Cosmetology 101: What do Cosmetologists Do?

Students graduating from a cosmetology school are prepared to enter into the beauty industry to perform a wide number of functions. According to labor statistics, cosmetologists can earn anywhere from $10.00 an hour to hundreds a day depending on the where they choose to work and how skilled they are at their chosen specialty. (Some cosmetology school graduates choose to remain general cosmetologists, too, allowing them to earn a broader base of clients.)

So what are the duties of a cosmetologist? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, cosmetology school graduates can perform any number of salon duties; including:

  • Inspect hair, face, and scalp, to recommend treatment
  • Discuss hairstyle options
  • Wash, color, and condition hair
  • Cut or trim, dry, and style hair
  • Receive payments from clients
  • Clean and sanitize all tools and work areas

Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists focus on providing hair and beauty services to enhance clients’ appearance. Those who operate their own barbershops or salons have managerial duties that may include hiring, supervising, and firing workers, as well as keeping business and inventory records, ordering supplies, and arranging for advertising.

Barbers cut, trim, shampoo, and style hair, mostly for male clients. They also may fit hairpieces and offer facial shaving. In every state, barbers are licensed to color, bleach, and highlight hair and to offer permanent-wave services. Common tools include combs, scissors, and clippers.

Hairdressers, or hairstylists, offer a wide range of hair services, such as shampooing, cutting, coloring, and styling. They often advise clients, both male and female, on how to care for their hair at home. They also keep records of products and services provided to clients, such as hair color, shampoo, conditioner, and hair treatment used. Tools include hairbrushes, scissors, blow dryers, and curling irons.

Cosmetologists provide scalp and facial treatments and makeup analysis. Some also clean and style wigs and hairpieces. A growing number actively sell skin care products.

Shampooers wash and rinse customers’ hair so a hairstylist can cut and style it.

(Read more at U.S. Department of Labor)

Cosmetologists are required to complete a certain number of hours at cosmetology school before ever entering the professional salons and spas that thrive in the industry, however.

Educational Requirements – Cosmetologists:


In order to work as a hairstylist or cosmetologist, one must attend a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school and be at least 16 years old. In some states one must earn a high school or equivalency diploma as well. Training programs in hairstyling and cosmetology last approximately nine months and may result in earning an associate degree. Manicurist training programs are not as long.

Other Requirements – Cosmetologists:

All personal appearance workers, including hairstylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists, but not shampooers, must be licensed. Upon completion of a state-approved training program in cosmetology, one usually must take a state-administered licensing exam. There are generally separate exams for manicurists, pedicurists, and skin care specialists.

(Read more from Dawn McKay at About.Com)