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How to start as a hairstylist

Human hands holding various hairdressing tools isolated on white background

A perfect hairdo is important for any woman, as well as a good hairdresser who can craft it. If you are the only person your mother or sister allows to touch their hair in the morning, why not consider the career as a hairstylist? It offers a host of benefits. You can meet and socialize with people from all walks of life, have a flexible schedule, get quite a decent pay, and hear grateful words from your clients who look beautiful thanks to your dexterous hands and great talent. If you are interested, here are the steps you need to take in order to start as a professional hairstylist.

1. Decide if this career is right for you

When making a career choice, you need to understand if the occupation really suits you. Take some time to answer these questions:

  • Do you love working with people? If you are a good mixer, have the gift of the gab, and get on like a house on fire with your neighbors, then follow this path. A hairstylist must be a real friend to the clients, who adore talking while their hair is being done.
  • Are you physically fit and healthy? Hairdressers have to stand near the chair for hours on end. That requires stamina and good health. Issues with the spine or knees mean you should look for other career opportunities.
  • Can you keep your cool? To err is human. No one is ideal including you. Sometimes, a client may find your work unsatisfactory and let off their steam at you. If you can admit your mistake and work hard to improve your skills, the chance is you’ll make a good professional.

2. Complete a training course

You are not entitled to work as a hairstylist in the USA unless you have a high school diploma and have completed a program of study. There are several options:

  • You are still a high school student. Make inquiries as to whether your school offers the program you need. You can also look for vocational schools in your area that provide appropriate training.
  • You have finished high school. Search for a cosmetology school to obtain a diploma. The best way to find a suitable institution is to visit the website of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS).

While choosing a school, keep these points in mind:

  • Duration of the training program. The majority of schools offer courses that last from a year to two years.
  • Accreditation by the US Department of Education. If the school is accredited, you can be confident that it follows the federal guidelines. You will land a job faster with a diploma from a school that cooperates with the federal government.
  • Fees. Some schools can be more expensive than others. The cost of education may range from $6,500 to $10,000. Schools located in municipal areas charge more money from their students.
  • Program approval by the state. Find out if the training program at the school is approved by the state where you are going to work. Without this approval, you will not receive the state’s license.
  • Curriculum. Every school offers a combination of theory and practice. The courses you will normally see in a school’s curriculum include Permanent waving, Hair analysis, Sanitation and sterilization, Color methods, Relaxing, Hair cutting and shaping, Salon management, and others.


3. Obtain a license

The next step on your way to becoming a hairstylist is to claim a license from the state where you intend to conduct your professional activities. The license can be granted if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are 16 years of age or older.
  • You have completed a state-approved program at a cosmetology school.

Many states may also require you to take a written exam to test your theoretical knowledge. Expect to demonstrate to a state licensing board your practical hairdressing skills, too.

4. Find the first job as a hairstylist

Your newly obtained license gives you the right to start working as a hairdresser at last. There are several roads open to you now.

  • Work at a salon. Many people secure a place at the beauty salon where they practice during the training program. It’s a good idea to follow suit. In the beginning, it can be the job as a receptionist or shampooer, for example. If you are still looking for a vacancy, make sure you have the following things ready:
    • Well-written cover letter and resume.
    • Portfolio of your work. You can gradually build it by taking photos of your styles and cuts before and after your working sessions (with your clients’ consent). If you’ve had no “real clients” yet, ask your friends or family to let you do their hair.

    Send out your resume, cover letter, and portfolio to as many salons as you can. You can also make a list of salons in your area and tour them, showing your portfolio and CV.

  • Become a freelancer. This gives you certain advantages. You can set your own schedule and you don’t depend on anyone. That said, you are responsible for your appointments and marketing. You can lease a booth at a salon to serve your clients. According to some data, almost half of the US hairdressers are currently self-employed.
  • Open your own salon. That’s not something that suits everyone as it requires obtaining a business license. Besides, you need to be well-versed in management and marketing. You will also have to invest in new equipment and have already spent many hours doing your clients’ hair.

The path to becoming a hairstylist may seem steep at first glance. Believe us, though: it’s well worth it. You will be doing what you like, meeting new people, and giving them something really important. And here are some tips from a professional hairdresser to inspire you.

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