Enroll in a Cosmetology School

Choosing a Beauty School

beautician with brideFinding a cosmetology school that is the right choice for your training and to prepare you for licensing can be a confusing process.  It is extremely important that you ask the right questions before making your final selection.  Your first question may be what is the difference between a cosmetology school and a beauty school?  Well, there really is no difference since the names are pretty much interchangeable.  Next, cost is always one of the major considerations, but it should not be the only one when making your decision.  Many potential students also tend to look at only the closest schools to their homes when researching options.  However, selecting the cheapest and the closest school is not necessarily the best choice for your education and future career goals.  After all, you want to become a licensed technician and a highly skilled cosmetologist, not just a graduate of any school.  So let’s review some of the additional questions that you should be asking before enrolling in a beauty college.  But first, just what is cosmetology?

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What is Cosmetology?

makeup school student with volunteerCosmetology refers to the profession that deals with cosmetics and their application to make the body more beautiful.  That is why some cosmetology schools are called beauty schools.  The use of the term cosmetics does not just have to do with makeup as is the common definition, but anything that can improve the appearance of a person’s hair, skin or nails.  Most people who work in this field are licensed by the state they work in and have gone through some form of specialized training.  Their work environments are diverse.  Some work in smaller salons or barber shops, others work in larger upscale salons or spas.  Some will start their careers working in their homes.  Others will establish a clientele first and then will either work out of their home, travel to the client’s home, or both.  Some of the specialties that a cosmetology college graduate may work in include:

  • Cosmetologist
  • Hair Stylist
  • Hair Color Specialist
  • Makeup Artist
  • Manicurist
  • Nail Technician/Artist
  • Esthetician
  • Electrolysis Technician
  • Barber
  • Salon Owner/Manager

In most states, anyone who works with another person’s hair, nails or skin must be licensed.  However in some states, only those who perform more skilled services are required to be licensed. Shampooers, as an example, work in the field of cosmetology and are licensed professionals in some states but unlicensed in others.

Questions to Ask Cosmetologist Schools

barber cutting hairBelow is a checklist of questions that you should ask before deciding on a cosmetology trade school.  As we have already discussed, the cost and location of the schools will be your first considerations.  The specialization that you want to focus your training on will also dictate which schools are possible choices.  But once you have narrowed down your options based on those factors, there are additional qualifiers that you need to investigate before making your final choice.  So let’s review them now so that you can compare schools and make a final selection before making your first tuition payment.

Is the Cosmetology School Accredited?  Accreditation is important to ensure that the beauty college you enroll in has met the high standards as set forth by the accrediting agency.  Make sure that the accreditation is by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, such as the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS).   It is not only important so that you receive the highest level of education and training, but is also necessary to qualify for most student loans or financial aid.  Some states require that you attend an accredited school in order to qualify for licensing.  Finally, attending an accredited tech school will be more attractive to potential employers that may not be inclined to hire graduates of a non-accredited school.

What is the School’s Reputation?  The cosmetology institute that you select should have an excellent reputation within the industry.  Ask the schools that you are considering to provide references from employers that they have referred their students to for job placement.  Also, find out what percentage of their students have been placed in jobs upon graduation (job placement rate).  Check online rating services as well as with their accrediting agencies to find out what the reviews are for each school.  You can also check with the {state} school licensing authority to find out if the schools are in full compliance or if there have been any complaints.  Finally, contacting some local salons and asking if management is familiar with the schools you are considering may give you some good feedback as well.

What Programs are Offered?  Schools that offer a full cosmetology program generally have training in hair styling, nail and skin care, the application of makeup, as well as related subjects.  Some beauty schools have a particular focus, such as in electrolysis or esthetics.  It is important that you choose a school that offers comprehensive training in your area of interest.  If your goal is to become a manicurist for example, make sure the program as well as the school are accredited and well regarded.  Choosing a top rated school that has a weak nail tech program obviously will not provide the training you are seeking.

How much Hands-on Practice will You Get?  The best way to learn is not by applying your techniques to dolls or mannequins, but rather to practice on another person.  Find out if your cosmetology classes provide real experience by teaching you to apply your beauty skills on people.  Many schools have in-house salons that provide volunteers for students to practice on.  To learn and master your new profession, it is important to receive as much hands-on practice as possible.  So look for beauty schools that provide this kind of training.

Is the Curriculum and Schedule Flexible?  Find out if the cosmetology institutes that you are considering offer flexibility within their programs.  Students should be able to advance at their own pace and focus on their preferred specialty once the core classes have been completed.  Also, make sure that the class schedules are accommodating to your needs.  If you can only attend beauty classes at night or on weekends near {city} due to your job or other obligations, make sure that classes are offered during those days and times.  If you can only attend part-time, make sure that the school you choose can accommodate that also.  And finally, find out what the policy is to make up classes should you miss any due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Does the School offer Job Placement Assistance?  Many cosmetology schools assist their students with job placement in salons after graduation and licensing.  These schools maintain close relationships with employers in the area that benefit by having trained professionals available for hiring.  Ask prospective schools for a list of salons and other businesses that they have relationships with for placing students.  Find out what their job placement rate is as well.  A high placement rate will be a good indication that their school and program is held in high esteem by industry employers.

Does the School Offer Financial Aid?  Many beauty academies offer financial aid options to their students.  Be sure to contact the financial aid department of the schools you are considering to find out what is available.  Some schools will also assist with obtaining student loans or grants.  Others that are members of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) have scholarship programs available to students as well.  So do not eliminate a school due to cost that meets your other requirements without first finding out what financial help may be available.

How Large are the Classes?  It’s important that you receive as much one-on-one instruction as possible which can be difficult in larger classes.  Find out from the tech schools what their teacher to student ratio is.  Ask if you can sit in on some of the training so that you can see how large the classes are.  Speak with some of the students and get their feedback regarding personalized instruction.  Finally, speak with some of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they hold.

Learn How to Choose a Cosmetology School

Enroll in the Right Cosmetology Trade School

Choosing the right cosmetology training program is an important first step toward a rewarding career in the beauty industry.  As we have discussed in this article, you should select a school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the cosmetology community.   And if you follow the above checklist for evaluating schools, you will be able to narrow down your options so that you can make the right choice.  With the proper training and experience, as well as hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed cosmetologist.

In the United States, whether planning to study cosmetology or specialize in a specific area, each state has different requirements that must be fulfilled before obtaining a license.

Cosmetologists are trained and licensed to perform cosmetic treatments to the hair, skin, and nails. This can be expanded into multiple parts including cutting and chemically treating hair, chemical hair removal without a sharp blade, fashion trends, wigs, nails and skin care, skin and hair analysis; relaxation techniques including head, neck, scalp, hand and feet basic massage and aroma therapies; plus ability to expertly apply makeup applications to cover or promote and can expand into further specialties such as reflexology; theatrical applications; cosmetics and others.

As a profession, cosmetology is predominantly female, most of whom are of reproductive age. There are more than one million women registered and licensed as cosmetologists in the United States and roughly several million more work as hairdressers. Among cosmetologists, hairdressers and nail technicians make up a large part of the working population.