What are the licensing requirements to be a cosmetologist?

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In order to practice cosmetology in a salon after graduation, you must first pass your state board exam to become a licensed cosmetologist.   Cosmetology is not administered by a national licensing board so all of your time should be spent preparing for your state’s exam.

Most states’ cosmetology exams will include a written exam and a practical exam.  The written exam tests the book knowledge that you’ve been taught, and is usually graded immediately.  You can study for this exam by referencing your course books, exams, and papers. We recommend taking a practice test before the exam to give you a feel for the questions you will encounter. The practical part of your exam takes much longer and will test your ability to carry out cosmetology techniques.  This includes demonstrating your abilities in hair cutting and coloring, chemical waving, manicures/pedicures and more.   To review these, practicing makes perfect so get out your mannequin head.

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How do licenses differ between programs?

If you don’t attend a full comprehensive cosmetology program, your licensing requirements will be different. You should consult your state’s Board of Cosmetology for specific information on what all will be required per program or check out:

Will I have to renew my cosmetology license?

Since licensing is done on a state-by-state basis, renewal requirements differ in each state as well. Some states require license renewal as often as every 12 months, while some states only require renewal every 3 years. Your state board may send out reminders, but you must remember to renew your license in time, as there is often time a fee for renewing after it has expired.

How do I know if I am eligible for reciprocity?

Additionally, if you want to work in a different state than where you are licensed you must pursue reciprocity.   This doesn’t involve getting a new license; it just allows you to use your state license to work legally in another state. If the state that you’re licensed in has similar education and testing requirements as the state you would like to work, you can most likely receive reciprocity. To find out if your license is eligible for reciprocity, contact the Board of Cosmetology in the state that you want to work in. They will determine whether or not reciprocity is an option for you.

But of course, before you get licensed you will need to finish your training from an accredited cosmetology program.

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What is the difference between cosmetology school and beauty school?

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In your search for the perfect cosmetology school, you may notice that schools in different states will refer to themselves as a cosmetology school, cosmetology college or beauty school.  While this may seem confusing, know that these terms are basically interchangeable and just depends on how the schools have decided to brand themselves.

Hair schools, on the other hand are not synonymous with cosmetology schools.  The difference is that hair schools will typically only offer hair design programs such as cutting, coloring and styling.  Cosmetology and beauty schools will offer hair design courses in addition to courses in esthetics and skincare, makeup and nail technician to make a comprehensive program.

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What should I focus on instead of the terms used by the school?

There are a number of things to keep in mind while exploring possible cosmetology programs.  First, make sure the cosmetology school offers courses in the area of expertise you are most interested in and that it accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, The Council on Occupational Education or the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences.  This will guarantee you are looking at cosmetology training opportunities that have been deemed educationally effective.  In addition, these schools will be most likely best able to prepare you for your state licensing exam after completion of the program.

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Another thing you should consider when choosing a beauty school is in what capacity do the instructors work and how active the school is in the industry.

Lastly, you should also observe how instructors interact with the beauty school students on the floor during hands-on-training exercises.  Schools that offer programs that excel in on the floor teaching with instructors who are willing to help students while working with clients will set you up better for success in the long run.

How should I decide between cosmetology school and hair design school?

If you find are interested solely on doing hairstyling, coloring and cutting, then we recommend you find a hair design school in your area.  Hair designs program are often times less expensive than cosmetology programs because they do not offer the full course curriculum for other beauty programs, such as makeup and esthetics.  If you aren’t sure what area of cosmetology you wish to pursue then you should opt for a comprehensive cosmetology program.  This will give you a feel for numerous beauty specialties and give you more of an overarching understanding of the cosmetology industry.

Now that you know the difference in cosmetology terms, all you have to do is start searching for the school right for you.

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