Earning a degree in cosmetology does not necessarily condemn you to a career as a hairstylist. Although most states do not require a cosmetology degree to work in the field, a degree can provide some advantages over a certificate of completion. Most cosmetology degrees are associate degrees offered by junior colleges and take about two years to complete. Certificate programs, on the other hand, usually take less than one year and can be obtained at junior colleges or schools that focus exclusively on cosmetology studies. Within the two-year course, students learn other valuable and marketable skills that they might not learn by simply pursuing a certificate. These skills can oftentimes translate into other careers within or outside of the cosmetology field.
One misconception about cosmetologists is that all cut hair and work as hairstylists. However, the reality is that cosmetologists learn a variety of other skills in a junior college cosmetology associate degree program that do not necessarily involve cutting and styling hair. Cosmetologists can work as skin care specialists or manicurists and pedicurists as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that skin care specialists made an average salary of $32,030 per year at the time of publication, which was higher than the average salary earned by hairstylists. The bureau indicates that hairstylists made an average salary of $26,510. Manicurists and pedicurists, however, made significantly less at an average of $22,060.
Another possible career option for those in the cosmetology field is to work as a makeup artist in the movie or video industry. Other makeup artists work in areas such as fashion modeling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that approximately 2,200 theatrical makeup artists worked throughout the United States as of May 17, 2011. These makeup artists earned an average salary of $50,980 per year, according to the bureau.
Those who have a degree in cosmetology will gain many of the necessary communication skills needed to work in the sales field. One option in the sales field is to work in retail sales for a large department store chain that offers beauty products. Many of these stores are found in shopping malls throughout the country and employ individuals with knowledge of makeup and other cosmetology products. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that retail salespersons nationwide made an average salary of $25,000 per year as of May 17, 2011. However, those working in department stores made less at $21,730.
One of the advantages of obtaining a degree in cosmetology rather than completing a certificate program is the fact that a degree program will allow the student to complete additional courses of the student's choosing known as elective courses. A cosmetology student who takes some additional courses in business management can assume a leadership position in a salon as a manager. Managerial duties can include hiring and firing employees, scheduling, budgeting and supervising the work of others.