Education and Training Requirements

High School

If working as a cosmetician interests you, there are a number of classes you can take in high school to prepare for this job. Some vocational high schools offer classes that will prepare you specifically for cosmetology careers. If you are not attending a vocational high school, you should take science classes, such as biology, chemistry, and human anatomy. These classes will give you an understanding of how the body works as well as how chemicals react with each other. Scientific knowledge will come in handy when you consult with your clients about their allergies and skin conditions. In addition, science classes will give you the background necessary for understanding bacteriology and equipment sanitization—subjects you will most likely study in cosmetician courses following high school. Since you will be working with many different clients in this career, consider taking psychology courses, which will give you an understanding of people and their motivations. Take English and speech classes to develop your communication skills. Finally, take art courses. Art courses will allow you to work with your hands and help you develop your sense of color.

Postsecondary Training

Once you have completed high school, plan on enrolling in an accredited cosmetology school. A school's accreditation by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences means that the school is meeting educational standards set by this national organization. It is important to make sure you will be going to a good school, because having a solid education from a respected program is one of your strongest assets when entering this field. You should also be aware of the licensing requirements for the state in which you hope to work. Make sure that the school you are interested in will allow you to meet these requirements. Depending on the school you choose to attend, you may enter a full cosmetology program to later specialize as a cosmetician, or you may enroll in a cosmetician or esthetician program. In either case your education should include study in skin care, massage techniques, specific areas of the law pertaining to the field, sanitation methods, makeup, and salon management.

Other Education or Training

The International Association for Aesthetics offers continuing education (CE) seminars at its International Congress of Esthetics and Spa (i.e., an industry trade show) in several U.S. cities. Associated Skin Care Professionals, Professional Beauty Association, and International Spa Association also offer CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All states require cosmeticians to have a license to practice. Licensing usually involves a test of one's skill and knowledge, though the process, laws, and requirements vary from state to state. A few states have reciprocity agreements, which would allow licensed cosmeticians to practice in a different state without additional formal training.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience comes through completing a cosmetician or cosmetology program and passing state board exams. Entry-level cosmeticians may begin work with additional experience coming through being on the job.

Those who are friendly with a people-oriented personality and good listening skills are best suited to this type of career. Sensitivity, tactfulness, and patience are particularly vital, especially when dealing with clients. Furthermore, the ability to sell has also become a desirable characteristic in cosmeticians, because retail sales are becoming a large part of salon offerings. Flexibility and a desire to continue learning are also important traits, because cosmeticians need to take continuing education workshops or seminars in order to keep up with licensing requirements and new developments in the field.