What Is the Job Outlook for a Cosmetologist?

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Cosmetologists provide a variety of services to help enhance the appearance of others. Cosmetologists include manicurists, makeup artists, hairdressers and other beauty salon workers. In addition to technical know-how, successful cosmetologists must have great communication and customer service skills. They must also possess strong marketing skills in order to sell services and find and keep customers. Thanks to phenomenal job growth, the overall outlook for this field is strong. However, earnings and competition may be a cause of concern for some aspiring cosmetologists.

Earnings

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for cosmetologists was nearly $13 in 2008. The average annual wage was $26,660 the same year. Wages varied by location, type of employment and other factors. Top earners (the highest 10%) in the field earned more than $20 an hour. On the other end of the spectrum, 10% of earners made less than $7.50 an hour. Cosmetologists working in the motion picture and video industry enjoyed the greatest earning potential. Workers in this field made $29.50 an hour on average. Wages were highest in Hawaii, Washington state, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Average earnings in all these states totaled more than $15 an hour.

Employment

  • Most cosmetologists (about 323,000 in 2008) provided personal care services in salons, barber shops and other beauty shops, according to the BLS. Department stores were the next largest employer with 16,700 positions, followed by health and personal care stores, with 4,600 workers. Opportunities were also available with performance arts companies, within the motion picture industry, in hospitals and at beauty schools. States with the highest concentration of workers included Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Maryland.

    According to a national survey conducted for the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS), there is a shortage of qualified cosmetology workers. In 2007, more than 50% of salons had job openings, the group said.

Job Growth

  • The overall employment of hairdressers and cosmetologists will experience excellent growth between 2008 and 2018, said the BLS. With a projected growth rate of 20%, job opportunities are popping up much faster than most occupations. The growing population is attributed to the accelerated job growth along with the increasing need and demand for hair coloring treatments. Estheticians and other skin care professionals will be in particular demand, the BLS said.

Competition

  • The BLS said opportunities for entry-level workers should be favorable and that experienced cosmetologists at high-end establishments will face harder competition. Experienced beauty workers must compete for prestigious clients and positions at the most exclusive salons where the earning potential is highest.

    However, the occupational survey conducted for the NACCAS said experienced workers were more likely to land jobs. According to the report's findings, more than 60% of filled salon positions went to a candidate with more than a year's worth of experience.

Advancement

  • Experienced workers in the beauty industry may decide to manage their own salons and lease booth space out to new cosmetologists. Others veer their career paths to the teaching field. Electing to pursue opportunities in sales, working as marketing representatives for companies that produce or sell salon-related products, is another option. Select applicants can find positions as fashion consultants. Individuals can also advance to government positions on local licensing boards.

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