Licensed to Succeed: How Getting a Cosmetology License Can Create a Beautiful Career 

September 15, 2023

Getting a cosmetology license is like unlocking a treasure trove of beauty secrets. A license to cut hair, do nails or care for skin offers the flexibility to combine art and knowledge in a profitable career path. But just how to you get a cosmetology license? How long does it take and what are he steps involved? If you’ve ever wondered about how to get a cosmetology license, this post will address your questions as we consider what’s involved, how long It takes, what it will cost you, and how to find a school that can take your carer to beautiful places.

Before we dive into the details, let’s take a moment to appreciate why cosmetology is such an alluring business. The intrigue is more than skin deep. A cosmetology license gives you permission to do so much more than cut hair, apply makeup, and do nails. As a cosmetologist, you’ll be enhancing people’s confidence and helping them look and feel their best. Whether your dream is to be a hairstylist, makeup artist, nail technician or skincare specialist, the beauty industry offers unlimited paths to merge creativity, self-expression, and a passion for helping others.

How do you get a cosmetology license?

Step One: Go to Cosmetology School

The first step on your journey to a cosmetology license is enrolling in an accredited cosmetology school with an accomplished education team, respected curriculum and reputation for putting students on the fasts track to career success. For example, Bellus Academy, a beauty and wellness academy with campuses in California and Kansas is home to a team of beauty educators who have won some of the industry’s most prestigious awards in cosmetology and barbering. And it’s not just the educators who shine. Bellus Academy students routinely take-home top honors at national shows. Be sure to select a school that will push you to enter competitions, network with industry talent, develop a strong portfolio and be ready to take your place behind the chair at the most elite salons in the industry upon earning your cosmetology license.

Cosmetology school is the first step in preparing you to embark on a journey where beauty and creativity collide. The license is your passport for a path filled with lifelong learning and the opportunity to bring smiles to your clients’ faces every day. Yes, it takes time, effort, and a financial investment but the rewards are worth it.

Step 2: Hands-On Training

One of the most energizing aspects of cosmetology school is the hands-on training.

Be prepared to start with a mannequin head. But before long, you’ll be ready to graduate to a student salon or spa, putting your skills and knowledge to work on actual clients under the supervision of a licensed educator. This is your first taste of what it will be like to work under a licensed professional.

How long does it take to get a cosmetology license? Most states require a specific number of training hours to be eligible for licensure. The length of your time in beauty school will also depend on whether you pursue a full-time or part-time program.

Step 3: Theory and State Board Exams

Cosmetology is more than skin deep and goes well beyond helping people look beautiful. Theory and science come together along with practical skills and techniques. Your educational program will include content on anatomy, chemistry, safety, and sanitation, along with state regulations related to cosmetology. The knowledge is crucial not just for the exams but also for protecting the safety of your clients.

Once you’ve completed your training hours and coursework, it’s time to prepare for the written exam. The comprehensive test will assess your understanding of the theoretical aspects of cosmetology. Study guides and practice exams are resources that can help you prepare for the exam.

A practical exam will provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skills. During this portion of the process toward becoming a licensed cosmetologist, you’ll demonstrate your skills. You’ll typically need to perform various tasks, such as cutting and styling hair, applying makeup, and giving basic manicures. This exam is a chance to shine and showcase what you’ve learned in cosmetology school.

Step 4: Licensure Application

After successfully passing both the written and practical exams, take a moment to take a deep breath and sigh with relief. Remember when you asked, how do you get a cosmetology license? You’ve already figured that out! Now it’s time to submit your application for a cosmetology license to your state’s licensing board. Be prepared to provide proof of your education and exam, as well as pay a licensing fee. How much does it cost to get a cosmetology license? Licensing fees vary by state. For example, the cosmetology fee in California is $115 and the fees for the practical exam in Kansas are $65 and $60 respectively.

Step 5: Continuing Education

Once you’ve obtained your cosmetology license, congratulate yourself on achieving your beautiful dream, but know that the journey has only begun! The beauty industry is constantly evolving, and staying on trend is essential. Many states require cosmetologists to complete continuing education hours to renew their licenses. The training can be completed through workshops, seminars, or advanced education offered by leading beauty schools. Bellus Academy introduced advanced education in 2023, bringing in esteemed industry leaders to teach emerging spa trends.

Education requires an investment of time, of effort and of course, of finances. The good news is that there are options to help make cosmetology school affordable. These options include scholarships and grants.

Beauty Changes Lives is one of the most generous scholarship program portfolios. The 501c3 non-profit quips and empowers next generation beauty professionals with scholarships and mentoring opportunities. Scholarships are available for hairstylists as well as barbering, nail professionals, esthetics / skincare and professional nails. With awards ranging up to $15,000 the scholarships can significantly reduce the cost of professional beauty education. More information on these scholarships is available at

High School Career Centers

High school career centers and guidance counselors can provide additional information on local programs and learning opportunities. In addition, professional beauty brands and foundations offer financial aid opportunities. Some time invested in online searching will yield additional insight into scholarships offered. As opportunities are continually being announced, searching for a scholarship is never a one-and-done. The beauty industry is constantly being reimagined through the generous gifts of companies and individuals who wish to pay their success forward. Regular visits to the website will provide insights on new scholarships.

Don’t overlook federal financial aid offerings when it comes to beauty school. Be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This exercise is the first step in determining eligibility for federal student aid programs. These programs may include grants, work-study programs and student loans funded by the federal government. The application process may require information about your financial situation as well as your company’s income.

Private student loans

In addition to loans offered by the federal government, loans issued by private financial institutions may be an option if additional borrowing is required beyond what is covered by federal programs.

Externships, Internships and Part-Time Employment. Some cosmetology schools partner with local salons to create a “talent pool” of beauty professionals. The program benefits the students with practical experience while employers have a first opportunity to secure emerging talent. Even in less structured programs, a part-time job can expose students to the real-world operations of a beauty salon. Beyond learning the technical aspects of beauty, an externship can provide insight into how cosmetologists communicate with their guests and let them see firsthand how the salon often serves as a sanctuary for clients seeking some rest, relaxation – or in some cases, lively conversation!

Payment Plans: Every school is unique and its financial aid department can advise you on tuition plans that can help you pay for cosmetology school in a way that best works for your fiscal situation.

The Bottom Line: Time, Effort, and Investment Matter

Like success in many fields, winning in the beauty industry comes down to a commitment. The beauty sector is a path filled with creativity, learning and the chance to make people feel beautiful every day. It’s also a business that offers tremendous flexibility, social interaction, and the opportunity to help others. But what about the bottom line? How much time,  effort and investment does it take to earn a cosmetology license?

In terms of time, you’re probably looking at about 9 to 12 months of cosmetology school, plus the time required to accumulate your required training hours. The written and practical exams will also require your focus and dedication.

In terms of effort, cosmetology is a labor of love. You’ll need to study, practice and perfect your skills across your career. Cosmetology isn’t just about talent. It’s about dedication and a commitment to put in the time to perfect your craft. And of course, there’s the financial investment. Tuition fees, exam fees, licensing fees and the cost of tools and supplies are part of the investment. But the rewards are there? Look no further than Ted Gibson, who became the first stylist in the U.S. to charge $1,000 for a haircut; and later raised that price to $1,500. And while Ted’s example is certainly a “unicorn” success story, the opportunity to achieve highly competitive earnings is there for all. Getting a cosmetology license is all about making an investment in your future.

The Beauty of Cosmetology

If you’ve ever dreamed of making people look and feel their best, don’t let hesitation hold you back. Enroll in a reputable cosmetology school, practice your skills, and prepare to take the exams. Your cosmetology license is waiting to be your passport to a world of beauty and endless possibilities.  Take a good look in the mirror, get ready to wield those scissors and makeup brushes with confidence as a cosmetologist. Getting your cosmetology license is the first step on the journey! Contacting a friendly career advisor at Bellus Academy can be the first step on the professional journey.

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