clients, beauticians who earn a solid reputation in the industry often earn higher salaries, as they are chosen for jobs outside of the salon. For example, expert hairstylists, estheticians, and makeup artists may find an abundance of freelance work in the fashion, film and television, and theater industries.
Like so many other service-related professions, the beauty industry is guided largely by demographics. Beauticians in large metropolitan areas or in areas where incomes are higher or the cost of living is higher generally earn more than their beauty industry counterparts. For example, according to the BLS, the highest earners among cosmetologists are located in the District of Columbia and Hawaii, both of which are known for their high cost of living.
Advanced Training and Education
Beauticians work in an industry that is always changing and evolving based on the newest innovations and trends. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that successful beauty professionals usually always seek additional training and education in the newest techniques. Beauticians who have pursued advanced training and are able to offer their clients more options are likely to make more money through advanced services and are likely to attract more clients. For example, makeup artists who pursue training in areas such as special effects, high definition, or prosthetics makeup artistry are likely to book more jobs in a number of settings, such as film, television, and theater.
Some beauticians choose to focus their career on one specialty or area of expertise, which then allows them to hone their craft and market themselves as experts in their field. For example, some cosmetologists focus their careers on hair color, becoming sought after colorists, while some estheticians focus their careers on advanced procedures like microdermabrasion.