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How to Become a Hairstylist

If you're the go-to guy or gal for all things hair-related, possessing a passion for beauty and the latest hair trends and cutting and coloring techniques, you might find a hairstylist career is just your style.

Before you pursue the beauty route, though, take advantage of introductory hairstyling courses offered at your high school or local community center. You can also hone your hairstyling skills on family members and friends. Taking these preliminary steps will help prepare you for hairstyling school, which is the best place to learn how to become a hairstylist.

Go to Hairstyling School
You can typically finish hairstyling school in less than two years. You won't be unleashed on actual clients on the clinic floor right away, of course. First you'll complete a specified number of theoretical classroom hours, in which you'll learn more about how to become a hairstylist. You'll also practice your techniques on a mannequin head and take written and practical exams.

For practical hairstyling school exams, you will perform services such as haircutting, coloring, and perming on a human model. (Tell your model not to worry - chemical procedures for exams are strictly about application, with color imitated by shaving cream and perm solution by water!)

Get Your Hairstylist License
Once you complete the program, your hairstyling school will help you apply for the state board licensing exam, which typically includes written and practical components. A few states also require an oral exam in which you explain what you're doing during the practical test.

Hairstylist license requirements vary by state. Many states set a minimum requirement for high school education, such as two years of high school or a diploma or GED. Cosmetology education requirements average between 1,500 and 1,800 hours. Some states require additional licensing for areas of specialization - Virginia, for example, requires an additional license for hair braiding, extensions, and weaving.

Most states also require you to complete continuing education hours each year to maintain your hairstylist license and brush up on your skills. Visit the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology online to contact your state cosmetology licensing board and learn how to become a hairstylist in your state.  

Start Your Hairstylist Career
Once you earn your hairstylist license, look for a job in a salon you love, even if you have to start out as a shampooer or hair assistant. A portfolio of your work can come in handy when you're scouting salons.

When you get a job, seek out a mentor to show you the ropes and give you real-life lessons in the beauty industry. By apprenticing under an experienced stylist for a year or two, you'll develop your professional skills and learn the day-to-day operations of a salon.

Then you can begin building your book by networking, participating in hair shows, and donating your hairstyling services in exchange for other beauty services. And don't forget that the way you look is very important when it comes to attracting clients - because who wants to get their hair cut by someone sporting an outdated, frumpy style? Don't let your own appearance fall by the wayside while you're busy beautifying others.

Get your start at hairstyling school, where you'll learn how to become a hairstylist and make your unique mark in the world of beauty.

Disclaimer: This site is not connected with any government agency or the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office. If you would like to find more information about government funding please visit: