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Cosmetology License

We asked 27,863 job seekers about their Cosmetology License. This is what they told us:

  • 42% of job seekers said "help my career progression" was the biggest reason for earning their Cosmetology License
  • 83% said earning their Cosmetology License helped them make more money
  • 88% said earning their Cosmetology License helped them get a job
  • 92% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Cosmetology License

Cosmetology License Requirements, Reviews and More

Every state requires that those who work in the cosmetology field–including cosmetologists, barbers, hair stylists, estheticians, nail technicians and electrologists–undergo training and testing to obtain certification. Cosmetology licenses must be awarded by the state the cosmetologist plans to practice in, and each state requires that licenses are displayed at a cosmetologist’s workstation.

The training requirements to become licensed in a cosmetology practice vary by state. All states allow for training through a licensed or accredited cosmetology school, and some states allow for an apprenticeship office that allow trainees to earn money and certification while working under a licensed professional or instructor. Each state offers provisions for those who have completed cosmetology training and practiced as a licensed cosmetology in another state or country.

Cosmetology school programs range in price from $5,000 to $20,000. License fees are set by each state, and they range between $10 and $156 and must be renewed every one to two years.

What are the types of cosmetology licenses?

There are a variety of different license types issued by state boards of cosmetology or licensing boards within the cosmetology profession. The type of license issued determines which services the cosmetology professional is legally allowed to perform for a fee. Different states have different designations, but the most common cosmetology license types include:

  • Cosmetology– A cosmetology license encompasses nearly all services within the beauty field. With a cosmetology certification, most license holders are able to:
    • Cut, clip, style, curl, arrange and dress hair
    • Chemically process hair to permanently straighten, curl or wave the hair
    • Bleach, dye, tint and color hair
    • Beautify the skin of the face, neck and upper body by massaging, cleansing and stimulating and applying oils, creams, lotions or other tonics
    • Perform manicures and pedicures
    • Remove excess hair
  • Barbering
  • Natural Hair Braiding
  • Esthetics
  • Electrology
  • Nail Technician

How do I obtain a cosmetology license?

Individual requirements for cosmetology licenses vary by state, but obtaining a license follows the same process in each state. Obtaining a license can take between a few weeks for a nail technician or esthetician program to two years for a full-scale cosmetology or barber license.

To obtain a cosmetology license, applicants must:

Step 1. Complete a licensed course of study

All licensed cosmetologists are required to undergo a training program. In most cases, training involves taking a course in the desired cosmetology practice at a state-licensed or accredited school of cosmetology. In some states, cosmetology students can be trained by working in their field under a licensed cosmetology professional or instructor.

Step 2. Apply for examination

Once training has been completed, students must apply to the state for testing. This involves proving age, education, completion of cosmetology training and U.S. citizenship or legal residency.

Step 3. Achieve a passing grade on theory and practical exams

After reviewing an application for examination, the state will invite the applicant to take certification exams in their cosmetology field. The tests involve demonstrating their knowledge of cosmetology, as well as their knowledge of health, sanitation and ethics within their scope of work. In some states, applicants also are required to pass an examination proving their knowledge of the state’s rules and regulations regarding cosmetology.

Step 4. Pay license fees and maintain license renewals

Once all exams are passed, applicants can pay a fee to become fully licensed cosmetologists. Licenses must be renewed every one to two years to remain valid.

Those who have previously completed their cosmetology training or who have worked as licensed cosmetologists in other states or countries have an additional route to state certification. The cosmetologist must submit their education, certification and work history to the state licensing body in the new state for review. If the training, education and experience obtained are in line with the state's requirements, a license will be issued.

State licensing requirements

Each individual state has slightly different requirements for cosmetology licensing. Requirements by state are listed below.

What are people saying about getting a Cosmetology License?

Did this certification help you make more money?

Based on 27,847 responses

83% said earning their Cosmetology License helped them make more money

Did this certification help you get a job?

Based on 27,847 responses

88% said earning their Cosmetology License helped them get a job

Would you recommend this certification?

Based on 27,844 responses

92% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Cosmetology License

Why did you decide to earn your Cosmetology License?

Based on 27,863 responses

Required for my current job


Make more money


Changing careers


Get an edge over other candidates


Help my career progression




What was your job title after earning this certification?

Based on 20,683 responses

Cosmetologist View jobs


Hair Stylist View jobs


Stylist View jobs


Makeup Artist View jobs


Nail Technician View jobs


What do people wish they knew before earning their Cosmetology License?

19,594 people answered

“I knew what I was doing,I didn't go to school for the money cause to be honest they expect you to pay off a student loan and you make like minimum wage when you start out and are lucky of you get takes years to build the confidence and the skills to make decent money but to me so worth it cause I love love love it!”

Jan. 17, 2021

“It is hard work but the dedication is worth every smile.”

Jan. 16, 2021

“Most hairstylists has to pay booth rent. And getting paid at an hourly rate is like minimum wage.”

Jan. 16, 2021

“The amount of time and money that goes into keeping up with the professional aspect of the job.”

Jan. 16, 2021

“I can't think of one. I have only one that maybe I would warn, that you research the best retirement package available and put into it for your retirement days. Also make sure you set money aside for your quarterly taxes because you make good money and you want to do everything stress free by the book.”

Jan. 16, 2021

What advice would you give to someone interested in earning their Cosmetology License?

20,606 people answered

“Pay attention and respect others and their needs.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“It's a great certification to have on hand”

Jan. 17, 2021

“Make sure you love people of all walks of life including elderly ,sick,or mentelly ill people plus children of all ages and you better be kind and patient cause if not it's not for you.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“My advice is always follow your passions and dreams - but not be afraid to look outside the maze now and then”

Jan. 16, 2021

“Don’t think it’s just hair there’s so much more chemistry and geometry that you never knew you’d use again after high school.”

Jan. 16, 2021