Cosmetology and Esthetician Licensing Requirements

Individuals who want to become cosmetology instructors will need to acquire a special license. Requirements for cosmetology instructors vary by state, and interested individuals should contact their state board of cosmetology. Some states require a simple certificate, while others demand more intensive training. Most states have some general requirements that must be met before becoming a cosmetology instructor, such as working in the field for a minimum amount of hours, or and have had a cosmetology license for a specified amount of time. Some states require a certain amount of work experience, sometimes up to five years, before licensed cosmetologists can apply to become cosmetology instructors.

Passing Your Cosmetology and Esthetician Licensing

Not only do the stylists working in a salon need their own individual licenses, the salon itself is required by state law to have and display an “establishment license.” Licenses to operate a salon typically cost between $100 and $2,000, depending in part on the length of the license. To meet the requirements, the salon will need to comply with electrical, sanitation and fire codes, and must prove that the salon owner and the employees carry the necessary licenses as well.

While some cosmetologists perform skin care treatments and work under a standard “operator’s license,” those who wish to specialize will often obtain extensive training in services like microderm abrasion, laser treatment, waxing and/or facials. Depending upon the state, these specialized skin care services may require an esthetician license. There are two types of esthetician licenses available: basic and master. The number of education hours necessary to obtain an esthetician license varies state by state, but the average is somewhere between 650 hours for the basic license and 1,500 for a masters license. The licensing exam for a basic esthetician license is a combination of practical and theoretical questions. The requirements for a master’s license are slightly different, as a larger amount of information is included in the examination. For the practical component, many states use computer simulations and volunteer clients to assess the esthetician’s skills and proficiency.

Requirements for licensing and regulating those who specialize as nail technicians and manicurists vary from state to state, with most states requiring between 300 to 600 hours of instruction, according to Some states have very minimal requirements, and others will accept a certain number of apprenticeship hours as an alternative to attending a school. It is very important to understand the laws of your state regarding licensure before you begin a career as a nail technician.

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