How to Become A Hairstylist

Cosmetology class teaching next generation of hairstylists

The idea of becoming a hairstylist is an attractive one to a lot of different kinds of people. You may be considering a career in hairstyling yourself. It is a social, creative, cosmetic field that is continuously innovative and exciting. Do you have what it takes on a personal level? Will you be able to successfully complete the training? What kind of jobs and career paths are available once you have been certified? Let’s take a deep look into what it will take for you to become the kind of hairstylist you want to be.

Personal Skills & Qualities

As with any new field of work there is going to be some training necessary. There are going to be things that you need to learn so that you can properly and confidently do your job as a hairstylist. There are also some personal qualities that help for you to develop even before you begin your training. These are attributes that will help sharpen your competence and serve to make you an all-around better hairstylist.

Passion for Your Work

There are going to be bumps in the road and problems you weren’t expecting that catch you off guard. If you have passion for the work, you are doing you won’t be tempted to take shortcuts. You may be motivated to find lasting solutions to the issues that show up out of nowhere if you care about the work you are doing. If you are someone who cares about the work you do and how you make your clients feel you are going to be more invested in every aspect of your work. You will be motivated to continue expanding your knowledge by experimenting with new techniques and products. You will also likely be able to better connect with your clients. If your clients sense your enthusiasm for your work, it will be easier for them to open up and ask you things about their own style and haircare.

During the times when you begin to feel your passion slipping it is a good idea to revisit what you loved about hairstyling in the first place. Also, you may want to take a look at some of the innovative new techniques and cutting-edge products. You can watch vlogs and tutorial videos, look back through magazine and online images that inspire your passion or grab your tools and try something completely new. However you manage it, it is important to keep a healthy passion for your work as a hairstylist.


Being creative is useful for a few different reasons. It can help give you an eye for trends (and even help you create a few). It can be helpful for photographic and video styling work. It can also help you in more traditional salon work. Your training will give you the mechanical skills to become a hairstylist, but it won’t cover every single situation you will be faced with throughout your career. Creative problem solving should be as much a part of cultivating your creativity as the visual aspects of it. The circumstances won’t always be perfect and not everything goes according to plan. You need to be the kind of hairstylist that can use their creativity to make the most of any available opportunities while at the same time being able to make the best of a bad situation.

Decent Organizational Skills

Being a hairstylist doesn’t require you to be an organization guru, but you will need a certain level of personal organization to have any lasting success as a hairstylist. You will need to know where your tools and products are if you are going to access them when you need them. Mere seconds can mean the difference between a success and a mess, depending on what you are doing. If you are caught up looking for something you should be able to easily find or preparing a product you should have had ready it is going to have a negative impact on the client. Your disorganization and/or your disorganized process might cause your client lose confidence in your skill or make them uncomfortable with your services. A basic, working knowledge of organization can give you an advantage.

Keep in mind that you may also have to adjust your organizational process based on the salon you work in or the project you’ve been hired for. Your salon or project may be organized different from your preferences. Try to be understanding and flexible about differences in organization methods while continuing to take pride in your own space, products and hairstylist equipment.

Attention to Detail

Being able to focus on the details of sometimes monotonous task is essential to be a professional hairstylist. Whether you are cutting, dying, styling or extending hair, you will need to know how to pay attention. Many of the techniques and methods you will be asked to perform require serious focus because they are done over long periods of time. It is difficult to maintain real focus when you are doing the same thing over and over again. Other situations may require you to focus on a very small portion of hair or pull back on the big picture of your hairstyle in a larger visual context. Whatever the situation, you will need to keep your attention on the details, big and small.

Attention to Cosmetology Business Deals

It is also entirely plausible that you will need your attention to detail when you are working on the financial and business side of being a hairstylist. You may need to coordinate product shipments, have scheduled communication with endorsers, negotiate pay rate for a project or stick to a video or photographic release schedule. There are many hairstyling careers that may require a greater degree of financial and business attention. You may need to make sure that other people get paid on time, or make sure that others pay you on time. You will have deadlines you need to meet. There are a lot of different ways you will likely need to put some of your detailed focus toward making sure that your finances and business relationships are what they should be.

Stamina and Dexterity

Becoming a hairstylist doesn’t require you to reach Olympic levels of fitness but it does require a few things from you physically. Stamina and manual dexterity are the main things you will need for success. Manual dexterity is required for the finer, more precise work of hairstyling. Stamina is that actual physical endurance you need to get the job done.

Your manual dexterity work will be determined in and throughout your training. However, your stamina can be determined by whether or not the work is too demanding physically. The amount of stamina you will need depends on the hairstyling career path you decide to take. For instance, you may be hoping to build a significant reputation for yourself as an authority in the cosmetic community.

Avoiding Fatigue and Aches

Typical hairstyling work primarily engages your arms, shoulders, back and neck. Hairstyling can be exhausting if you aren’t used to holding and engaging. It can also have an effect on your back and joints if you aren’t aware of your posture during your work. Keeping your posture in mind will help you avoid injury and protect your body from painful wear and tear. It is also worth noting that if you are hoping to become a hairstylist who primarily stands during their work (which applies to most styling careers) you will want to find footwear that is supportive and comfortable.

Good Communication and Customer Service

It won’t matter how talented you are if you can’t get anyone to work with you! For that reason being a good communicator with solid customer service skills gives you an advantage in your pursuit of a career as a hairstylist. All of your incredible passion and skill is wasted if you aren’t able to engage with clients and other professionals in the field. Whether your goal is salon work or social media presence, you will need to know how to tell people about your work, while also being able to understand what is expected of you. This can be a challenge for some, but it is a good skill set to develop if you want to be successful as a hairstylist.

What Is Good Communication?

Good communication in a professional context means being able to engage and work cooperatively with those around you. Customer service communication, on the other hand, is about how successfully you are able to interact with your clients. There are a lot of different ways to improve the areas of communication based on your specific area of struggle. The important thing is that your personal communication skills are a priority.

Continued Interest in Learning and Growth

Getting your certification is just the beginning. The completion of a training program will give you what you need to begin your journey, but you will also need to continue your learning independently as the industry evolves and changes. First of all, being informed about new or enhanced products or treatments in the haircare field will help you better assist your clients with their hair health challenges.

Staying up to date on new terms in the industry will help you better communicate and relate to colleagues and clients. Learning new techniques and methods of hairstyling will allow you to provide your clients with a wider range of services and styles. All of this require you to engage with what is happening as a hairstylist.

What Do You Learn in a Cosmetology Program?

Training programs vary, instructors have different methods of teaching, different regions have differences in qualification requirements and certain areas have more diverse opportunities for hairstylists. There are a few things that you are going to need to be formally trained on no matter where you are.

Anatomy of The Hair and Scalp

Knowing how healthy hair grows is crucial to becoming a good, successful hairstylist. Being able to spot differences in growth patterns and apply information your client gives you will allow you to make decisions and adjustments to maintain the healthy growth of your client’s hair. Knowing what a healthy, normal scalp looks like for all skin types and tones will help you identify problems and concerns at the base of hair.

Different Kinds of Natural Hair

Through your formal education program, you will be introduced to and become familiar with the different natural textures and colors of hair. Understanding the foundational properties of the hair you are working with will help you make decisions that will achieve the style goal without damaging the hair. There are a lot of natural differences in hair and you will need to know how to work with all of them.


The chemical process of mixing color and the styling process of applying that color is referred to as hair coloring. It will be an aspect of hairstyling that your training program focuses on. You will need to know how to color different types of hair as well as = blend, separate and transition a client’s hair colors.


You will be taught how to cut all kinds of hair into a variety of different styles with a variety of techniques and tools. Your training will likely cover more of the basic techniques used in most of the evolving haircut trends rather than going over every single individual cutting technique one-by-one. You may cover styles like creating layers, achieving angles, trimming and maintenance, transition haircuts and straight edges and lines.


Styling refers to the manual manipulation of hair (through pinning, twisting, braiding, etc.) without significantly altering it. Learning how to style hair means knowing how to take a certain length, texture and color of hair and transform it into looking different. You will learn how to do this in a way that supports the comfort of your client, the health of your client’s hair and the look of the hairstyle.

Hairstylist Jobs Available Upon Graduation

Becoming the kind of hairstylist that you want to be means determining what you want from various aspects of your career. What kinds of clients do you want to work with? What can you offer in terms of time investment? What are the other priorities and demands in your life?

Traditional Salon Stylist

This is by far the most popular choice among certified stylists, and there are a lot of reasons why. Entrepreneurship and freelance work are appealing but they also involve a tremendous amount of hard work and can take a long time to pay off. You may be interested in expressing your creativity without investing in start-up equipment and renting space. Salons allow you the opportunity to do the work you love and get a feel for the work without having to concentrate on much else. You will be working alongside other stylists and will work directly under a salon manager or owner. This also provides you with people you can use as resources for information if you have a question.

Finding the Right Salon For You

The real thing to remember is to find a salon that is a good fit for you. Salons and hair studios aren’t all the same. They can vary in atmosphere, clientele, pay rate and opportunity. It is important that you spend time looking into what salons you think might be a good fit even before you have completed your training. Take a look at their websites, read some of their reviews and speak to people who have been in the salon either as clients or employees. This will help you get some sense of how they run their business and treat their staff. The more information you can get about a salon the better you will be able to decide if it is right for you.

Wig Maker/Wig Stylist

This is a unique opportunity that not many stylists initially consider. Wig styling can get you work in a wig studio, but it can also provide other opportunities. Working with wigs might take some getting used to, but once you’ve master it you can potentially work on music videos, photo shoots and film sets. If there is a lack of opportunity for this in your area you may want to consider creating your own opportunity by making, styling and/or selling your own wigs.

Social Media Stylist

An increase in online career opportunities is one of the most significant ways the market has changed in recent history. Creating a profile/channel and engaging with an online audience opens up an opportunity for you to engage users in the trends and history of hairstyling culture. It can also create financial opportunities through product reviews and brand endorsements. It is important that if you consider become a social media stylist that you truly research the brand and/or product you are endorsing and aligning with. Once you are associated with them publicly, their scandal is your scandal. You don’t want to be associated with a shady business or harmful products, so be careful about all contracts through this career choice.

Stylist Outside the Salon

There are a lot of opportunities outside the salon that get initially overlooked, and not all of them require an online media presence and aggressive marketing. Some hairstylists have a group of steady clients that they see in their home. Others find that traveling to the client’s home is a better arrangement for everyone involved. This option minimizes the equipment you need as well as making you more accessible and available to your clients.

Special Clients for Hairstylists

There are also a lot of people who don’t always have access to a hairstylist that could benefit from your skills. Becoming a hairstylist for an assisted living home or styling the hair of people with special needs are a couple of ways you can utilize your skills without having to work out of your home or a salon. Before or during your training, you may want to look at the facilities and agencies in your area that might benefit from a hairstylist.

Project Stylist

Being the head stylist on a project, whether photographic or cinematic, is an incredible opportunity. That level of exposure to your work and the proximity to fame can be intoxicating. However, it should be noted that project stylist jobs are not always easy to come by. You might want to begin looking into independent/underground projects to gain some experience before you try your skills on a celebrity project. You will also want to keep your eyes open for any opportunity within the industry that might get you closer to that goal.


While this might take a bit of additional learning, there are some hairstylists who have their eyes on bigger things. Running a salon or teaching others how to work in hair is a natural transition for being a hairstylist. Through their experience they come to realize that they have the skill and the capacity to run things as good as their salon owner. Becoming a hairstylist may be the beginning of your ultimate career path in the industry.

There are a lot of different skills you will need to become a hairstylist and a lot of different ways you can choose work once you’ve completed your training. The sharper those skills are the more success you will have throughout your career no matter which way you choose to go. Being prepared, finding a good vocational training program and making informed decisions about your career options will put you well on your way to successfully becoming whatever kind of hairstylist you want to be.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about how to become a hairstylist interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? 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. We keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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