Both hair stylist certificate programs and associate's degree in cosmetology programs prepare students for work as hair stylist associates who work in salons, spas and barber shops, where they provide haircuts, hair colorings, shampoos and more. Certificate programs require up to a year of study, while associate's degree programs take two years to complete. The latter includes general education and business courses in addition to cosmetology instruction. In both types of programs, students learn the basics of hair styling and gain hands-on experience in preparation for passing the state licensure exam.
Applicants for both programs must have a high school diploma or GED.
Certificate in Hair Styling
Hair styling certificate programs provide fundamental training in hair care. Students typically are trained in simulated salon environments, practicing hair styling techniques on local clients, volunteers, or fellow students. Students in hair styling certificate programs learn basic hair styling techniques through significant hands-on training. Courses include:
- Hair cutting, coloring, and styling
- Shampooing and conditioning
- Chemical texturing
- Interpersonal skills and salesmanship
- Ethics and laws in hair styling
- Safety and sanitation in hair styling
Associate Degree in Cosmetology
Associate's degree programs in cosmetology train students in hair styling, makeup artistry, and skin care. Most programs cover business skills, such as sales, management, and communications. Students learn through a combination of classroom study and hands-on training. Cosmetology students receive introductory training in preparation for careers in the personal appearance industry. Common courses include:
- Hair cutting, coloring, and styling
- Shampooing, rinsing and conditioning
- Manicures and pedicures
- Skin care and hair removal
- Safety and sanitation in cosmetology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Hair stylists, along with hairdressers and cosmetologists, held approximately 656,100 jobs in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Employment opportunities for hair stylists were expected to decline 2% between 2019 and 2029. One factor in this anticipated growth was the rise in popularity of advanced hair treatments, such as hair coloring. The median hourly wage for hair stylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists was $12.54, as reported in May 2019.
Popular Career Options
Graduates from cosmetology associate's degree programs are prepared for a variety of careers in the personal appearance industry. They can work in salons and spas or start their own businesses, performing roles such as the following:
- Hair stylist
- Cosmetic technician
- Salon manager
- Nail technician
- Makeup artist
Continuing Education Information
Hair stylists, cosmetologists and other personal appearance workers are required to be licensed in all states. Requirements for licensure vary, but often include at least a high school diploma or the equivalent, a minimum age of 16 and completion of a state-approved training program. In most states, an individual must take a written test and, often, an oral exam or practical test.
Programs in hair styling and cosmetology are not available beyond the associate's degree level. However, individuals interested in owning or managing their own business may pursue business, sales or marketing degrees at the bachelor's or master's levels.
As hair stylist associate's degree programs are not generally available, hair stylist students can choose from hair stylist certificate programs and associate's degree in cosmetology programs to further their education goals. Certificate programs take approximately a year to complete, while associate's degree programs are completed in two years and cover a broader range of topics.