How Long Does It Take to Become a Cosmetologist?


There is a common misconception that cosmetologists are only trained to perform hair services. A student of cosmetology learns all aspects of beauty care. A cosmetology school education consists of hair, makeup, skin, nails and waxing procedures.There are three ways in which to complete a cosmetology program. These include cosmetology school, apprenticeship and vocational school.

Training Basics

  • All cosmetology schools teach the basic technical skills, such as how to perform shampoos, haircuts and hair treatments, including permanents and coloring. Other skills include skin and nail care. Interpersonal skills are important for a cosmetologist. Students practice communication skills, understanding the client's needs and learn how to maintain a professional appearance.

Time Frame

  • Cosmetology school can take anywhere from 10 months to 18 months to complete; it depends on whether or not you choose to attend school part-time or full-time. Missing too many days of school will also add to the length of time it takes to complete the program; in most states, 1,500 hours of training is required in order to be eligible to take the licensing exam. An apprenticeship program takes 24 months. The student's education is sponsored by a senior cosmetologist and is done in a salon. The student's training must be a minimum of 30 hours per week and will be reported monthly to the State Board of Cosmetology by the sponsor. Many high schools offer cosmetology in their vocational programs. It is included in the student's class schedule and will take four years of high school to complete the program.


  • Graduating from any of these programs makes the student eligible to take the state licensing examination. Upon passing the exam, it usually takes two weeks to receive the license by mail. As a cosmetologist, you are licensed to perform any service in the salon and have the potential to earn more money.


  • Decide which program will work best for you and your lifestyle. If you need to work full-time, cosmetology school can be completed at night and will most likely take 18 months. If you can't afford to go to school or are unable to obtain a loan, an apprenticeship could be your option. In most cases, the training is free and the student is usually paid minimum wage to work as a shampoo assistant in addition to the education. If you're just beginning high school and already have a passion for hair, enroll in the vocational program.

Expert Insight

  • Before enrolling in a cosmetology program, it is important that you ask yourself if this is truly what you want to do. Search in the yellow pages or the Internet for schools and salons. Schedule appointments with the directors and instructors in order to decide which programs will work best for you. There is a lot to learn in cosmetology and it can become frustrating. Don't give up. If you're attending school, it would be a good idea to work part-time at a salon. It's a chance to receive a hands-on, advanced education and advice from successful stylists. When you think you can't handle another day of class, just remember that you're on your way to an exciting, profitable career doing something you love.


  • The licensing requirements may vary from state to state.

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