Cosmetology Schools in California
Browse All Cosmetology Schools in California
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2822 F Street
Bakersfield, CA 93301
6500 South Mooney Boulevard
Visalia, CA 93277
3100 Mchenry Avenue
Modesto, CA 95350
Asian-American International Beauty College – Accredited
Westminster, CA 92683
Sacramento, CA 95826
CRU Institute of Cosmetology and Barbering – Accredited
Garden Grove, CA 92845
International Academy of Cosmetology & Barbering – Accredited
South Gate, CA 90280
International College of Beauty Arts & Sciences – Accredited
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Los Angeles, CA 90003
Santa Clara, CA 95050
San Francisco, CA 94103
Chowchilla, CA 93610
Sonora Union High School (high school students only) – Accredited
Sonora, CA 95370
Southern California Regional Occupational Center – Accredited
Torrance, CA 90501
The Brothers & Sisters BarberCosmo Academy – Accredited
Oakland, CA 94601
V.R. Professional Beauty Academy – Accredited
City of Industry, CA 91748
Chowchilla, CA 93610
You must attend a school that is approved by your state to provide training in the discipline you want to practice. Check with the school and the state board to be sure that your program of study will prepare you for any applicable state licensure.
Cosmetology is a career that lets you flex your creativity, enjoy the satisfaction of the beautiful, and make clients feel great about themselves. And being a cosmetologist in California can open many doors. Top10.com named California the 5th most beauty-obsessed state in the country, with consumers spending $11 million on skin care, $5.2 million on hair care, and $1.3 million on makeup each year.
With a thriving film and theater scene and a large population needing personal grooming services, it’s no wonder California has the third-highest employment level of cosmetologists in the nation.
Learn about getting your cosmetology license in California, including cosmetology program FAQs, licensing requirements, job and salary outlooks, and scholarship opportunities.
Cosmetologists do far more than “just” hair, makeup, nails, and skin care. They also need the people skills to explain the science behind different hair and skin ingredients to clients who may need help making the best beauty choices for their hair and skin.
In other words, it’s great for folks who love art, science, and working with people in equal amounts—a rare combination.
But cosmetologists don’t need to limit themselves to working in salons or product stores. Some choose to work in healthcare, helping patients in assisted living facilities look and feel their best. Others are in entertainment, working magic to turn everyday humans into fantastical creatures. Still more go into business for themselves, running a beauty business out of their home, making beauty products, or becoming an influencer. There are tons of unexpected beauty jobs in the field!
Additionally, cosmetology is largely recession-proof. Many people love having professionals care for their hair, skin, and nails and prioritize it, no matter what happens in the economy. With consumers willing to put aside other luxuries to continue looking and feeling their best, cosmetologists remain in high demand.
Getting Your Cosmetology License in California: FAQs
If you’re considering getting a cosmetology license in California, you likely have a few questions. Here are answers to some of the most common ones.
What Does a Cosmetologist Do?
Cosmetologists perform hair cutting, styling, dying, skin care, hair removal, and nail care. In California, they may also tint and perm eyelashes and eyebrows, which isn’t allowed everywhere.
How Much Does Cosmetology School Cost?
Nationwide, on average, cosmetology school costs between $6,500 and $10,000+. However, in California, cosmetology schools often cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000—but that’s before the recent change to lower required hours, mentioned below. Fewer required hours may eventually lead to lower school costs.
How Long Are Cosmetology Programs?
California cosmetology programs must include a minimum of 1,000 theory and practical hours. (Until 2022, aspiring cosmetologists had to undergo 1,600 hours of training.) If attending full-time, programs take approximately nine months to complete. Part-time study takes longer; the length depends on what your program allows and how many hours per week you’re in school.
What Are the Best Cosmetology Schools?
The best cosmetology schools have high exam pass rates, are accredited or state-approved, can accommodate your unique needs and schedule, and help you with financial aid and the job search given your personal goals. What’s best for someone you know may not be best for you. When deciding which is the best cosmetology school for you, read reviews, meet with representatives, and take a tour.
You can find information on some specific schools below, but there are more than 200 approved cosmetology schools in California, so do your research!
Types of California Cosmetology Schools
California cosmetology schools fit into three basic categories: smaller private independent schools, community colleges, and big brand beauty schools. (Big brand schools are also private, but they have name recognition and many locations across different cities.) None of the three types is inherently better than the others, but one of the three might be a better type of cosmetology school for you!
Note: In California, you can complete cosmetology education while incarcerated or as part of a high school program.
Smaller Independent Private Cosmetology Schools
Most cosmetology schools aren’t part of national brands or community colleges. These include privately run programs and nonprofit adult education programs.
These schools often have smaller class sizes than community colleges or big brand programs. However, they may not have the name recognition the other options offer if you leave the state.
A unique private school option in California is the ABC Adult School in Cerritos. Their Adult Education Program, accepted by the state of California and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Council on Occupational Education, offers a cosmetology program for which you can receive federal aid. Federal financial aid can be hard to find outside community colleges or similar institutions.
As noted, cosmetology programs in California can cost as much as $30,000. At ABC, the program is under $7,000.
Community College Cosmetology Programs
Community college cosmetology programs are part of institutions that may offer degrees in addition to professional certification. While not all community colleges offer associate degrees in cosmetology, some do. The goal of an associate degree in the field is to provide a comprehensive education that includes general education courses plus beauty classes. Many students complete further education like business degrees to run their own companies.
Community colleges can run the gamut in price, but they’re often less expensive than big brand cosmetology programs. However, if traditional school isn’t your thing, attending a degree-granting program is probably not for you.
Sacramento City College offers an Associate of Science in Cosmetology. Like other community colleges, it requires a certain number of general education hours (English, math, etc.) and degree-specific hours to complete the program. They also have a nail technology certificate allowing people to practice manicures and pedicures in the state without enrolling in a full associate degree program.
Big Brand Cosmetology Schools
These cosmetology schools are the ones even people outside the field would recognize by name and may trust as a result. That’s a benefit of big brands—people know who they are and the quality of education nationwide. But they may have very large class sizes and be more expensive than other options.
For instance, California has 12 Paul Mitchell the School locations throughout the state. Let’s take the San Diego location as our example, though all Paul Mitchell locations have fairly similar programs tailored to the needs of their state.
Paul Mitchell offers a 1,000-hour cosmetology program, a 1,245-hour cosmetology/makeup program, a 1,200-hour cosmetology/barbering program, and others. You might qualify for federal Pell grants or loans, and they also have scholarship programs through the school. Military benefits may also be available.
Using their tuition calculator and assuming no financial aid, the estimated price for their general cosmetology program is nearly $23,000.
Financial Aid for Cosmetology Students
While cosmetology programs are typically less expensive than four-year college programs, some people may still find the price out of their reach. Luckily, there are financial aid options for cosmetology students.
The school you attend affects the types of aid you can get. Not all programs are eligible for federal assistance, which may include grants and subsidized or unsubsidized loans. However, you could attempt to get private scholarships, grants, or loans.
Scholarships for Cosmetology Students in California
Many cosmetology schools offer school-specific cosmetology scholarships. So, when you look for your perfect cosmetology school, be sure to investigate their beauty school scholarship options.
California is no different—most beauty-specific scholarships come from individual schools. However, you may be able to find general certification, licensure, vocational, or associate degree scholarships through independent organizations in the state. The below scholarships are available on a state-wide level. Many other scholarships are available at the local level for cosmetology students or other vocational students in California.
This is for students who are accepted to an accredited cosmetology program in California or Oregon and need help paying for supplies. Two $1,000 awards are available each year. This is just one of many ESA Foundation scholarships worth investigating. The due date has passed for the 2022/2023 school year, but you can sign up to be notified about future due dates.
The California Student Aid Commission offers a variety of assistance options for California students. This grant is for students attending accredited community colleges to attain an associate degree. The exact award amount isn’t published, but the deadline is September 2 each year.
Also part of the California Student Aid Commission, the Cal Grant C program gives free money to students pursuing occupational or technical training, including cosmetology. Recipients receive up to $2,462 for tuition and fees and $547 for tools, books, and equipment at eligible schools. Students must apply using the FAFSA or CA Dream Act Application by March 2.
The CAWG Foundation awards four scholarships each year to high school seniors who have a parent or legal guardian employed by a California vineyard. The scholarship provides $2,000 for recipients to attend any community college in California. Applications require a high school transcript, a letter of recommendation, and an essay and are due on March 4.
Career and Salary Outlook for Cosmetology Graduates
California hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists made a mean annual wage of $38,790 in 2021, nearly $3,000 more than the national norm. Pay typically ranges between $29,120 and $57,840 in the state.
Cosmetologist salaries vary by industry and location. Median salaries for cosmetologists in 10 metropolitan areas in California are:
|Metropolitan Area||2021 Median Salary|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$35,380|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$34,890|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$34,820|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$30,340|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||$30,230|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||$29,610|
Table information sourced from O*Net (2022).
Salary isn’t the only reason to consider working as a cosmetologist in California. The state is flourishing in terms of job openings, too.
Cosmetology jobs in California are expected to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028, which is lower than the national expectation of 19%. Still, it’s also worth noting California employed approximately 66,200 cosmetologists in 2018, so a 7% change is about 8,960 projected annual openings due to growth and net replacement. Meanwhile, as a comparison, Idaho estimates a 15% growth in jobs—but with only 1,490 cosmetologists in the state in 2018, that equates to just 20 annual job openings.
As of spring 2022, there are 1,142 California cosmetology jobs posted on Indeed.com. Advertised positions include traveling jobs at $75 per hour, esthetician/cosmetologist work at $25 to $45 per hour, and employment at unique locations like Disneyland resorts.
California is also known for its film and theatre scenes. Hair and makeup jobs in these fields don’t necessarily require cosmetology backgrounds, but obtaining licensure can help—and those certifications can keep the bills paid while you look for work in the field, which can be competitive.
California makeup and hair artists for theatre and performance earned an average annual salary of $136,340 per year in 2021, about $12,000 more than the national average for this role. These jobs aren’t as common as standard cosmetology jobs in salons and spas, so having a backup plan is essential.
California Cosmetology License Requirements
There are four routes to obtaining a cosmetology license in California:
- Traditional education
- High school CTE
- CTE during incarceration
You may also transfer an out-of-state cosmetology license to California if it meets all requirements. If the state decides your current training doesn’t meet standards, you may need to take additional classes, pass the written exam, or both.
We’ll dig into cosmetology licensure requirements by route, but let’s start by looking at some commonalities.
Universal California Cosmetology Licensure Requirements
You can expect to take classes in certain topics and complete a state test regardless of your licensure route. The topics include:
- Health and safety
- Disinfection and sanitation
- Chemical hair services
- Hairstyling services
- Skin care services
- Hair removal
- Lash and brow beautification
- Manicure and pedicure
- Sexual and physical assault awareness (California cosmetologists are required to report suspected abuse)
Cosmetology programs culminate in a written exam. Testing vendor PSI has extremely strict requirements for scheduling your test, what to prepare, and so forth, so be sure to review their candidate information bulletin and talk to your school for clarification before taking your tests.
California does not require a practical cosmetology exam as of January 2022. This lack of practical testing is unusual; most states require a written and a hands-on test.
California Cosmetology Apprenticeships
Cosmetology schools are great for many people, but they may not be right for everyone. Fortunately, California also allows cosmetologists to complete training via apprenticeships. California requires cosmetology apprentices to be at least 16 years old and have a minimum of a 10th-grade education, have a valid SSN or TIN and government photo ID, and complete the required hours and examinations.
Apprentices don’t just jump in and start working in salons. Before beginning a cosmetology apprenticeship, you need to:
- Be accepted to a state-approved apprenticeship program
- Pay the program’s fees (max of $2,500 unless they’ve received a state exemption)
- Complete a 39-hour Pre-apprentice Training Class with your program sponsor
- Fill out all applications and relevant paperwork in conjunction with your trainer and program
- Receive your apprentice license
Once you have your apprentice license, you may begin your approximately two years of apprenticing. These include 32-42.5 hours of On-the-Job Training (OJT) per week and 220 hours of Related Supplemental Instruction (RSI). A minimum of 3,200 OJT hours are required.
While you pay to undergo an apprenticeship, your mentor must pay you at least minimum wage (no commission or rental fees), and you get workers’ compensation. California’s minimum wage is $14 to $15 per hour as of 2022, depending on how many employees your establishment has. So, if your fee was $2,500 and you earn $14 per hour, you need to work about 179 hours or nearly five full-time weeks (before taxes) to pay it off.
Once you’ve completed 21 months of your apprenticeship and required hours, you apply to take the exam just like those who attended traditional schools. You may not split your training between schooling and apprenticing.
High School Cosmetology Programs
Some secondary schools allow students to take cosmetology as a career and technical education (CTE) route while attending traditional high school.
Schools and districts set their own requirements, though the licensure requirements set by the state don’t change.
CDCR Career and Technical Education in Cosmetology
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) allows incarcerated people to train in cosmetology while in a California state prison. Cosmetology isn’t available at all institutions, but it’s worth checking into if you or a loved one are sentenced to serve time and want to study cosmetology.
These cosmetology programs take six to 18 months to complete, and priority is given to those with fewer than five years to serve.
Accreditation and State Approval for Cosmetology Schools
The state board must approve any cosmetology schools before they can offer programs for licensure. State approval information should be easy to find on the school website, and the state keeps a running list as well.
In addition to offering the required cosmetology curriculum, schools must have space for a minimum of 25 students (more if they plan to teach larger groups) and at least 25 full-time learners.
State-approved schools may choose to offer externship programs so students can receive hours toward graduation. These aren’t required, and the school can revoke an externship.
While cosmetology schools only need to be approved by the state to function, some choose to get additional markers of quality. For instance, community colleges have institutional accreditations, and many independent beauty schools have programmatic accreditation from relevant agencies backed by the U.S. Department of Education, such as the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS).
Once you’ve determined a school is accredited, the rest is up to you. Does the school meet your scheduling, budgetary, and educational needs? Do they pass the “gut check?” The only “best” school is the one best for you!
How to Become a Cosmetologist in Your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Find Cosmetology Schools Near Me
Additional Education and Career Resources
Beauty Industry West
Based in Los Angeles, BIW is an organization for beauty professionals to share trends, network, and learn more about the tricks of their trade. It also offers instruction and advocacy on diversity issues, scholarships, and events.
California Board of Barbering & Cosmetology
You can find everything you need to know about California’s cosmetology licensure laws on this official government site.
California Cosmetology Association
The CCA helps promote diversity, advocates for positive legislation, and ensures the reputation of the beauty industry is kept intact. Membership benefits include free or reduced cost trade show admission, insurance benefits, educational opportunities, and more.
Cinema Makeup School Instagram
The Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles doesn’t offer a cosmetology license program, but their Instagram page alone can provide a lot of inspiration to aspiring theatre and film makeup artists.
Color May Vary
This Instagram page is a great introduction to Color May Vary, a Black-owned beauty guide based in California. The group, run by influencer Renee Loiz, strives to support and uplift beauty brands owned by Black entrepreneurs.
A.T.S.E. Local 706
While cosmetologists can work in entertainment nationwide, those interested in working in film hair and makeup may be particularly successful in California. To work in this industry, you should investigate the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild to determine what specific requirements you need to meet.
Latinas in Beauty
This Instagram page for California-based Latina beauty pros uplifts visitors, helps with networking and job searching, runs meetups, and more.
Professional Beauty Federation of California
PBF acts as the voice of California’s beauty professionals. The federation advocates for improved laws, understanding of the field, and industry safety. PBF also organizes volunteer events and encourages direct interaction between lawmakers and beauty experts.
PSI Licensure Candidate Information Bulletin
This booklet explains everything you need to know about applying for and taking your California cosmetology licensure examination.
PSI Online Store
This shop contains study guides and textbooks to help you prepare for your state cosmetology exam. These resources may be particularly important now that California has discontinued the practical portion of the exam.