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Cosmetology License

We asked 15,450 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
  • 91% 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 15,434 responses

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

Did this certification help you get a job?

Based on 15,434 responses

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

Would you recommend this certification?

Based on 15,431 responses

91% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Cosmetology License

Why did you decide to earn your Cosmetology License?

Based on 15,450 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 11,822 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?

11,054 people answered

“You don’t get paid anything when you start out.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“I wish I knew that state board of barbering and cosmetology was going to change some business laws regarding employment and renting.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“Although I've got a good education from the school I attended, I wish I would have researched more schools before choosing mine.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“Many places require apprenticeship and an established client base in order to acquire a job.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“I wish I had been more versatile in learning hair as well. During the winter, the market for pedicures run slow. Not many clients want them; this makes wages difficult because the wages are commission based.”

Dec. 31, 2019

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

11,736 people answered

“Find a good paying job first, don’t take the first job you find.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“Find an accredited, professional school.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“Study! There’s a lot more that goes into hair than you would think.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“Make sure you do your research and ensure this as the profession you want to do.”

Dec. 31, 2019

“You need to have open availability for nights and weekends.”

Dec. 31, 2019

Information on this page, including but not limited to price, cost, and the content of a certification course, is presented for informational purposes only, may be an approximation, and may have been generated by third parties such as Indeed users or a school. Prior to enrolling in a course for a certification, please contact the school for pricing or other information about the course offered.