If you have a passion for beauty, a creative spirit and love working for yourself, cosmetology could be the perfect career for you!
Of course, we know these aren’t the only factors in deciding to start beauty school. Whether cosmetology school is worth it for you can also depend on the school’s price, how much earning potential you have after school and how a job in cosmetology can benefit you.
In this blog, we’ll explore whether cosmetology school is worth it from a price perspective, look at what makes a successful stylist, explore some pros and cons of the industry and include thoughts from current beauty pros to help you decide.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- How much does cosmetology school cost?
- How long does it take to become a cosmetologist?
- How much do cosmetologists make?
- How long does paying back cosmetology school loans take?
- Pros of becoming a cosmetologist
- Cons of becoming a cosmetologist
- Bottom line: Is cosmetology school worth it for you?
How much does cosmetology school cost?
One of the first steps in deciding whether or not becoming a cosmetologist will be worth it to you is understanding how much cosmetology school costs. Education is an investment in your future, and — like any investment — knowing the terms before committing is important.
Fortunately, cosmetology school should cost far less than going to a traditional college. Students spend between $15k – $20k earning their license, which includes:
- School tuition: $14,480
- Your cosmetology kit: $1,740
- Licensing fees: $58
For a four-year degree at a traditional U.S. college, you’ll pay an average of $63,780 — and that’s just for tuition. Books and supplies cost another $1,226 per year on average.
How long does it take to become a cosmetologist?
Price is just one measure of cost. It’s also important to know how much time you’ll be spending by choosing to become a cosmetologist. This includes the time spent in school and time growing your clientele.
- Length of school: In the U.S., cosmetology school averages between 1,400 and 1,600 hours, which students can usually complete in 1-2 years.
- How long it takes to be successful: Licensed cosmetologists who report having a successful career take an average of six years to achieve their success.
“I’m 10 years in the industry. With patience and perseverance, you can make really good money…I love my career, but it’s not gonna be an overnight thing. It’s many years of hard work to get to a place where you’re super in control of your job and income.” – Hair stylist
While you can become a cosmetologist in as little as one year, you may be wise to plan for several years of building your business after graduation to have the successful career you dream of!
How much do cosmetologists make?
Now that you have a good understanding of the costs involved in pursuing cosmetology, it’s time to learn what you can make!
Getting an accurate picture of how much cosmetologists make can be difficult. Many cosmetologists work less than full time and also receive significant income from cash payments or tips. This can skew reported wages to appear much lower than they actually are.
With this in mind, a study by Qnity found that cosmetologists make an average of $54,307 when working 27.8 hours a week. Adjusted for a 40-hour work week, this would amount to $79,807. However, many stylists make even more!
“I specialize in blondes…I make over 100k a year and I work three days a week. Very worth it in my opinion!” – Hair stylist
Wondering how much you could make straight out of school? Here’s how much the study found stylists make by years in the salon:
While these are averages, remember that many cosmetologists are their own bosses, which means they can set their prices. As a cosmetologist, your earning potential is ultimately up to you!
How long does paying back cosmetology school loans take?
One beauty school question we hear aspiring cosmetologists ask over and over is how to pay for school. If cosmetology school sounds like your dream, but you aren’t sure how to finance it, you may be eligible to use financial aid — many students do.
On the other hand, the average student at a four-year college will take out $36,600 in student loan debts, which can take around 7-12 years to pay back.
To keep your loan payback time even shorter, don’t forget to apply for cosmetology school scholarships, like the Milady RISE scholarship!
Pros of becoming a cosmetologist
While it’s important to consider the financial aspect of starting beauty school, this shouldn’t be the only factor when making your choice. You should also think about what else a career in cosmetology can offer you. Here are just a few reasons you may love life as a cosmetologist.
Working as a cosmetologist can provide a huge amount of flexibility. One fact about cosmetology that may surprise you is that the average cosmetologist makes a full-time salary on a part-time schedule.
Additionally, about one-third of cosmetologists are self-employed. This means they can set their own schedules, prices, services and more. As a cosmetologist, you can be your own boss and allow your business to be as flexible as you want.
“I grew up with my hair stylist…She’s in a really nice salon suite, and she said she makes great money. She also only works the schedule she wants, which is Wednesday through Saturday. She loves what she does, [and] she’s really happy with her career. She worked really hard to get where she is now, but she’s literally living her dream.” – Retail worker
It’s a misconception that most salons don’t offer benefits like 401(k)s or health insurance. In fact, over half of salons offer benefits you might see in a corporate job like:
- Health insurance
- Dental insurance
- 401(k)s – with or without an employer match
Additionally, many salons offer employees discounts on products and services for them, their family and their friends. A cosmetologist license can also get you wholesale prices on many other products.
Making a difference
As a cosmetologist, you will also have a unique opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. You can be their safe space, a friend to talk to and the one who helps them feel more beautiful and confident.
“It can take time to build up a clientele, but I love doing hair and wouldn’t want to do anything else. I make my own schedule, and I get paid to make my friends feel pretty.” – Hair stylist
Plus, with the Milady RISE Certification in Client Well-Being & Safety, you can receive training in crucial areas, like:
- Human trafficking awareness
- Domestic abuse awareness
- Practical infection control
With a career in beauty, you really can make an impact on the world.
Cons of becoming a cosmetologist
Cosmetology can be a rewarding career. However, like any career, it has its drawbacks. Being aware of things that may be difficult in the future can help you decide if cosmetology is right for you.
Physically taxing at times
One drawback of becoming a cosmetologist is that it can be hard on your body. This career is very active — you can plan to be standing and walking for most of your day. Additionally, working as a hair stylist can be especially difficult on your hands and wrists if you don’t maintain proper posture when cutting and styling hair — so try to form good habits in school!
Building a clientele can take time
Another aspect of cosmetology that some find difficult is the time it takes to build up a clientele. On average, stylists spend six years honing their skills and building a clientele until they feel successful in the industry. Some do it in less time, but planning for a few years of building your books is typically a good mindset when entering cosmetology school.
“It is fun, and you make great money. It only gets better with time. I’d say give a solid five years behind the chair, and you’ll be making good money and confident in your craft.” – Hair stylist
The good news is that after a few years of hard work to gain a clientele, many stylists report feeling like they are working their dream careers.
With safe handling, salon products shouldn’t have any negative health consequences for the stylist. However, stylists work with harsh chemicals daily, and improper handling can lead to health and safety issues.
For example, if you forget to wear gloves when washing the lightener or bleach from your client’s hair in the shampoo bowl, you may get chemical burns on your hands. You can also irritate your eyes if you forget to wear protective glasses during a Brazilian Blowout.
Luckily, one thing you’ll learn in cosmetology school is proper safety and sanitation procedures to keep you and your client safe.
Bottom line: Is cosmetology school worth it for you?
If you have a passion for beauty, want to help others and have the discipline to build your clientele over a few years, cosmetology school may be worth it for you! This career can provide you with a flexible schedule, good pay and the opportunity to be your own boss.
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Milady is on a mission to prove that a career in the beauty industry can lead to professional success and personal fulfillment. Our job is to create forward-thinking education that reshapes the industry and uplifts the next generation of beauty professionals. Let’s change the face of beauty. Learn more about Milady, here.