Cosmetology Careers

Hair Stylist, Barber, Makeup Artist, Esthetician, and Manicurist

Woman receiving facial at spa
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Cosmetologists provide beauty services that include caring for the condition of hair, skin, and nails. The cosmetology industry employs personal appearance workers including hair stylists, shampooers, barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, makeup artists, and manicurists and pedicurists.

Quick Facts About the Cosmetology Industry

  • In 2015, approximately  451,780 people were employed as personal appearance workers.
  • The mean annual wage in 2015 was $27,950, and the mean hourly wage was $13.44.
  • Employers in this industry are hair salons, nail salons, barber shops, spas, and resorts. 
  • The employment outlook differs by occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects barbers, hair stylists, manicurists, cosmetologists, and estheticians to experience job growth that is faster than the average for all occupations through 2024. The government agency expects makeup artists' job growth to be much faster than the average.

Cosmetology Occupations

If you are looking for a career with a good outlook for the future and minimal educational requirements, one in cosmetology might be just right for you. Here is a look at several of those occupations. Learn about training and licensing requirements, as well as earnings. Follow the links to get more information on each one. You should note that working in the cosmetology field requires certain soft skills or personal qualities.

You must have excellent customer service skills and listening skills. Creativity is essential as are superior time management skills

Hair Stylist

A hair stylist cuts, styles, colors, curls and straightens hair. Clients turn to him or her for advice about what styles and colors will work well for them based on their hair texture, condition and color, and their complexion.

To become a hair stylist, you will have to complete a state-approved barber or cosmetology program which will take at least nine months. Every state in the U.S. requires a license. Hair stylists, in 2015, earned a median hourly salary of $23,660 or median hourly wages of $11.38.

Learn More About Being a Hair Stylist


A barber shampoos, cuts and styles hair, usually for male clients. He or she may shave beards and perform facials. Some states also allow barbers to apply color and bleach and use chemicals to straighten or curl hair. If you want to become a barber, you will have to attend a barber training program and get a license. In some states, you can get a barbering license by completing cosmetology school, and some states combine the two licenses. The median annual salary was $24,850, and median hourly wages were $11.95 in 2015.

Learn More About Being a Barber

Theatrical and Performance Makeup Artist

A makeup artist uses cosmetics to enhance or change an actor's or performer's appearance. He or she may work with movie, television or stage entertainers. A makeup artist usually attends cosmetology school for several months to a year. Licensing requirements vary by state. Median annual earning were $53,230, and median hourly wages were $25.59 in 2015.

Learn More About Being a Makeup Artist


An esthetician, or skin care specialist, treats the skin on people's faces and bodies. He or she evaluates a client's skin and applies treatments after first discussing alternatives. Before you can work in this occupation, you will have to complete a two-year esthetician training program that has been approved by the state in which you want to work. It is also likely you will need a license. In 2015, estheticians earned a median annual salary of $ 30,090 and $14.47 per hour.

Learn More About Being an Esthetician

Manicurist and Pedicurist

A manicurist or pedicurist grooms clients' fingernails or toenails. He or she cleans, trims, and files nails and applies polish to them. One must complete a state-approved cosmetology or nail technician program and, in almost all states, get a license.

Manicurists and pedicurists earned median wages of $20,820 annually and $10.01 hourly in 2015.

Learn More About Being a Manicure and Pedicurist

Comparing Cosmetology Careers
 Required TrainingLicenseMedian Salary
Hair StylistCosmetology program Required in all states$23,660
BarberBarber or cosmetology programRequired in all states$24,850
Makeup ArtistCosmetology programVaries by state$53,230
EstheticianEsthetician training programRequired in all states$30,090
Manicurist / PedicuristNail technician programRequired in most states$20,820


Where You Can Get More Information