Make Up Artist: Education Requirements & Career Summary

Oct 20, 2021

Makeup Artist Career Information

A career as a makeup artist may be ideal for an artistic individual who wants to do special effects and prosthetics for film, theater, or television, or to improve someone's appearance. Most makeup artists complete a cosmetology or related program, where they can obtain the skills they'll need. Theater degree programs are another option for aspiring makeup artists since they typically include stage makeup courses. Makeup artists who are also cosmetologists must be licensed in all states. Some work for big production companies, while many work freelance.

Required Education Associate's degree or training program in cosmetology is typical; bachelor's degree in theater is another option
Licensure Required for cosmetologists in all states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for makeup artists, theatrical and performance
Average Salary (2018)* $72,030 for makeup artists, theatrical and performance

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Makeup Artist Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most beauty professionals complete formal training through programs that require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. All states require cosmetologists and makeup artists to have a state license, especially when they also work with hair. Licensing requirements vary for each state.

Cosmetology Program

Makeup artists can receive professional training through a cosmetology associate's degree program offered at a community college. Some cosmetology programs are offered online. Cosmetology students learn a broad range of beauty services including makeup application, hair cutting and styling, skincare treatments, and nail care. Students also learn state regulations, sanitation, bacteriology, and business skills. More concise programs, without general education stipulation, are prominently available through privately owned beauty schools.

Theater Degree

Those who aspire to work as makeup artists for film and theater can earn a bachelor's degree in theater. Many of these programs incorporate makeup into the curriculum, and some offer concentrations in makeup. Students learn basic makeup application, special effects (like wounds and aging) and corrective makeup. Students may put their knowledge to the test during school productions. Distance learning programs in theater are also available.

Makeup Artist Career Path

Job Description

Makeup artists start by discussing and planning the clients' desired result. They may directly apply makeup to models and actors or work with a team who helps implement the look. In some cases, the talent may be taught to apply some of the product on their own face and body as well.


Makeup artists analyze the skin to figure what type it is and to study the face's natural curves and shape. They prep the skin for makeup application by cleansing and moisturizing to prevent any adverse reactions. Using various cosmetic substances like powders, creams, gloss, and lipstick, makeup artists create the client's preferred results.

For clients who are actors, makeup artists use makeup to transform them into a different character. Makeup is used to age someone, make them a different race, create mock-up wounds, and create other special effects. Wigs, false eyelashes, and prosthetics are also used by makeup artists. Theatrical makeup artists sometimes research time periods and settings, read scripts, and consult with directors to ensure the makeup is appropriate for the character.

Outlook & Salary

Performance and theatrical makeup artist jobs are expected to grow 7% between 2018 and 2028, or faster than average, according to the BLS. For comparison, cosmetologist, hairdresser, and hairstylist jobs are expected to increase 8% between 2018 and 2028.

In May 2018, theatrical and performance makeup artists brought home an annual mean income of $72,030, stated the BLS. The same source revealed that cosmetologists earned an annual mean income of $30,190 in 2018.

Makeup artists get to transform somebody to look like a monster, give them an extra touch of beauty, or age their skin twenty years. Makeup artists generally must complete a cosmetology training program and become licensed in order to work, and makeup artists for film and theater often hold college degrees.

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