Hair Stylist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Illustration of stylist coloring a client's hair. Text reads:

Last updated: August 22, 2022

A Hair Stylist, or Salon Hair Stylist, cuts and styles customers’ hair. Their main duties include washing, coloring and cleaning hair, recommending and selling salon products and staying updated on ongoing hair styling trends.

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Hair Stylist Duties and Responsibilities

Hair Stylists work with customers to help them achieve the look they want. This involves much more than cleaning and cutting hair. Stylists must communicate with customers to understand their exact needs, and they need to be knowledgeable enough to recommend the best styles for clients. For some businesses, a Hair Stylist may also provide nail and skin care. Other Hair Stylist duties and responsibilities include:

  • Give clients advice on how to maintain a hairstyle or look
  • Explain the best ways to maintain hair health and why it’s important
  • Maintain supplies needed for hair styling
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What Does a Hair Stylist do?

Hair Stylists are beauty care professionals who work in a salon or spa styling and cutting customers’ hair. They’ll often talk with the customer to understand their style preferences, recommend an option that works best for the client and perform a hair cut, highlight or style accordingly. Hair Stylists work to inform their customers on the best hair care products to try and may sell the salon’s products to customers. 

They’re responsible for building and maintaining a strong relationship with customers to ensure they continue revisiting the salon and making more appointments. Hair Stylists must also adhere to the cleanliness and salon safety standards to ensure all customers are safe in their care. They also stay updated on new hairstyles and trends to provide informed and resourceful recommendations to clients.

Hair Stylist Skills and Qualifications

A successful Hair Stylist needs lots of training and practice. So, their biggest qualification is prior experience, either through other jobs or through a certification or diploma. Hair Stylists also need a wide range of skills unique to the trade, such as:

  • Experience using different types of scissors, trimmers and other tools to create hairstyles
  • An understanding of the different types of hairstyles a person can request and how to achieve those looks
  • A willingness to learn about new styles and techniques
  • The ability to communicate with customers and understand a look they want, even if they don’t know the technical terms for a certain style

Hair Stylist Salary Expectations

According to data we’ve collected from nearly 16,800 people over the past three years, the average salary for a hair stylist is approximately $13 an hour. This equals roughly $27,000 for a full-time worker. A Hair Stylist’s exact salary, however, depends on their experience. Junior stylists can make about $15 an hour, and senior stylists can make around $18 an hour.

For an entry-level Hair Stylist, starting pay can be as low as minimum wage. More experienced stylists, though, can make over $35 an hour.

Hair Stylist Education and Training Requirements

Hair Stylists must have comprehensive knowledge about different hairstyles and how to create certain looks. It takes years of training to gain this kind of knowledge, and stylists must continue learning so they can stay current with the latest trends. Hair Stylists also need enough knowledge to be able to recommend certain looks or changes when a customer isn’t sure about what they want.

Hair Stylists receive education and training from beauty schools or institutes, where they can obtain certificates, diplomas or even associate’s degrees. Some candidates pick up related experience by completing degrees in cosmetology.

Hair Stylist Experience Requirements

Many Hair Stylists start with a minimum amount of experience. It’s not uncommon for these professionals to start right after completing a certificate or beauty program. Junior or senior Hair Stylists, however, will have a mix of education and real-world experience. These professionals can have three to five years of experience, or more.

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Frequently asked questions about Hair Stylists


What makes a good Hair Stylist?

Good Hair Stylists must have strong interpersonal and verbal communication abilities to listen to client’s needs and provide them with a hairstyle that’s best suited to the client’s personality and preferences. They must also be able to maintain a consistent conversation with the client while coloring or cutting their hair, so multitasking skills are also a plus. Hair Stylists should also have a creative mindset and strong attention to detail to make sure the style they give their customers  is free of any errors. 


Who do Hair Stylists report to?

This typically depends on where they’re working. Larger salons may have a Salon Manager or Senior Stylist who oversees the Hair Stylist team and creates their shifts. Hair Stylists typically go to these Managers for any advice or guidance on how to complete complex cuts or colors. 

They may also go to the Salon Manager if they’re having any issues with customers. Hair Stylists who work in smaller salons report directly to the salon owner who may be in charge of and oversee the entire salon team. 


What settings do Hair Stylists usually work in?

There are many settings Hair Stylists may work in. Most of them work in salons, seeing several clients each day and providing them with different types of cuts and colors. Others may work in a spa styling the hair of various customers and offering scalp treatments. 

Some Hair Stylists may act as Cosmetologists, providing manicures, pedicures and facials to clients in spas or salons. There are also Hair Stylists who own their own personal salons and rent out a space for clients to come visit. They’re in charge of finding their own clients and creating the prices for their hair styling services. 


What's the difference between a Hair Stylist and a Cosmetologist?

Though they share similar responsibilities, there are key differences between Hair Stylists and Cosmetologists. Hair Stylists’ specialties are primarily in styling, cutting, shampooing and highlighting hair. Cosmetologists have a more general skill set, as they can style clients’ hair, while also offering manicures, pedicures and facial treatments. 

Hair Stylists usually attend cosmetology school to learn how to provide beauty treatments to clients’ hair, skin and nails, and typically choose to work only on styling and cutting hair. Cosmetologists are more versatile and may offer a wide variety of beauty treatments throughout their role each day.

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