What Should I Look for in a Cosmetology School?

Student dying a clients hair at a cosmetology school

Cosmetology is the ultimate creative expression for students with a passion for style, but experienced cosmetologists know, it takes a quality training program to make it a career. Whether the goal is to get an entry-level position at a salon or to be the next big-name celebrity stylist, choosing a cosmetology school with a comprehensive curriculum and student support services is the key to success.

Why Become a Cosmetologist?

Cosmetologists do more than cut hair. They make people look and feel their best, and in return, they enjoy valuable career benefits, including a quick start, a growing job market, family-friendly skills, a sense of purpose, flexible schedules, an evolving field, and business opportunities.

A Quick Start

Some professions take years of college to train for, but students attending a vocational school cosmetology program full-time can graduate in less than a year. There are few careers with this much earning potential that require so little preparation.

A Growing Job Market

Beauty is a multi-billion-dollar business and growing. There are more than 750,000 barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists working in the field today, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for cosmetologists is expected to grow 8-percent through 2028. At a time when some careers are becoming obsolete, cosmetology is a future-looking choice.

Family-friendly Skills

The average person spends tens of thousands of dollars on haircuts in their lifetime, that’s as much as the cost of a trip around the world. But while a cosmetologist makes money, they can also save it by taking care of haircuts for the whole family.

Multiplied by the number of people in a household, do-it-yourself styles are an income booster and a convenience. Cosmetologists can spend their time doing fun activities with the kids instead of sitting in a crowded salon waiting for a client.

A Sense of Purpose

Cosmetologists do more than cut hair, they improve clients’ self-image. A new cut and color can enhance self-esteem and send confidence soaring. It’s a vital wellness service for which people are happy to pay.

Flexible Schedules

Self-employed cosmetologists can set their own hours, accommodating a busy lifestyle while still earning a living. Cosmetologists working in a salon have fewer options, but most employers offer both full-time and part-time positions, and hours are usually flexible. Hair design is an excellent career for people with child and senior care commitments, as parents can work while the kids are in school. Most cosmetologists have nights and major holidays off.

An Evolving Field

Hair design never stops evolving. New cut and coloring techniques are continually introduced, so the work always stays fresh. A cosmetologist’s career can last fifty years or more, but it remains engaging because there’s always something new and exciting to learn.

Business Opportunities

Students can spend four years in school and still not graduate with the skills they need to start a salon but graduating from a cosmetology program is the perfect opportunity for beauty entrepreneurs. Graduates who want to work for others can, but those who want the freedom of being their own boss can rent booths in an established salon or open a shop of their own.

With today’s secure mobile payment systems, some cosmetologists are even hitting the road and doing house calls, all they need is a portable kit and a cell phone. With a little business savvy, a cosmetologist can turn a talent with shears into a business, and from there, the sky’s the limit.

What to Look for in a Cosmetology School

Most vocational school cosmetology programs share the same primary curriculum, a certain number of learning hours in specific subjects is mandated by states for licensure. But there are also significant variations between programs in both content and teaching methods. For students, the right school is the one that best meets their career goals.

Top cosmetology schools offer condensed programs, hands-on training, small class sizes, experienced instructors, accreditation, focus on exam preparation, extensive instruction, career services and networking opportunities.

Condensed Programs

It’s tough making ends meet without a job, so training programs that get students out of the classroom and into the field in ten months or less are ideal.

A full-time schedule can be intense, students learn the same skills regardless of the length of their program. The days can be long between class time, studying and getting practical experience after-hours, but there are no shortcuts to a good education. Part-time schedules and flexible learning options may be available but attending full-time is the shortest path to graduation.

Hands-on Training

Hair design is a hands-on field. Cosmetologists spend over 1,500 hours in school, and graduates agree, the more time they spend styling hair, the better. Training always begins on models, but there’s no substitute for the real thing, so institutions with student-run salons have a clear advantage. They offer a sense of how a full-service beauty shop operates and what it takes to succeed.

Students get a front-row view of both design and business operations while learning valuable customer service skills. They also get to trying their hand at a wide range of services from cuts to color. Graduates rank it among their best learning experiences.

Small Class Size

Students learn faster, and they retain more in small classes. Instructors spend less time worrying about distractions and more time teaching course material, and students get more one-on-one attention. Feedback is immediate and individualized, so no one falls behind, and everyone can reach their fullest potential.

Students feel more comfortable interacting with peers in small groups, and those close relationships enhance learning. Since each person has a unique viewpoint and skillset, students can learn from each other. This broadens their skill set without feeling rushed or intimidated. It enhances the educational experience.

Experienced Instructors

Cosmetology teachers are both licensed in their field and certified as instructors. But while certification programs teach the basics, such as curriculum development, lesson planning, and student evaluation, no amount of classroom learning is a substitute for practical experience in the field.

During a short ten-month program, it’s imperative for students to make connections with seasoned professionals. Instructors should be well-versed in conventional and cutting-edge techniques.

Accreditation

Better cosmetology schools are fully accredited. This means their curriculum has been approved and covers all the skills and information necessary to pass the state’s licensing exam. Accreditation is also a must for programs to meet federal student aid criteria. The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) is the largest accrediting agency for cosmetology schools and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

A Focus on Exam Preparation

Cosmetologists must pass a test in most states to practice their craft. Exams evaluate real-world skills over a broad range of categories. Instructors that “teach to the test” enhance first-time pass rates among their students.

Extensive Instruction

Cosmetology is a specialty unto itself, graduates can have a great career doing nothing but hair. But every additional skill they learn is another opportunity to expand their client base and build revenue. Schools that teach complementary services are a better value. Popular options include:

Hair Coloring – women color their hair regularly, and the trend is catching on with men. It’s a popular service in the hair industry. This is an easy way for cosmetologists to increase earnings at each appointment.

Manicures – millions of people get a manicure each year. It’s a splurge-worthy service for clients and a profit-booster for salons. Manicures require little floor space and only a few low-cost supplies.

Pedicures – salons can increase their revenue by offering pedicures. Pedicures are a particularly appropriate service for wellness-oriented salons because they offer some of the same benefits as seeing a podiatrist. For busy clients, a pedicure is a quick but relaxing substitute for a day at the spa, and like manicures, the profit margin is significant.

Skin Care – full-service beauty salons can offer a broad range of skincare options from facials and waxing to eyebrow threading and chemical peels. Additional training and certifications may be necessary in some areas to legally provide these services. Still a cosmetology school that teaches these techniques is ideal for students aspiring to be estheticians.

Men’s Grooming – personal services aren’t just for women anymore, men are increasingly enjoying facials and grooming options, such as beard shaping. Salons that cater to men can see a drastic hike in income by selling shaving and specialty hair supplies.

Special Occasion Make-up – everyone wants to turn heads on a big day, but few people have the skills and supplies necessary. Spending on special occasion make-up and add-ons such as lashes and hair extensions is soaring. Cosmetologists help clients make memories by offering packages for weddings, proms and reunions.

Career Services

Cosmetology schools work closely with the beauty professionals in their communities to produce cosmetologists with relevant skills. In return, salons post openings on their job boards, and graduates have access to entry-level positions. It’s an ideal way to build experience.

Most vocational schools also offer extended job placement assistance, and services from interview coaching to resume writing. Some even coordinate internships or help students find mentors in the field. Graduates feel supported from the day they start their program.

Networking Opportunities

The time a cosmetologist spends in school is a golden opportunity to create a network in the industry. While small class sizes and personalized attention allow students to connect with instructors and peers in the classroom, institutions that reach out to the community with special events help upcoming graduates introduce themselves to potential employers. Examples of successful outreach efforts include meet and greet days and student volunteer opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Education is the foundation of career success. For students of cosmetology, a knack with scissors isn’t enough, choosing a school that is as invested in teaching as they are in learning is the first and most crucial step.

Do you have a passion for beauty and wellness? Interested in learning more about cosmetology school? 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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