If you love helping your friends get ready for a big night out or spending time experimenting with new hairstyles, a career in cosmetology might be perfect for you. The cosmetology industry has four main disciplines to choose from: barber, hairstylist, esthetician and manicurist, and certification is necessary to find employment. Each state operates its own board of cosmetology that sets the guidelines and requirements for certification, but all have a number of things in common.
In most states, certification requires you to satisfactorily complete a set number of hours of theory and practice at a licensed cosmetology school. The hour requirement varies depending on which certification you're obtaining and the state you live in. When researching cosmetology schools, make sure you choose one approved by your state's board of cosmetology. Cosmetology school teaches you what you need to know to break into the industry, such as haircutting techniques or acrylic nail application. You practice on mannequins before proving yourself worthy of working with clients.
In most states, earning your certification requires you to pass a two-part examination. The first part is a written test covering a wide range of topics including safety and state laws related to cosmetology. The second part is a practical test proving you can correctly care for clients, whether cutting their hair, doing their nails or waxing their eyebrows. If you fail either portion of the test, you have to retake the failed portion at a later date.
You must renew your certification on a regular basis, and your state laws will determine how often a renewal must take place. Contact your state’s board of cosmetology to schedule renewal testing well in advance of your certification expiring, or you risk being unable to work while the state processes your renewal. Many states require you to attend continuing education courses each year to renew certification, which also helps you stay up to date and current in new technologies and beauty trends.
Reciprocity agreements vary from one state to another. Before you pack your bags and move, consult with the new state's board of cosmetology to determine what you need to do to transfer your certification. If you have multiple years of experience in your specialty, transferring certification will probably be pretty straightforward. You still need to take the test on laws specific to your new state before receiving your transferred certification. In some cases, you can test and receive your transferred certification in the same day.