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Cosmetology Jobs: Welcome to the World of Beauty Careers

If you’re curious about careers in the beauty industry, now is a great time to pursue one! Cosmetology jobs are growing by leaps and bounds—the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists will grow by 11%, or much faster than average, from 2021 to 2031.

Plus, cosmetology careers draw upon your creative talents, provide flexibility in the kinds of work you do and when you do it, and allow you to interact with a diverse and interesting range of people. This page provides an overview of cosmetology jobs to consider when pursuing a beauty career.

Common Jobs in the Beauty Industry

Within the beauty industry, you can choose from a wide array of jobs that allow you to explore specific areas of interest, including hair, nails, skin, and makeup services.

Though job responsibilities vary depending on the specific position and state licensing rules, work in the beauty industry generally involves helping people look and feel great about themselves, which can be deeply rewarding! Keep reading to learn more about the various jobs in this field.


A cosmetologist is a licensed beauty professional who can typically perform a wide variety of services, from washing, cutting, coloring, and styling hair to analyzing and caring for the skin, performing nail services, applying makeup, and more. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists in 2021 was $35,990.

Being a cosmetologist can allow you to perform a variety of beauty services, offering flexibility in where you work and what treatments you offer. But, becoming a cosmetologist also often involves the greatest amount of cosmetology school or apprenticeship training for licensure of all beauty occupations.

A cosmetology license requires a combination of classroom learning and hands-on practice, as well as passing at least one licensing exam.


An esthetician, also called a skin care specialist, works with clients to cleanse, treat, and beautify the skin. This may involve analyzing and providing treatment or consultation about skin conditions, cleansing and moisturizing the skin, removing unwanted hair, applying or recommending makeup or cosmetic products, or performing face or body scrubs, wraps, peels, and basic massages.

Esthetics requires licensure from your state’s board of cosmetology, though the training requirements are typically far less than those for cosmetologists in the same state. Esthetician jobs are projected to experience tremendous national growth of 17% during the 2021-2031 period. The average annual wage of estheticians in 2021 was $41,700.


A barber is a licensed professional specifically trained to clean, cut, color, and style hair, typically for male clients (though some may perform these services for clients with short hair of any gender). Barbers also frequently trim or shave facial hair, and they often use specialized tools such as straight razors or electric clippers.

Barbers must obtain licenses from their states, though training often takes less time to complete than to get a full cosmetology license. Barber jobs are expected to grow by 8% between 2021 and 2031.


Though barbers and hairstylists both wash, cut, color, and style hair, hairstylists may offer a broader range of services to all genders or ages. They can offer perms or other chemical treatments, do blow-outs, or perform up-dos or other sophisticated hairstyles such as braids. Some hairstylists cater to clients with specific hair cutting or styling needs, such as children or people of color.

You typically must be licensed in your state to work as a hairstylist. Some states may specifically offer licenses for hairstylists or hairdressers, while many others categorize this under cosmetology. Training for a hairstylist-specific license often takes less time to complete than a full cosmetology program.

Nail Technologist

A nail technician, also called a manicurist or pedicurist, provides nail services. These procedures include removing existing nail polish, trimming and shaping nails, massaging and moisturizing hands and feet, and applying polishes, gels, acrylics, or other nail decorations. Nail techs may also treat or advise clients on caring for certain skin or nail conditions.

To work as a nail technician, you often need to be licensed in your state, though a nail technician/manicurist license usually requires much less training than a cosmetologist license. These jobs should see remarkable growth of 22% between 2021 and 2031, and in May 2021, the average annual wage for nail technicians was $30,480.

Makeup Artist

Makeup artists are experts in the application of makeup for various settings and events. This may include preparing bridal parties for the aisle or models for runways or photoshoots or getting actors ready for the stage or screen, such as with special effects makeup.

The need for licensure depends on the state where you intend to work. Some may require esthetician licenses or apprenticeships, while many others may require no formal license. The BLS only tracks job data for makeup artists in the lucrative theatrical or performance industries—those interested in these jobs can expect job growth of around 37% through 2030 and an average annual wage of $124,380.

Beauty Jobs That Don’t Generally Require a License

Some jobs in the beauty industry don’t require licenses. Instead, on-the-job training or small certification programs may be sufficient for these careers.

For example, those who handle the business end of a salon or spa—such as a manager, receptionist, cosmetic product salesperson, or retailer—may not need formal licenses.

Additionally, a new and increasingly popular career is social media influencer. All you need is good taste, a flair for self-promotion, and a personal brand worth watching for this role.

Depending on your state, other licensure-free jobs may include hair braiding, electrology (hair removal), or personal styling. Consult your state’s board of cosmetology to learn more about what’s required.

Is a Cosmetology Job a Good Match for Me?

Whether a cosmetology or beauty industry career is right for you depends on many factors.

Consider some of the potential downsides before you commit, such as how many cosmetology jobs involve lengthy time on your feet or work hours during evenings and weekends.

However, there are also many upsides to beauty jobs that can really energize the right candidate for the job. Cosmetology jobs can be attractive for several reasons:

  1. There are many expected and unexpected beauty roles within the field, so there’s likely a position that’s a good fit for your values, style, and desired clientele.
  2. It’s great for those fascinated by trends and changing styles or who want to use their creativity.
  3. Cosmetology is ideal for people who enjoy working with a variety of personalities and settings.
  4. Jobs in the beauty industry often offer flexibility in scheduling or work environment, and it’s a great industry for those interested in self-employment.
  5. The field is growing rapidly. After all, it’s hard to outsource or automate beauty careers (you can’t have a computer cut your hair!).
  6. You may be able to work for yourself and increase your earning potential. Nearly one-third of cosmetologists are self-employed, which allows you to set your own rates and services.