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How to Choose a Cosmetology School

Now that you know cosmetology is the career for you, you need to decide where you'll acquire the skills to succeed in the industry. With all the cosmetology schools out there, how do you know which one to choose, and where to start? (Tip: Start here.)

>> Pick your program.
First, pinpoint the specific facets of cosmetology that interest you, and make sure the cosmetology schools you're considering not only offer those programs, but excel in them. If you want to be a nail technician, for instance, only consider schools that boast a first-rate reputation in nail technology. If you're not sure which specialty is right for you, look for schools that offer full-service cosmetology programs so you can take classes in all areas before committing to a career niche.

>> Pay attention to reputation.
If a cosmetology school you're considering boasts "award-winning" programs, investigate those claims - you don't want to fall prey to marketing hype. One surefire way to verify a program's credentials is to check its accreditation status. Top-notch cosmetology schools and programs may be accredited by the National Accrediting Commission for Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Another way to determine the reputation of a cosmetology school is to learn about its career placement services. If a school's career placement rate is high, it's a sign that its graduates are in demand.

>> Don't skimp on quality.
Do the kinds of shampoo available in your cosmetology program really matter? You bet. If the mannequins are unrealistic, will that affect your training? Absolutely. Cosmetologists will only be as good as their models. The greater the variety of tools and products you're exposed to, the better prepared you'll be for life after cosmetology school. Experience with a wide variety of high-end, salon-quality products provides a critical foundation for a career in beauty.
>> Remember the "soft" skills.
All cosmetology schools offer some form of technical instruction in hair, nails, and skin. But knowing how to create a fabulous hairstyle will only take you so far. You also need the business savvy and interpersonal acuity to get clients in the door and keep them at your station. Some cosmetology schools just do a better job than others of preparing students for a real-world career in beauty. Examine the program curriculum, and determine how much time is devoted to the nontechnical (but essential) aspects of a cosmetology career.

In the end, you are responsible for your own career success. But training and connections from a top cosmetology school can provide the tools you need to chart your course in the beauty industry. Choose wisely!

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