Cosmetologist Job Description

Cosmetologists play a primary role in the beauty industry. They provide clients with hair design, nail, and makeup services. This includes styling and cutting hair, administering manicures and facials, and applying and removing makeup. Some cosmetologists might offer hair waxing, skin care, laser hair removal, and even massage therapy. Cosmetologists are also responsible for cleaning and maintaining hair and skin care tools, keeping inventory of hair and skin products, scheduling appointments, processing client payments, and demonstrating the use of products. Cosmetologists often work for beauty salons and resorts, but many are self-employed.


Cosmetologist Duties and Responsibilities

In the course of providing services to their clients, cosmetologists perform various tasks throughout their workday. These are some of their most common responsibilities:

Style and Cut Hair

Providing hair services is one of the main responsibilities of cosmetologists. They cut, trim, and color hair, and also administer various types of hair designs, including perms. Cosmetologists are knowledgeable about the most recent styles and possess the ability to give clients hair designs based on these latest trends.

Provide Skin and Nail Care

Cosmetologists typically perform manicures and apply nail polish and designs to clients’ nails. They are also adept at applying lotions and waxes to faces and other body areas to remove hair and help clients achieve softer, firmer skin. Cosmetologists might apply body wraps or perform massages.

Handle Clerical Duties

Cosmetologists working in salons are usually responsible for scheduling and canceling appointments and processing client payments. They also ensure that the front counter and work areas are cleaned. In addition, they clean and maintain all hair styling and skin care tools, such as dryers and trimmers.


Cosmetologist Skills and Qualifications

Cosmetologists are detail-oriented, self-motivated team players who easily demonstrate enthusiasm and friendliness. It’s important for cosmetologists to show the following abilities:

  • Customer service – cosmetologists build comfortable relationships with their clients, listening carefully to their requests or concerns
  • Manual dexterity – excellent hand-eye coordination is needed to safely handle small, sharp cosmetic tools and smoothly apply makeup and polish
  • Stamina – not only do cosmetologists spend hours on their feet, but they also have the mental and emotional durability to attentively listen to the stories of every client they see
  • Adaptability – cosmetic styles are in constant flux, so cosmetologists must stay on top of the latest industry and cultural trends
  • Perception – a good cosmetologist knows what colors work best with which skin tones and complexions, as well as which haircuts and styles best flatter a client’s face and lifestyle
  • Creativity – applying makeup, painting nails, and cutting hair all require a creative flair, as does brainstorming new ways to perform these services


Cosmetologist Tools of the Trade

Cosmetologists use many tools throughout their workday. If you have the desire to become a cosmetologist, you should be familiar with the following:

  • Hair cutting and styling tools (such as hair dryers, electric trimmers, and scissors)
  • Beauty tools (from makeup sponges and brushes to nail files and clippers)
  • Hair removal systems (such as tweezers, waxes, and lasers)
  • Microsoft Office (especially Word and Outlook, for corresponding with clients and other professionals)


Cosmetologist Education and Training

While no formal degree is required to become a cosmetologist, these professionals should complete a training program at a vocational, technical, or community college, or from a cosmetology school. Successful completion of an accredited training program is often a prerequisite for obtaining the licensure needed to work as a cosmetologist. A license to perform cosmetology tasks, such as cutting and styling hair and administering hair removal treatments, is required in all states.


Cosmetologist Salary and Outlook

According to figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cosmetologists earn a median annual salary of $24,260. Those in the lowest 10th percentile make $17,930 annually, while top earners realize yearly salaries of $49,050. Cosmetologists earning the highest mean annual wages in the U.S. tend live in northeastern and West Coast states, led by District of Columbia ($43,630), Washington ($38,160), and Hawaii ($38,080).

The BLS expects 11 percent job growth for cosmetologists by 2026. Continued trends in hair care and styling, plus climbing demand for these services, play a major part in this projected growth rate. Competition is expected to rise at higher-paying salons, due to increased demand and the scarcity of these types of salons as compared to others in the field.


Helpful Resources

These additional resources can help you decide if cosmetology is the career for you:

Professional Beauty Association – one of the largest professional associations for cosmetologists, PBA offers networking and educational opportunities, industry news, and trade shows

Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals – organization members can review industry standards, attend salon expos and trade shows, enter competitions, and take online and in-class continuing education courses

Modern Salon – an online publication covering everything from career to skin care advice, including how-to tutorials, hair coloring trends, beauty show news, and more

Cosmetologist Life – from interview tips to setting up your own salon, this professional cosmetologist’s blog gives you an inside look at what it’s like to work in this field

Confessions of a Cosmetologist – want to discover the latest hairstyles? Read product reviews? Get nail polishing tips? This blog gives great advice and insight for cosmetologists

A Survival Guide for Cosmetologists: Tips from the Trenches – author Karen Levine shares helpful tips and strategies for working – and surviving – as a cosmetologist for both novice and seasoned professionals

Psy-Cosmetologist – from building clientele to coping with daily stresses in a salon, Lewis Losoncy’s book explores the real challenges and benefits of working as a cosmetologist


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