How to Become a Hairstylist: Essential Steps and Expert Tips

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By Jacob Maslow

Entering the world of hairstyling can be an exciting and rewarding career choice. As a hairstylist, you can transform your client’s appearance and boost their confidence while using your creativity and passion for hair. This field allows for continuous growth, learning, and specialization in various techniques and treatments.

Becoming a successful hairstylist requires dedication and an investment in your education and skills. It’s crucial to obtain proper training, acquire relevant certifications, and remain current with industry trends. As with any career, hairdressers may face challenges and uncertainties, but they can be overcome by acquiring the necessary knowledge and honing their core hairstyling skills.

Key Takeaways

  • A career in hairstyling requires proper training and education.
  • Obtaining relevant licenses and certifications is crucial.
  • Continuously developing core hairstyling skills ensures success in the field.

Training and Education

Cosmetology School

Enrolling in a cosmetology school is the first step to beginning a career as a hairstylist. These schools offer comprehensive programs that cover hair cutting, coloring, styling, and other important skills. During their time in a cosmetology program, students can build a strong foundation, allowing them to become confident and knowledgeable hairstylists. Many programs even include hands-on instruction so students get the practical experience they need to excel.

High School Diploma or GED

Before diving into cosmetology, aspiring hairstylists should obtain a high school diploma or GED. This basic level of education provides a solid starting point for further studies in the field. Many cosmetology schools require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll in their programs, so it’s wise to check this requirement off the list early on.


An apprenticeship is sometimes an alternative path for those looking to become hairstylists. Choosing this route allows individuals to learn the trade while working alongside experienced professionals in a salon. This hands-on training program offers invaluable real-world experience and exposure to the salon environment. However, it’s important to note that not all states recognize apprenticeships as a legitimate path to licensure, so research the regulations in your specific area before pursuing this option.

Continuing Education

Once a hairstylist is licensed, the learning doesn’t stop there. Continuing education is crucial to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of hair trends and techniques. Many licensed professionals attend workshops, seminars, and classes to broaden their skills and stay up-to-date with industry developments. Some states even require hairstylists to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain their licensure.

The road to becoming a hairstylist involves various steps, each providing the essential knowledge and experience needed to excel in the world of cosmetology. Individuals can build a thriving and fulfilling career in this creative and dynamic field by pursuing a combination of formal education, apprenticeships, and ongoing learning.

Licensing and Certification

Requirements and Process

To become a hairstylist, one must obtain a license by meeting specific requirements and completing the process. Generally, this includes attending an accredited cosmetology school and completing the required hours of training. Once the training is finished, it’s time to prepare for the big day: the state licensing exam!

Practical and Written Exam

The licensing exam generally consists of the practical and the written exam. In the practical exam, aspiring hairstylists must demonstrate their skills by performing various hair services on a mannequin or live model. It’s essential to be well-prepared and show off those snazzy techniques! The written exam, on the other hand, will test your knowledge of theory, sanitation, and safety practices. Study hard and pay attention to the state’s regulations – they may appear on the test.

State-Specific Regulations

Each state has unique hairstyling regulations, so it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the rules in your area. Some states require hairstylists to complete continuing education courses to maintain their licenses. In contrast, others have reciprocity agreements with neighboring states to ease the process for licensed hairstylists moving to a new location. Keep an eye on your state board’s website for updates and requirements.

Certifications for Different Services

In addition to a basic hairstylist license, some professionals pursue certifications in specific services, like hair coloring, extensions, or even hair restoration. These certifications – offered by various industry organizations and product manufacturers – showcase expertise in specific areas and can help hairstylists stand out in the ever-growing sea of talent. Remember, acquiring new skills and staying ahead of trends is key in this dynamic industry!

So there you have it! With dedication, determination, and a passion for all things hair, you’re well on your way to acquiring that hairstylist license and embarking on a rewarding journey in the world of hairstyling. Break a leg, and most importantly, have fun with it!

Core Hairstyling Skills

Cutting and Coloring Techniques

A talented hairstylist knows mastering cutting and coloring techniques is essential to creating show-stopping styles. They’re skilled in various cuts, from classic bobs to fashionable, edgy looks, and always stay on top of the latest trends. Furthermore, hairstylists have a keen eye for color, choosing complementary tones and artfully applying vibrant shades. They can offer clients innovative coloring techniques like balayage, ombre, and color melting by staying abreast of industry advancements.

Styling Hair for Different Occasions

Special occasions call for unique hairstyles. A well-rounded hairstylist is adept at crafting stunning styles for events such as weddings, proms, and red-carpet affairs. They know when to opt for elegant updos or flowing romantic curls and are proficient in braiding techniques. By carefully listening to client’s needs and preferences, hairstylists ensure that their creations suit the occasion and enhance their clients’ natural beauty.

Nail and Skin Care Services

Some hairstylists go the extra mile by offering nail and skin care services. This holistic approach particularly appeals to clients seeking a “one-stop” beauty destination. For nails, hairstylists might provide manicures, pedicures, and nail art services. Meanwhile, in skin care, facials, exfoliation, and other rejuvenating treatments can be offered. By developing expertise in these areas, hairstylists broaden their repertoire and elevate their clients’ overall beauty experience.

Makeup Application

Makeup application is another valuable skill in a hairstylist’s arsenal. With an eye for color and a steady hand, they can create stunning makeup looks for various occasions. From subtle daytime looks to dramatic evening glamour, skillful hairstylists can bring out their clients’ best features using foundation, contouring, eye makeup, and lip color. By embracing makeup application as part of their skill set, hairstylists can truly transform their clients’ appearance from head to toe.

Tips for a Successful Career

Developing and Refining Skills

Hairstyling is an ever-evolving craft, so staying ahead of the curve is important. Aspiring hairstylists should take advantage of workshops and seminars to refine and acquire new skills. With a commitment to continuous learning, hairstylists can elevate their artistry and easily keep up with industry trends.


Establishing relationships with other professionals is another way to empower your career. Hairstylists can form valuable connections through networking events, online forums, social media platforms, etc. These connections can provide references and even job opportunities that may have been missed. Additionally, sharing experiences and ideas with like-minded individuals helps hairstylists broaden their perspectives and grow as professionals.

Marketing Your Services

Word-of-mouth and effective marketing strategies are essential for a successful career. Educating potential clients about your services through digital channels, print materials, or in-person meetings can help boost your business. Make sure to include professional images of your work – this will showcase your talent and attract more customers! Additionally, promotional discounts or rewards programs can incentivize existing clients to refer new ones.

What We Like and Dislike About this Business

The hairstyling industry allows creative professionals to express their artistry, hone their skills, and engage with clients. It can be incredibly rewarding to witness a client’s transformation-especially when you have been instrumental in making them look and feel beautiful! Additionally, staying up-to-date on trends and techniques allows hairstylists to stay competitive in an ever-growing sector.

Unfortunately, diverse expertise among professionals can make it difficult for established hairstylists to stand out. Plus, with more people entering the field due to its relatively low barrier of entry – competition is becoming increasingly fierce. Keeping up with regulations and acquiring additional certifications also require time and dedication, which might be taxing for some hairstylists.

Overall, the hairstyling industry is an exciting and rewarding field for creative professionals looking to impact their clients’ lives positively. With dedication, drive, and a commitment to continuous learning – any aspiring hairstylist can become successful in this dynamic sector! Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the required education for a hairstylist?

When it comes to becoming a hairstylist, the educational requirements can vary. Typically, one needs a high school diploma or GED followed by an accredited cosmetology program completion. In the program, aspiring hairstylists delve into various techniques, styles, and color theory. Afterward, state licensure exams must be taken–a process usually entails both a written and practical examination.

How long does hairstylist training take?

Hairstylist training duration depends on the specific program and individual progress. Generally, these programs last from 9 months to 2 years–with part-time and full-time options available. Some candidates may also pursue online or apprenticeship-based training, which can offer added flexibility.

What are the essential skills for a hairstylist?

To excel as a hairstylist, one needs a versatile skillset. Creativity and instincts for style trends are crucial, as is the ability to actively listen to clients’ preferences and concerns. Excellent communication and people skills are vital, along with attention to detail, dexterity, and ample patience. The mastery of various styling tools and techniques solidifies their expertise.

What is the average salary of a hairstylist?

The average salary of a hairstylist can vary depending on factors like location, experience, and clientele. As of 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual wage of around $30,000 for hairstylists. This figure may be higher in affluent areas or for those with a more extensive client base.

How do I start a hairstylist career?

Embarking on a hairstylist career typically begins with enrolling in an accredited cosmetology program. Once the program is completed, one must obtain a state license to practice. With a license in hand, job hunting begins, with positions available in various settings such as salons, spas, hotels, and even cruise ships. Networking and building a clientele base are essential in achieving long-term success.

What is the cost of hairstylist training?

The cost of hairstylist training can vary significantly based on factors like program type, school location, and textbook fees. On average, though, expect to invest between $5,000 to $20,000 toward a cosmetology program. Remember that financial aid, educational loans, and scholarship options may be available to help offset these expenses.

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