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How to Become a Hairdresser

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

Are you passionate about hairstyling, fashion, and helping others look their best? If so, a career as a hairdresser might be the perfect fit for you. In this article, we’ll explore how to become a hairdresser, discussing the job responsibilities, skills required, career opportunities, and factors to consider when deciding if becoming a hairdresser is the right path for you.

Career Summary

Hairdresser Salary

Hairdresser Salary

Hairdresser salary can vary a lot. Your salary will depend not only on your level of skill and experience that you have, but also on the types of clients that you choose to work with.

According to Glassdoor, the most likely pay range of a hairdresser is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$41k)
  • Median Salary (US$63k)
  • Executive Salary (US$82k)

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary across all occupations in May 2022 is estimated at US$ 61,900. In comparison to this, the average salary of a hairdresser is considered mid-range

What does a Hairdresser do?

A hairdresser, also known as a hairstylist or barber, is someone who specializes in cutting, styling, and grooming hair. Other responsibilities of a hairdresser include coloring hair, providing treatments to improve the condition and health of hair, shampooing and massaging the scalp, and even facial grooming in some cases.

Hairdresser Career Progression

  • Salon Assistant: This is typically an entry-level position where you will assist senior stylists with tasks such as shampooing, sweeping, cleaning, and maintaining the salon’s overall appearance.
  • Junior Stylist: You will start taking on more responsibilities in cutting, styling, and coloring hair under the guidance of senior stylists. You will continue to learn and develop your skills while building a client base.
  • Stylist: You can be recognized as an independent stylist. You have the ability to work with clients directly, offering a range of services, including haircuts, styling, coloring, and treatments.
  • Senior Stylist: Senior stylists have a loyal clientele and are known for their skillful execution of various hair services. You may also take on additional responsibilities such as mentoring junior stylists and participating in creative projects.
  • Artistic Director/Creative Stylist: With a strong reputation in the industry you may progress to the role of an artistic director or creative stylist. You will work on fashion shows, and editorial shoots, and participate in hairdressing competitions.
  • Salon Manager/Owner: As a salon manager or owner, you will oversee the daily operations of the salon, manage staff, handle finances, marketing, and ensure excellent customer service.
Hairdresser 5 Steps to Career

Pros:

  • Creativity and Artistry
  • Building Relationships with Clients
  • Variety and Versatility
  • Flexible Working Hours
  • Positive Impact on Clients’ Confidence

Cons:

  • Physically Demanding Work
  • Irregular and Long Working Hours
  • Dealing with Difficult Clients
  • Salon Environment and Pressure
  • Limited Career Growth Opportunities

Useful Skills to Have as a Hairdresser

  • Creativity and Artistic Vision
  • Excellent Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Attention to Detail and Precision
  • Adaptability and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Time Management and Organizational Skills

Popular Hairdresser Specialties

  • Hair Coloring Specialist
  • Haircutting and Styling Specialist
  • Bridal and Special Occasion Stylist
  • Texture and Natural Hair Specialist
  • Men’s Grooming and Barbering Specialist

How to Become a Hairdresser

Hairdresser 5 Steps to Career

The specific steps to becoming a hairdresser can vary depending on the region and regulations in place. However, here are the common steps involved in pursuing a career as a hairdresser:

Step 1: Obtain Hairdressing Training

First, you need to enroll in a reputable cosmetology or hairdressing program. These programs are typically offered by vocational schools, community colleges, or specialized beauty academies.

The duration of the program can vary, but it often ranges from several months to one or two years. The curriculum usually covers theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and hands-on training in various hairdressing techniques, including cutting, styling, coloring, and salon management.

How Long Does it Take to Complete Hairdressing or Cosmetology Training?

The duration of a hairdressing or cosmetology program can vary depending on several factors, including the specific program, and whether it is a full-time or part-time program.

Here are some general guidelines for the duration of these programs:

  • Associate Degree Programs: Some institutions offer associate degree programs in cosmetology or related fields. These programs will generally take you around two years to complete and provide a more extensive education in hairdressing techniques, salon management, and additional coursework in areas such as business fundamentals or salon marketing.
  • Apprenticeship Programs: Apprenticeship programs are available for aspiring hairdressers in some states. These programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing you to learn while working under the guidance of experienced professionals. The duration of an apprenticeship can vary, but it typically ranges from one to three years.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Hairdresser?

In most cases, you do not need a traditional college degree to become a hairdresser. However, formal education and training are typically required to enter the field and obtain the necessary skills and qualifications.

The specific educational requirements can vary depending on your state and the licensing or certification regulations in place.

While a college degree is not mandatory, continuous education and skill development are essential for you to become successful in the hairdressing profession. Hair trends, techniques, and products are constantly evolving, so staying updated and attending workshops, seminars, and advanced training programs can help you stay competitive and excel in your career.

Can I Become a Hairdresser Through Online Education?

Becoming a hairdresser through online education alone is generally not common or widely recognized as a sufficient method of training in the field. Hairdressing is a practical hands-on profession that requires that you interact directly with clients, use tools and equipment, and the development of physical skills. While online education can provide theoretical knowledge and supplemental resources, it is typically insufficient to fully prepare individuals for a career as a hairdresser.

That being said, online education can still play a valuable role in the hairdressing profession. Many educational institutions and professional organizations offer online courses or modules that can complement in-person training or serve as continuing education resources for experienced hairdressers. These online resources can provide theoretical knowledge, demonstrations of techniques, and business-related topics that can enhance your skills and understanding of the field.

What Are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Hairdresser?

There are several web resources available that can provide you with valuable information and help you learn skills related to hairdressing. While online resources cannot replace practical hands-on training, they can complement your education and offer supplementary knowledge.

Here are some web resources you can explore:

  • Professional Hairdressing Websites: Many professional hairdressing organizations, brands, and educational institutions have websites that offer educational resources, articles, and tutorials. These websites often provide industry insights, trends, tips, and techniques from experienced professionals. Examples include the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), SalonCentric, and Behindthechair.com.
  • Online Courses and Training Programs: Some platforms offer online courses specifically designed for hairdressing education. These courses may cover various topics, including basic techniques, advanced cutting and coloring methods, specific styles, and salon management. Examples include Hairstyling Courses by Udemy, Hair Mastery, and ProProfs.
  • Beauty Blogs and Online Communities: There are numerous beauty blogs and online communities dedicated to hairdressing and related topics. These platforms often provide tips, tricks, product recommendations, and discussions among professionals and enthusiasts. Participating in these communities can help you learn from others, stay updated on trends, and get advice on specific challenges you may face.

Step 2: Fulfill Hairdressing Licensing or Certification Requirements

Check the licensing or certification requirements in your state. Depending on the regulations, you may need to pass an examination or meet specific criteria to obtain your hairdressing license or certification.

This typically involves demonstrating competency in both theoretical knowledge and practical skills through written and practical examinations.

What License is Required for Hairdressing in the United States?

In the United States, the specific license required for hairdressing can vary depending on the state and its regulatory requirements. Generally, if you want to become a hairdresser, you are required to obtain a cosmetology license or a specific hairdressing license to legally practice the profession.

Here are the main types of licenses you may encounter:

  • Cosmetology License: Many states require you to obtain a cosmetology license, which encompasses a broader range of beauty and salon services beyond hairdressing. Cosmetology programs typically cover hairdressing, skincare, nail care, and other beauty-related topics. Upon completing the required training and passing the state licensing examination, you will be eligible to work as a hairdresser.
  • Hairdressing License: Some states have separate licensing options specifically for hairdressers. These licenses may be known as hairstylist licenses, hair design licenses, or similar titles. Hairdressing licenses focus specifically on hair-related services and may have different educational requirements compared to a cosmetology license.

How to Obtain Your Cosmetology or Hairdressing License

To obtain a cosmetology or hairdressing license, the general steps often include:

  • Education and Training: Complete the required education and training from an accredited cosmetology school or program. The number of required training hours can vary by state, typically ranging from around 1,000 to 2,300 hours. The program should cover theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and hands-on training in hairdressing techniques.
  • State Licensing Examination: After completing the educational requirements, you must pass a state licensing examination. This examination typically consists of both a written theory portion and a practical demonstration of hairdressing skills. The examination is designed to assess your knowledge, technical abilities, and understanding of safety and sanitation practices.
  • License Application: Once you have successfully passed the licensing examination, you can apply for your cosmetology or hairdressing license. This typically involves submitting an application, paying the required fees, and providing any necessary documentation, such as proof of education and examination results.

Is the State Licensing Examination to Become a Hairdresser Difficult?

The difficulty level of the state licensing examination to become a hairdresser can vary depending on various factors, including your preparation, knowledge, skills, and the specific requirements set by the state licensing board.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Written Theory Portion: The written theory portion of the licensing examination typically tests your knowledge of hairdressing concepts, techniques, safety and sanitation practices, and relevant laws and regulations. This section may require you to answer multiple-choice or true/false questions. The difficulty level can vary based on the depth of knowledge required and the complexity of the questions.
  • Practical Demonstration: The practical demonstration portion of the examination assesses your ability to perform hairdressing techniques and skills. You may be required to demonstrate haircutting, styling, coloring, and other relevant procedures. The difficulty level can depend on the specific tasks assigned, the precision and accuracy required, and the time constraints given.
  • State-specific Requirements: It’s important to note that the difficulty level of the examination may also depend on the specific requirements set by the state licensing board. Some states may have more rigorous examination standards and higher passing thresholds than others. Familiarizing yourself with the examination content outline and any additional resources or study materials provided by the licensing board can help you understand what to expect and focus your preparation accordingly.

What is the Cost of the State Licensing Examination for Hairdressers?

The cost of the state licensing examination to become a hairdresser can vary depending on the state and the specific examination requirements. The fees associated with the licensing examination typically cover administrative costs, examination materials, and the evaluation process.

Here are some factors to consider regarding the cost:

  • Examination Fee: Each state sets its own fee for the licensing examination. The fee can vary significantly, ranging from around $50 to a few hundred dollars. It’s important to check with the licensing board or regulatory agency in your state to determine the exact examination fee.
  • Practical Examination Materials: In some cases, you may be required to bring your own supplies, tools, and mannequin heads for the practical portion of the examination. These materials can come at an additional cost. The specific requirements for practical examination materials should be outlined by the licensing board or examination provider.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience

While completing your education, seek opportunities to gain practical experience. Many programs offer internships or externships in salons, where you can work under the guidance of experienced professionals. This hands-on experience allows you to practice and refine your skills, understand salon operations, and gain exposure to real clients and their needs.

What are Internship Opportunities for a Hairdresser?

Internship opportunities for hairdressers can provide valuable hands-on experience and exposure to real-world salon environments. They allow you to learn from experienced professionals, refine your skills, and gain a deeper understanding of the industry.

Here are some common types of internship opportunities available if you are just starting out as a hairdresser:

  • Salon Internship/Apprenticeship: Many salons offer internship or apprenticeship programs where you can work directly under the guidance of experienced stylists. These programs provide practical training, allowing you to assist with client services, observe and learn different techniques, and gain familiarity with salon operations.
  • Editorial/Runway Internship: Some internships focus on the editorial or runway aspect of hairdressing. These opportunities may be available with fashion magazines, media production companies, or professional beauty teams working on photo shoots, fashion shows, or editorial spreads. If you become an intern in this field, you can learn about styling for specific themes or concepts, collaborate with photographers and stylists, and get exposure to the creative side of the industry.
  • Education/Training Center Internship: Some educational institutions or training centers have internship programs where you can assist educators, participate in workshops, or support training activities. These internships provide you with exposure to different teaching methodologies, curriculum development, and hands-on training techniques.
  • Bridal/Wedding Styling Internship: Bridal hair styling is a specialized field, and internships in this area can give you exposure to the unique requirements of bridal clients. Working with experienced bridal stylists, you can learn about creating intricate updos, working with different hair accessories, and managing time-sensitive appointments.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Hairdresser?

As a hairdresser, you will learn a range of skills that are essential for providing quality hairdressing services to clients. These skills encompass both technical abilities and interpersonal competencies.

Here are some key skills you can expect to learn and develop as a hairdresser:

  • Hair Cutting: You will learn various cutting techniques, including using scissors, razors, and clippers. This involves understanding different haircut styles, angles, and layering techniques to create desired shapes and textures.
  • Hair Styling: Styling skills involve blow-drying, curling, straightening, and setting hair using various tools and products. You will learn techniques to achieve different hairstyles, updos, braids, and intricate designs.
  • Hair Coloring: Hair color skills encompass understanding different hair color formulations and techniques such as highlighting, balayage, ombre, and color correction. You will learn to assess clients’ hair, choose suitable colors, apply color products, and maintain color integrity.
  • Chemical Treatments: You will learn about chemical treatments like perms, relaxers, and keratin treatments. This includes understanding the chemical processes involved, performing strand tests, and ensuring proper application and timing.
  • Scalp and Hair Health: Knowledge of scalp and hair health is essential for hairdressers. You will learn to assess scalp conditions, recommend appropriate treatments, and educate clients on maintaining healthy hair and scalp through proper care and product usage.
  • Client Consultation: Effective client consultation skills are crucial for understanding clients’ desires, analyzing hair condition, and offering suitable recommendations. You will learn to communicate with clients, ask relevant questions, and provide guidance on suitable hairstyles and treatments.
  • Communication and Customer Service: As a hairdresser, you will interact with clients regularly. Developing strong communication and customer service skills is important for building rapport, understanding clients’ needs, managing expectations, and delivering a positive salon experience.
  • Time Management: Hairdressers often work with multiple clients and need to manage their time efficiently. You will learn to schedule appointments, allocate appropriate time for each service, and ensure a smooth flow of clients throughout the day.
  • Sanitation and Safety: Maintaining proper sanitation and safety standards is crucial in a salon environment. You will learn about hygiene practices, sterilization techniques, and safety protocols to ensure a clean and safe working environment for both clients and professionals.

Step 4: Build a Portfolio and Clientele

As you gain experience and confidence, start building a portfolio of your work. Document your best hairstyles, color transformations, and styling techniques to showcase your skills to potential employers or clients. Additionally, focus on building a loyal clientele by providing excellent customer service, maintaining professionalism, and delivering satisfying results.

Step 5: Continuing Education and Skill Development

Hairdressing is a constantly evolving field, with new techniques, products, and trends emerging regularly. It’s important to stay updated and continue learning throughout your career. Attend workshops, seminars, and advanced training programs to expand your knowledge and enhance your skills. This ongoing education helps you stay competitive and offers opportunities for specialization in specific areas of hairdressing.

What’s the Career Outlook for Hairdresser?

The career outlook for hairdressers in the USA is generally positive, with steady growth expected in the coming years.

According to the BLS, employment of hairdressers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists was projected to grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by an increasing population, the demand for hair care services, and the importance of personal appearance to individuals.

Hairdresser Popular Career Specialties

What Are the Job Opportunities of a Hairdresser?

Hairdressers have a range of job opportunities within the beauty and salon industry.

Here are some common job roles and career paths that you may consider as a hairdresser:

  • Salon Stylist/Hairdresser
  • Salon Manager/Owner
  • Educator/Trainer
  • Platform/Editorial Stylist
  • Product Sales Representative
  • Bridal/Wedding Stylist
  • Celebrity or Personal Stylist
  • Independent Freelancer

What Type of Companies Hire a Hairdresser?

As a hairdresser, you can find employment opportunities in various types of companies and establishments within the beauty and salon industry.

Here are some common types of companies that hire hairdressers:

  • Hair Salons: Hair salons of all sizes, ranging from small independent salons to large chain salons, are the primary employers of hairdressers. These salons offer a wide range of hair services, including cutting, styling, coloring, and treatments.
  • Beauty Salons: Beauty salons often provide a broader range of services beyond just hair care. In beauty salons, you may offer hair, makeup, nail, and skincare services. You may also collaborate with other beauty professionals to provide comprehensive beauty services to clients.
  • Spa and Wellness Centers: Some spas and wellness centers have hairdressing services as part of their offerings. If you are hired by one of these establishments, you may provide hair care services with a focus on relaxation and rejuvenation, complementing the overall spa experience.
  • Bridal and Wedding Companies: Bridal and wedding companies often employ hairdressers specializing in bridal hair styling. These companies offer hair services for brides, bridesmaids, and other members of the wedding party.
  • Fashion and Entertainment Industry: Hairdressers may find employment opportunities in the fashion, entertainment, and media industries. Fashion companies, modeling agencies, film production companies, and television networks may hire you to style hair for fashion shows, photo shoots, editorial spreads, movies, TV shows, and other creative projects.
  • Product Companies: Hair care and beauty product companies hire hairdressers as brand ambassadors, educators, or product development specialists. You may demonstrate product usage, conduct training sessions for salon professionals, provide feedback on product formulations, or participate in marketing and promotional activities.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Hairdresser?

Your work-life balance as a hairdresser can vary depending on various factors, including the salon’s operating hours, your schedule preferences, and your level of experience or seniority in the industry.

Here are some considerations regarding work-life balance for hairdressers:

  • Flexible Scheduling: Many salons offer flexible scheduling options, allowing you to choose full-time or part-time hours based on your availability and personal preferences. This flexibility can provide opportunities for better work-life balance, especially if you value having control over their schedule.
  • Evening and Weekend Work: Hairdressing often involves working during evenings and weekends, as these are typically high-demand periods when clients are available for appointments. This can impact your work-life balance, particularly if you prefer traditional weekday schedules or have commitments during those times. However, some hairdressers may appreciate the flexibility of having weekdays off while working during peak client times.
  • Self-Employment and Freelancing: You may choose to work as a self-employed professional or freelancer. This path offers you greater control over scheduling, allowing you to determine your own hours and prioritize work-life balance according to your preferences. However, self-employment also brings additional responsibilities, such as managing bookings, marketing, and financial aspects of the business.

Should I become a Hairdresser?

The decision to become a hairdresser is a personal one that requires careful consideration. By exploring the various aspects of a career in hairdressing, we have gained insight into the profession’s opportunities and challenges.

Becoming a hairdresser can be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice if you have a passion for hairstyling, creativity, and a desire to help people look and feel their best. The profession offers a range of job opportunities, from working in salons to exploring specialties like bridal styling, editorial work, or even running your own salon. The demand for skilled hairdressers remains steady, with positive job growth projected in the industry.

However, it’s essential to consider the practical aspects as well. Hairdressing requires continuous learning and honing of technical skills, staying updated with industry trends, and keeping up with the physical demands of the job. You may often work flexible hours, including evenings and weekends, which may affect your work-life balance. Additionally, building a clientele and establishing yourself in the industry may take time and effort.

To determine if hairdressing is the right career path for you, reflect on your interests, strengths, and goals. Consider if you enjoy working with people, have a keen eye for aesthetics, and are willing to invest in ongoing education and professional development. Shadowing or interning at a salon can provide valuable firsthand experience and help you gauge your enthusiasm for the field.

Careers Related to Hairdresser


Lace Brunsden

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