How Long Does It Take to Finish Cosmetology School?

Cosmetology student standing in an apron

If you’re interested in becoming an expert on hair, nails, makeup, and beauty, cosmetology school may be the answer. Cosmetologists can specialize in a single area or learn every aspect of beauty. The average cosmetology program takes less than a year to complete. The beauty industry is one of the faster-growing markets. So, how long does it take to finish cosmetology school?

How Long Does It Take to Finish Cosmetology School?

The length of time that it takes to finish cosmetology school can vary depending on the program that you choose. It also depends on whether you can attend full-time or part-time. At the Minnesota School of Cosmetology, you can finish cosmetology school in about 11 months attending full-time.

What Else Do You Need to Become a Cosmetologist?

To start working in Minnesota, you need a Minnesota state cosmetology license. You have to attend classes at a licensed school that has a qualifying curriculum. After you finish your minimum training hours, you’ll complete an application for a license and take the board exams.

Board exams are regulated by the Minnesota Board of Cosmetology. They are an official government entity, and they will determine whether you can receive your license. Passing the exam is the last step needed for your license. When you receive your license, you’ll be required to pay a one-time fee. You can then apply to work in salons.

Minnesota requires some continuing education for those working in cosmetology. You will need to show that you have continued learning current practices when you renew your license.

What Do You Learn During a Cosmetology Program?

A cosmetology program covers every aspect of the beauty industry. The skills and information that you learn will largely fit into several broad categories including hair, nails, makeup and skin. The following are some of the areas that will be covered throughout the cosmetology course.

Hair Cutting, Styling, and Coloring

When most people think about cosmetology school, they think about hair cutting. Instructors will teach you the best practices for hair cutting, how to achieve different styles, and how to properly use the appliances and tools that you will use for both men and women. You’ll also learn about styling a client’s hair for special occasions as well as day-to-day life. Hair coloring is big part of what you’ll learn. You’ll learn:

  • How to evenly cover the hair with color
  • How to use foiling to create multiple hair colors at once
  • How to safely bleach hair
  • What to know about different types of hair dye
  • The difference between temporary and permanent hair coloring

At a student run salon, you will get hands-on experience with client’s hair. Cosmetology schools give students a chance to style and cut hair, while customers get a more inexpensive alternative to a haircut from a licensed cosmetologist.

Chemical Texturizing

Chemical texturizing is a major part of cosmetology. This is the process of permanently altering hair texture to either straighten or curl the client’s hair. Because the process permanently alters how the hair behaves, you’ll need to know about chemistry to avoid the potential for causing damage. Chemically textured hair remains in its new shape until the hair is cut off or grows out.

Permanent waving is the term for adding curls to hair. You might be more familiar with the term “perm.” During this process, the hair is softened using chemicals, which allows it to be wound into curls. When the hair is wound around rods, it hardens in the shape of the curls. Different sized rods will give different curl tightness.

Perms take longer to complete than a haircut, and they require more in-depth knowledge. The same is true of chemical relaxing, which is when curly hair is turned into straight hair. The process follows the same chemical principles as perming, but the hair is softened and then straightened instead of wound. When this is done, you will rinse it and finalize the style.

Cornrows, Bumps, and Updos

Instructors will teach you how to style cornrows, bumps, and updos. Part of your education will involve learning the ways that hair texture affects your styling. Cornrows can be implemented with any hair texture, but the coarser the hair is, the better the rows will hold over time. Straight hair can be smoothed more easily prior to styling it.

With cornrows, the parts of the hair matter. Every hair part is easily visible and a major factor in the style. You’ll learn to section hair using pointed tools and clips to make straight lines. You’ll also learn what is possible for different textures and volumes.

Bumps are a way to add volume to a hairstyle. Instructors teach you how to tease hair to create a bump, along with how to add bumping tools to thinner hair. Bumps can be used to add volume to a ponytail, create a more dynamic short haircut, and give additional dimension to updos.

Updos come in practically infinite styles. You’ll learn how to help clients with updos for special events and interviews. As you learn about hair, you’ll get practice with imitating complicated updos using reference photos.

Braiding and Flat Ironing

During a cosmetology program, you will learn how to braid different hair textures to create additional styles. There will be time to practice at your school’s salon. Flat ironing allows you to temporarily straighten curly or wavy hair. It doesn’t involve the same chemical permanence as a relaxer treatment, but can cause damage if not done properly.

Basic Nail Care

During cosmetology classes, you’ll learn about the fingernails and toenails, including information on how to take care of them. This means understanding the structure of the nail, how it grows, and how to avoid breakage.

Manicure and Pedicure

Part of your training in cosmetology will include learning how to give clients a manicure and pedicure. Manicures and pedicures allow the nails to be smoothed and buffed. You’ll learn to take care of any past damage to the cuticles, plus learn to instruct clients on how to care for their nails in between appointments.

Sculpted Nails and Nail Art

Coursers will focus on painting client’s nails and sculpting the nails to specific shapes. This involves learning how to make even coats of nail polish. As you practice, you’ll be able to make basic nail art using toothpicks and other fine tools.

Makeup and Facials

Facials and makeup are a big part of cosmetology. Sometimes you’ll be preparing models to walk down the runway, and sometimes you’ll be helping someone get ready for a special occasion.

During a cosmetology program, you’ll learn how makeup accentuates different parts of the face. With runways, you’ll study how spotlights affect the model. For special occasions, you’ll focus on making clients look their best. You will also learn about the types of products that are safest to use.

Facials are a relaxing way to clean the pores and take care of the skin. These courses will teach you the basics of skin care, how to unclog pores, and what types of face mask help clients.

Where Can You Work After Graduation?

It’s helpful to think about where you want to work as you go through your cosmetology program. Most people will work in a salon, but the type of salon can vary. There are also different specialties, such as being a full-time hairdresser or nail artist.

Large salons tend to cater to every aspect of beauty, while smaller salons might only handle basic haircuts and styling. There are also careers in styling hair for clients exclusively for special occasions.

Local Salons

When you go through cosmetology school, you’ll learn more about the community surrounding you. It’s helpful to look for job openings at your local salons. If they’re located near your school, the salon owners are likely to look for graduates to hire. Small local salons might offer full beauty services, or they might specialize in one or two aspects of hair. Look for ones that focus on the services that interest you the most.

Franchise Salons

Franchise salons are another option. These salons use a business model and branding that has been well established, but they operate with different owners. Investors in franchises pay to access the brand reputation and the policies of the overarching company.

Different franchises will have different opportunities for cosmetologists. Some pay a flat hourly fee, while others pay commissions. When getting paid by commission, you get a portion of the profit from products you sell and services that you provide.

One of the benefits of franchise salons is that you can find out a lot about the workplace environment before applying. Take the time to research the salons in your community so you have a good fit for you.


Some salons allow cosmetologists to rent a room or a chair and run their own practice. This type of employment gives you more freedom over the services you provide and the clients you work with. However, you will need to attract your own clients, so there’s a certain level of marketing that goes into it. You might pay a flat monthly fee for the space, or the salon might take a commission.

Start Your Own Salon

Some people choose to open up their own salon, operating at their own storefront or out of their house. Before you do this, it’s essential to make a business plan and research your opportunities. One of the best ways to establish yourself is by serving a certain niche. You’ll need to weather the costs of setup, so it’s best to have some money to invest first.

Whether you want to work on hair, nails, or special occasion styling, becoming a cosmetologist will give you the tools needed to start your own salon.

Final Thoughts

Do you have 11 months to start a new career? Cosmetology school will teach you everything that you need to know about becoming a successful cosmetologist. Whether you start your own salon or join an established one in your area, you’ll embark upon an expert career. Take the time to learn as much as you can at a cosmetology school, so you are prepared for your first day in a new salon.

Want to Learn More?

Now that you know how long it takes to finish cosmetology school, ready to learn more? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetology entrepreneur and start a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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