A career in cosmetology can provide opportunities in a number of different industries. Even though the first thing that comes to mind, a hair stylist or barber, a cosmetology degree can lead to work in New York fashion or to Hollywood design. Whether you plan to pursue a career as an advertising or editorial stylist, personal stylist, salon developer or owner, or a cosmetology educator, earning a cosmetology degree can qualify you for a variety of professional opportunities.
Career Opportunities with a Cosmetology Degree
Unless you are working the register or cleaning up the place, every position in the cosmetology world will require a license and many hours of practical experience. Pursuing a degree in cosmetology will set you up with experienced individuals and educators in specialized labs as you advance in the field. By training as a cosmetologist, you’re looking at a median salary of $24,300 although, depending on experience and field, this could be much higher. Potential careers for those with a cosmetology degree include:
- Personal Stylist
- Fashion Show Stylist
- Make-up Artist
- Educational Instructor
- Salon Owner/Operator
- Salon Development Partner
- Nail Technicians
By training as a cosmetologist, you will be joining a growing profession. With a 10% expected market growth between 2014 and 2024, cosmetology is growing faster than most jobs. Most beauty schools also provide a well-rounded education that can lead to a 4-year bachelor’s program or university. Each state maintains different licensing requirements, and attending a school in your state will prepare you to take the licensing exam. On average, a cosmetology license requires about 1500 hours of hands on experience, as well class work. Many of the degree and diploma programs offer classes online when applicable. There are ample opportunities to receive financial aid in a Cosmetology program.
The Top 50 Cosmetology Schools
1. Pamlico Community College – Grantsboro, NC
Pamlico Community College offers a Cosmetology Certificate, Degree, and a Manicure and Nails Certificate. The hands on curriculum includes 90+ hours of class work and can be completed in as little as four semesters. Graduates of the programs should be prepared for the State Board of Cosmetics Arts examination. Pamlico Community College also offers discounted cosmetology services on campus.
2. Randolph Community College – Asheboro, NC
Randolph Community College offers an associate degree, diploma, or certificate in Cosmetology. Students who finish their certificate should qualify to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination. Students will work in a simulated salon environment as gain competency in scientific/artistic principles, and fundamentals. Randolph Community college can accommodate 44 students at a time at the styling stations, plus students in three classrooms. Cosmetic services are also offered to those interested.
3. Moraine Park Technical College – Fond du Lac, WI
Moraine Park Technical College offers a technical diploma in Cosmetology. The 12 month, 40-credit, classroom, and skill development, cosmetology program will prepare graduates for the state Cosmetology Licensing Exam. Classes start in August and January of each year and run Monday through Friday. Class size is limited to the first 20 paid students and early enrollment is encouraged.
4. Lake Area Technical Institute – Watertown, SD
The Cosmetology program at Lake Area Technical Institute is a 15-month, 2100 hour program designed to give students a hands on education. It trains students in hair, skin, and nail care in a salon setting. After graduation, students are required to take the three part state board exam administered by the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission.
5. Stanly Community College – Albemarle, NC
Stanly Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Cosmetology. By selecting a specific program of study, students can choose between a cosmetology certificate, cosmetology degree, cosmetology instructor certificate, manicuring instructor certificate, or a manicurist/nail technician program. Not only will the Associate program provide all the hands-on fundamentals and principles to become a licensed cosmetologist, the elective classes may also provide the knowledge required to own/operate a professional salon. Completion of the program will also qualify students to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination.
6. Ogeechee Technical College – Statesboro, GA
Ogeechee Technical College offers a Cosmetology Diploma, Esthetician Certificate, Hair Designer Certificate, and a Shampoo Technician Certificate in Statesboro, Georgia. The curriculum meets state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Program graduates receive a Cosmetology diploma and are employable as a cosmetology salesperson, cosmetologist, salon manager, or a salon owner. To graduate, Cosmetology diploma-seeking students must earn a minimum of 54 semester credit hours. The program requires and minimum of 1530 contact hours and generally takes 4 semesters to complete.
7. Georgia Piedmont Technical College – Clarkston, GA
Georgia Piedmont Technical College offers a Cosmetology Diploma, Shampoo Technician certification, and a Cosmetology Instructor Training certification. The Cosmetology diploma requires a minimum of 54 credit hours for graduation. The curriculum meets state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Program graduates receive a Cosmetology diploma and are employable as a cosmetology salesperson, cosmetologist, salon manager, or a salon owner. Students must be a licensed cosmetologist with two years in-field experience to qualify for the Instructor Training program.
8. Northern Michigan University – Marquette, MI
Northern Michigan University offers a two-year (64 credit) Cosmetology Certificate, a one-semester (16 credit) Esthetics certificate, and a one-semester (18 credit) Cosmetology instructor certificate. Students can choose to work in a specific area of the cosmetology eld, or advance their training to become a cosmetology instructor. Students in the cosmetology program will receive a combination of classroom and laboratory work, with opportunities to practice their skills on mannequins and actual customers in the campus salon/studio. NMU has just completed a new Cosmetology Studio with two salons and 16 new stations.
9. Southwest Wisconsin Technical College – Fennimore, WI
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College offers a three-semester, 45 credit technical diploma in Cosmetology. Students gain experience in Southwest Tech’s Creative Elements Salon by working on mannequins, fellow students, and salon guests. Students also learn the business aspects of working in a salon. Students must complete 1550 hours of classroom instruction to meet the requirements of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).
10. Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas – De Queen, AR
CCCUA offers a technical certificate in Cosmetology. The full-time, three-semester program is designed to provide 1380 hours of training and hands-on experience. Acceptance is based on a first come/first serve system and completion of the program should qualify for licensure examination by the Arkansas State Board of Cosmetology.
11. Central Carolina Community College – Sanford, NC
Central Carolina Community College offers multiple programs in the three areas of Cosmetology, Barbarism, Esthetics, and Manicure/Nail Tech. These include Spanish cosmetology and natural hair care through the school’s Continuing Education division. Students can choose between associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, and/or instructor certificates from each area. Programs range from 1 semester(16 credit hours) to 6 semesters (69 credit hours) and can provide all the required hours and classroom work to obtain the desired license. Graduates should qualify to sit for the North Carolina State Board examination at the end of the program.
12. Southwest Mississippi Community College – Summit, MS
Cosmetology at Southwest Mississippi Community College is a twelve-month program of study designed to comply with the standard of the State Board for Cosmetology and the requirement for 1500 contact hours for students. Successful completion of the cosmetology program entitles students to a Cosmetology Certificate and qualifies them for licensing examinations conducted by the State Cosmetology Board.
13. Minnesota West Community and Technical College – Granite Falls, MN
The three areas of study for a student to choose at Minnesota West include a Cosmetology Diploma, Esthetician Certificate, and/or a Manicurist Certificate. Programs range from 16 to 68 credit hours and can be completed at two different campuses. Students receive theory as well as practical experience in hair, skin, and nail care through classroom study, demonstrations and practical experience in the campus clinic. Upon successful completion of hours and requirements mandated by the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologists Examiners, students must also take a written and a skills certification test for licensure.
14. Saddleback College – Mission Viejo. CA
Saddleback College offers two programs in the Cosmetology department. Upon completion students may receive either a Certificate of Achievement for Cosmetology or an Occupational Skills Award for Estheticians. Classes are taught at an off campus beauty school. The Cosmetology program consists of 1600 hours comprised of four courses. The program can be completed in 3 to 6 semesters. Estheticians only require 600 hours and can be completed in one semester. These programs prepare you for the California State Board Exam (you must complete this exam in order to receive your license).
15. Coastal Pines Technical College – Waycross, GA
Coastal Pines Technical College offers a Cosmetology Diploma, Hair Designer Technical Certificate of Credit, and a Shampoo Technician Technical Certificate of Credit. These programs prepares students for careers in the field of cosmetology as Cosmetologists, hair technicians, or shampoo technicians. The Cosmetology program is designed to take 68 weeks to complete. Those that complete the program will be eligible to sit for the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology for state licensure.
16. Oconee Fall Line Technical College – Sandersville, GA
Oconee Fall Line Technical College offers a Cosmetology Diploma, and Technical Certificates of Credit for Nail and Shampoo Technicians. OFTC’s Cosmetology program prepares students for careers related to skin, hair, and nails. Upon graduation students are eligible to sit for State of Georgia cosmetology licensure. This test is a practical and written evaluation. The Cosmetology program can be completed in 4 semesters, or after earning a minimum of 55 semester credit hours.
17. Lanier Technical College – Oakwood, GA
Lanier Technical College offers a Cosmetology diploma, a Hair Designer Certificate, and a Shampoo Technician Certificate. Students admitted to the program must complete the 55 credit, 1500 hour within 5 years and only on one campus. Completing the program will allow the student to sit for the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology examination.
18. Brunswick Community College – Bolivia, NC
BCC offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree, diploma, and certificate in the Cosmetology department. There is also a Cosmetology Instructor Certificate program available to those seeking advancement in the Cosmetology field. Graduates should qualify to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination.
19. Barstow Community College – Barstow, CA
Barstow Community College offers an Associate of Science in Cosmetology which requires 69 units to complete. This two year program will provide the students with a well rounded education in both cosmetology and general subject matter. Completion of the program will allow students to take the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology examination.
20. Arkansas Tech University – Russellville, AK
ATU offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree and a Technical Certificate in Cosmetology. The certificate is a 40 semester credit hour course and can be completed in 3 semester (including a five-week summer course). The Associates Degree can be completed in 60 semester credit hours in 4 semesters. The Arkansas State Health Department Cosmetology Division requires 1500 clock hours to qualify for the state cosmetology licensing exam.
21. Isothermal Community College – Spindale, NC
Isothermal Community College offers a degree and diploma in cosmetology as well as certification for Cosmetology instructors, manicuring instructors and manicuring/nail technologists. The degree program should take about 5 semesters and provides a well rounded education along with the cosmetology course work.
22. Piedmont Community College – Roxboro, NC
Piedmont Community College offers a Cosmetology Diploma and Certificate program or a manicurist certification. There is also an instructor certification program available for current cosmetologists. Semester hours required to complete the programs are 48, 34, 12, and 24, respectively. The cosmetology programs will provide hands on fundamentals in simulated salons to prepare students to sit for the North Carolina Cosmetology examination.
23. South Georgia Technical College – Americus, GA
South Georgia Technical College provides both a Barbering and Cosmetology program. There is also a Barbering for Cosmetologists for those with current Master Cosmetology licenses to receive additional training to qualify for the Barbering examination. The curriculum meets state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology.
24. Gaston College – Dallas, NC
Gaston College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cosmetology, a diploma program, and an instructor certificate. The AAS is a 70 credit-hour course over 5 semester (including summer). The diploma programs is a 48 credit-hour course over 4 semesters. Those interested in the instructor program will need to take 24 credit-hours and hold a valid cosmetology license. Each program prepares the student to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination.
25. George C Wallace State Community College-Selma – Selma, AL
GCWSCC-Selma offers a Certificate in Cosmetology and an Instructor Training Certificate. Most students are able to complete the cosmetology certificate education in 42 weeks. Students must complete 1200 hours of training before being eligible to take the Alabama State Board examination.
26. Haywood Community College – Clyde, NC
Haywood Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science Degree and a Diploma in Cosmetology. The AAS degree requires 66 to 67 credit hours to complete while the diploma requires only 47 credit hours. Both programs require 1500 hours of hands on work before being able to sit for the NC State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination.
27. Olney Central College – Olney, IL
Olney Central College offers a program for future Cosmetologists and Nail Technologists. The certificate program for Cosmetology requires 3 full time semesters (including summer) to complete the 42 credit hours. Successful completion of the program will provide the 1500 hours needed to sit for the licensing examination required by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Financial aid is available to those that qualify and salon services are provided to those interested.
28. Clovis Community College – Clovis, NM
Billed as a “Pivot Point member school”, Clovis Community College offers an AAS in Cosmetology, as well as certification for Esthetics and Nail Technicians. The full-time cosmetology programs runs Monday through Thursday. Each track is certified by the New Mexico State Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists and provides the skills and experience to prepare students to take the required state board examinations.
29. Columbus Technical College – Columbus, GA
Columbus Technical College offers a diploma in Barbering, and Cosmetology. There are also Esthetician, Nail Technician, and Shampoo Technician certificate programs available. Course loads range from 15 to 55 credit hours, depending on the selected program. Completion of a program will prepare the student to sit for the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology examination.
30. Georgia Northwestern Technical College – Rome, GA
GNTC offers a Cosmetology Diploma, Hair Designer Certificate, Nail Technician Certificate, and Shampoo Technician Certificate. The Diploma program requires 55 credit hours to complete and all the programs prepare the student to sit for the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology examination. The Cosmetology program is offered at 4 out of 6 campuses. Class schedule and course load is determined by each campus.
31. Coastal Carolina Community College – Jacksonville, NC
Coastal Carolina Community College offers a Cosmetology diploma program along with an Instructor certificate, and a Manicuring/Nail Technology certificate. The diploma program requires 48 credit hours to complete. Graduates should qualify to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts Examination. This has been identified as a limited enrollment program and may involve certain deadlines.
32. East Mississippi Community College – Scooba, MS
EMCC offers a Cosmetology certification programs. The Cosmetology program is a minimum of 1,500 hours and is a three-semester curriculum leading to a Vocational Certificate in cosmetology. Classes are held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. five days a week. After completion of the program, students must take a written and practical State Board Exam in order to receive their license.
33. Southeastern Technical College – Vidalia, GA
Southeastern Technical College offers up a Cosmetology Diploma, and Technical Certification Programs in Barberism, Hair Design, and Shampoo Technician. All programs are available at the Swainsboro campus, but the Cosmetology and Hair design program are also available at the Vidalia campus. The Cosmetology program requires 55 credit-hours and generally takes 4 to 5 semesters to complete. Southeastern Technical College maintains one of the highest pass rates of students taking licensure exams in the state of Georgia.
34. Atlanta Technical College – Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Technical College offers a Diploma program in Cosmetology and Barbering. Technical Certification programs are available for Shampoo Technicians and Barbering for Cosmetologists. The Barbering diploma requires 4 semesters to complete while the Cosmetology requires only 3. 100% of students completed the Cosmetology program within 72 weeks. All programs will prepare the students to sit for the Georgia State Board examinations. Financial aid is available.
35. Catawba Valley Community College – Hickory, NC
CVCC offers a Cosmetology diploma program. Students will learn in a simulated salon environment to develop manipulative skills. General education courses, including English, psychology, are taught on the CVCC campus. All cosmetology-related courses will be taught at CVCC Newton Center. Instruction and course materials are available in Spanish. Graduates should qualify to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts Examination.
36. Cleveland Community College – Shelby, NC
Cleveland Community College offers multiple paths in the Cosmetology department. Students can choose a Cosmetology Diploma, Certificate, or Instructor Certificate. There is also an Esthetics Instructor and Technologist Certificate, as well as a Manicuring/Nail Technology certificate. Graduates should qualify to sit for the North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination. All applicants for a diploma in cosmetology must have completed all courses, 1500 hours (as specified), and live performances and mannequin services.
37. Idaho State University – Pocatello, ID
Idaho State University offers an Advanced Technical Cosmetology Certificate and a Basic Nail Technology Certificate. They require 1.5 years and .5 years of study to complete. 94% of students have completed the Cosmetology program in 2 years. Program accepts students in August and January. Typical classroom hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The program admits 40 students each year. The nail technology option is only offered in the summer. The Cosmetology program has a mandatory summer session. Financial aid is available and a cosmetology center is open for those interested.
38. Central Georgia Technical College – Warner Robins, GA
Central Georgia Technical College offers multiple Barbering options, as well as multiple Cosmetology options. Diplomas are available in both with technical certificates and instructor training also available. Course requirements range from 12 to 56 credit hours for completion. Students must clock additional practicum hours to meet state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Entrance is available every semester for the Barbarism and Cosmetology diplomas.
39. Shawnee Community College – Ullin, IL
Shawnee Community College offers a one-year Cosmetology Certificate program. This certificate program is designed to provide students with the basic knowledge and skills compatible with Illinois Department of Registration and Education guidelines for training licensed cosmetologists. A minimum of 1500 contact hours and 36-semester hours of college credit will prepare the graduate for the Illinois State Licensing Examination.
40. Augusta Technical College – Augusta, GA
Augusta Technical College offers up a Barbering Diploma, Barbering for Cosmetologists Certificate, Cosmetology Diploma, Hair Designer Certificate, and a Shampoo Technician Certificate. Programs range from one term to 5 terms with credit-hours ranging from 12 to 55 required. Certain programs are only available at specific campuses. The curriculum meets state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Program graduates receive a Cosmetology diploma and are employable as a cosmetology salesperson, cosmetologist, salon manager, or a salon owner.
41. Gogebic Community College – Ironwood, MI
Gogebic Community College offers a Cosmetology program, Manicuring program, and a Teacher’s Training course. The 1500 hour cosmetology program can earn a cosmetology license in Michigan and Wisconsin. Students spend the first ten weeks in class completing prerequisite courses before working in a salon atmosphere on clients. Upon completion, students should be ready to sit for the appropriate State Board Licensing examination. The program should take 18 months to complete.
42. Savannah Technical College – Savannah, GA
Savannah Technical College offers both a Barbering Diploma program and a Cosmetology Diploma program and the Liberty, Effingham, and Savannah campuses. There are also Technical Certificate of Credits available for Hair Designer, Nail Technician, and Shampoo Technician. Programs range from 12 to 55 credit hours and can be completed in 1 to 5 terms. The curriculum meets state licensing requirement of the State board of Cosmetology.
43. Golden West College – Huntington Beach, CA
The Golden West College Cosmetology Department offers programs in Cosmetology, Esthetician, and Barbering. Awards for completion of a program include an Associate in Arts Degree, or a Certificate of Achievement, depending on the chosen program. Cosmetology is a 1600-hour program, consisting of five sessions and takes approximately one year to complete. The program offers full time day classes only, Monday through Friday – 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. The programs are designed to prepare for the state licensure examination and successful initial employment. Golden West College Cosmetology students maintain a high pass/fail ratio for the state licensing test.
44. Clary Sage College – Tulsa, OK
Clary Sage College offers a distinct diploma program for each field in cosmetology. That includes Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Barber, Nail manicurists, and etc. The program should take 12 to 18 months to complete and classes start weekly. 69% of students finish in 50 weeks. Guided classroom and floor experience will qualify graduates to sit for the Oklahoma State Licensing Exam. There are multiple giveback and portfolio building events provided during the year to help students expand their practice.
45. Southeastern Illinois College – Harrisburg, IL
Southeastern Illinois College offers a Cosmetology program, a Cosmetology Teacher program, and a Cosmetology refresher program. The Cosmetology programs is structured to be completed in one year and provide 38 college credits along with 1500 clock hours of experience. In 2016, the Cosmetology program had 92% graduation rate, up from 89% in 2015. All options meet the standards and approval of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations.
46. Riverland Community College – Austin, MN
Riverland Community College offers a 60-credit Cosmetology Diploma program at the Austin location. This three semester and one summer session course is setup to provide the 1550 hours required by the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners. Training covers all aspects of hair and skin and nail care in a state of the art salon environment. The typical student to teacher ratio is about 17 to 1.
47. North Georgia Technical College – Clarkesville, GA
NGTC offers a Cosmetology Diploma that is 4 terms long and requires 53 credit hours plus 1500 practical hours to complete. The curriculum meets state licensing requirements of the State Board of Cosmetology. Upon completion of this diploma, graduates will also receive a Shampoo Technician certificate. Course start in the Summer and Spring at the Clarkesville and Blairsville campuses.
48. Alamance Community College – Graham, NC
Alamance Community College offers an Associate’s degree, Diploma and Certificate in Cosmetology. The curriculum competency-based knowledge provides a simulated salon environment which enables students to develop manipulative skills. Graduates should qualify to sit for the State Board of Cosmetic Arts examination. In the future, a Manicuring Certificate and Esthetics Certificate may be offered.
49. Snow College – Ephraim, UT
Snow College offers a Cosmetology/Barbering Technology program. This program includes 1600 clock time hours of instruction required by the State of Utah for licensure. Students are prepared to take the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology Licensure Examination required for licensure. If you already have a Cosmetology/Barbering license through the State of Utah, contact the Student Success office to find out how you can pursue an A.A.S. in Salon Business.
50. Central Piedmont Community College – Charlotte, NC
CPCC offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cosmetology. This program is competency-based and provides hands-on fundamentals. The curriculum provides a simulated salon environment which enables students to develop manipulative skills. The Cosmetology degree can be earned in five semesters. Classes begin in spring and fall semesters. Graduates will be able to sit for the North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Arts Licensing Exam.
To determine the best beauty and cosmetology schools, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, and graduation rate. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 50 best online beauty and cosmetology programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (25%) + Default Rate (25%) + Retention Rate (25%) + Graduation Rate (25%) = Final score.