Pretty brunette working as a hairdresser and cutting hair tips of a female customer in a beauty salon

How to Become a Hairdresser: A Brief Guide

Americans like being in hairy situations. More than 300,000 Americans work as hairdressers and cosmetologists.

This statistic may lead you to believe that beauty careers are easy to obtain. In reality, it requires years of training and experience for you to become a great hairdresser. But you can do it.

Where can you learn how to become a hairdresser? What do you need to do in order to get a hairdressing degree? What steps should you take to advance your career?

Answer these questions and you can start your journey in hairdressing. Here is your quick guide.

Go to Beauty School

In order to start your hairdressing career, you need to get a license from your state cosmetology board. Every state requires you to take classes on how to do hair for a living before you can get your license.

Most boards have a list of schools that you can take classes from. You can choose a vocational school or a community college and study for an associate’s degree.

Make sure you study a range of subjects in hairdressing. You should learn about hair cutting, texturizing, and color methods. You should also study hair and scalp disorders so you avoid spreading infections through a salon.

You are not required to take business classes, but you may want to if you’re interested in running your own salon. Try to take classes that help you learn about budgeting, marketing, and hiring employees.

Get a Hair Styling License

Besides taking hairdressing classes, you may need to meet a few other qualifications to get a license. Most states require you to have a high school diploma or GED. You do not need a bachelor’s degree, though it can help you advance your hairstylist career.

You also must be at least 16 years old. There is no maximum age for applicants.

Some states require you to take exams. You may have to answer multiple-choice questions about hairstyling principles. You then may need to perform a practical exam, showing how you use hairdressing techniques and keep things sanitized.

Do not rush studying for these exams. If you fail, your career may be delayed by months or years. Look over your materials carefully and take a few practice tests so you can assess your knowledge.

Build Work Experience

Once you have your license, you can start applying for hairdressing jobs. Yet you may struggle to find a job as a hairdresser because you don’t have experience.

Try to find a different job in a hair salon. You can work as a receptionist or a janitor. During your lunch break or after hours, you can work with the salon’s hairdressers to develop your styling skills.

You should also try applying for jobs in other settings. Many hotels and day spas offer hair styling services, and they may hire you, even without experience.

If you can’t find a paid job, you can look for apprenticeships. An apprenticeship is an unpaid position, but it lets you shadow a hairdresser and learn directly from them. You can work a side job so you can cover your expenses.

Receive Continuing Education

Whatever job you take, you need to continue your education. Some state boards require licensed hairdressers to take classes on the latest hairdressing techniques. Even if you are not required to do so, taking classes will keep your knowledge fresh.

You can take classes at the school where you got your degree. You may be able to receive an alumni discount, and you can train with your previous teachers.

Some professional organizations offer certificates in particular kinds of hairstyling. You can receive a certificate in hair extensions or hair dyes. Ask other hairdressers about these programs and see if they are a good fit for you.

Learning how to perform manicures and pedicures can let you appeal to more clients. Many people want their nails and hair done simultaneously. Take a few classes in cleaning and decorating fingernails and practice your skills on yourself.

Advance Your Career

You can take a few different career paths as a hairdresser. You can stay within one salon and build your clientele list over the years. Over enough time, you can become the head stylist in your salon.

You can also transition to the back end of the salon. You can become the salon manager, or you can open your own business.

Some stylists become teachers at community colleges or beauty schools. A few work for companies that produce hair products, becoming sales representatives or consultants. You can even become a hairstylist for movie and television productions.

You don’t have to decide right now what career path you want to take. You should spend time honing your skills and working with different clients.

But you should leave the doors open to multiple career paths. Try networking with the staffers at the best beauty salons so you can learn about openings at different locations.

Figure Out How to Become a Hairdresser

Learning how to become a hairdresser means learning about a few different things. You must pick a great cosmetology school and get a formal degree in hairdressing.

You then must receive a license from your state board. You may need to take exams that require months of studying.

You are not done once you get your license. You need to find a job with a salon and take advanced classes. Along the way, you should build your career by making connections.

The beauty industry is more than hairstyling. Read more guides to beauty by following our coverage.