How to Become a Cosmetology Instructor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a cosmetology instructor. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information, and experience you will need to start a career in cosmetology instruction.

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Becoming a Cosmetology Instructor

Cosmetology instructors teach aspiring cosmetologists how to practice beauty techniques and applications for hair, nail, and skin care. The job entails preparing and teaching the material of a syllabus, mentoring and testing students, and grading students' work and exams. Cosmetology instructors may also be required to participate in school events and administrative meetings. Many hours may be spent standing, and working with chemicals often requires wearing protective clothing. These workers usually work in pleasant, well-lit environments.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Vocational training; certificate; or associate's degree
Degree Field Cosmetology
Licensure Active cosmetology license mandatory; cosmetology instructor's license sometimes required
Experience 2-5 years salon or cosmetology experience; prior teaching experience preferred
Key Skills Teaching ability; communication, interpersonal, presentation, multi-tasking, organization, and computer skills including word processing and data entry
Salary (2018) $53,120 (median annual salary for vocational teachers)

There are a few requirements to becoming a cosmetology instructor. First, many people in this position are required to complete a vocational training program, certificate program or associate's degree program in cosmetology. Active cosmetology licensure is mandatory and sometimes an additional cosmetology instructor's license is required. Cosmetology instructors often have 2-5 years of salon or cosmetology industry experience before they step into the instructor role. Prior teaching experience is also sometimes preferred.

To work as a cosmetology instructor, it is important to have certain key skills, such as teaching ability, communication skills, presentation skills, multi-tasking skills, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and computer skills, such as word processing and data entry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2018, vocational teachers in general earned a median annual wage of $53,120.

Let's back up a bit and go through the various steps needed to work in this field.

Cosmetology Training Programs

Cosmetology instructors often begin their careers as hairdressers, manicurists, or skin care consultants. A training program that fulfills state cosmetology board requirements for licensing must first be completed. Such programs may be found at local community colleges and vocational training schools, and they typically culminate in an associate's degree or certificate. Students receive instruction and hands-on experience with industry regulations and techniques, and they can also gain skills in salon management.

In order to successfully complete a program, students must typically complete the number of required classroom contact hours for state licensing exam eligibility. The number of hours varies by state and is determined by the cosmetology licensing board.

Pass a Cosmetology Licensing Exam

Once a cosmetology student has completed the required number of class hours at a community college or vocational school, he or she must pass a state examination to become licensed before seeking employment as a hair stylist, manicurist, or other specialized salon jobs. The exam typically includes a written section as well as a practical exam, where students must demonstrate their mastery of required skills.

Gain Salon Experience

Employers typically require cosmetology instructors to have 2-5 years of experience working as a cosmetologist, hairdresser, or in another related salon position. Cosmetology instructor training programs may also require a minimum amount of practical experience in the field prior to enrollment. Experience requirements vary widely by program.

Cosmetology Instructor Training School

Completion of a formal cosmetology instructor training program is required in some states but not in others; in certain states, experience alone is sufficient for becoming an instructor. However, even when it's not mandatory, completion of a formal training program can substitute for several years of practical experience, preparing new cosmetologists to become instructors more quickly. Formal instructor training programs are offered by beauty schools and select colleges and universities, and they train licensed cosmetologists to teach the art of barbering and cosmetology.

Topics of study include effective teaching methods, lesson planning, classroom management and test construction.

  • Gain basic computer skills. Aspiring instructors should learn basic word processing and data entry skills with software, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. These training programs typically last 1-2 years.

Pass a State Cosmetology Instructor License Exam

Some states require cosmetology instructors to pass a licensing exam in order to legally work as instructors. Examination fees and requirements vary by state but often require passing grades on written and performance sections.

Renew License and Certification

State cosmetology boards typically require continuing education to be completed annually for instructors to retain their certifications. Fees are charged for both new applications and renewals. Cosmetology licenses are usually only valid for 1-3 years from the date they are issued, and they must be renewed in order to continue employment as a practicing professional. Expiration limits, continuing education requirements, testing requirements, and renewal fees vary by state.

The requirements to become a cosmetology instructor vary by state but typically students must complete a cosmetology program and earn licensure and experience before becoming a cosmetology instructor. Additional cosmetology instructor training, licensure and experience, may be required.

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