Getting your hair cut, styled and colored the right way can be a big deal. This is what hairdressers are for and they play a big part in making their clients look good. Apart from the usual cutting and styling, hairdressers also carry out straightening, bleaching, conditioning and other related hair treatments. Spas, resorts, beauty salons and hotels are some of the places where they work. Hairdressers are also often referred to as “cosmetologists,” though the two are not exactly the same.
In their day-to-day job, hairdressers have to abide by certain health and safety standards as laid down by their respective state. These include sterilizing all equipment before using it on each new customer, maintaining proper hygiene in the work areas, exercising caution and wearing protection when handling different chemicals, etc. As a hairdresser, you must also be a physically fit individual since a lot of your time on the job will be spent standing.
Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net Online
Good communication and customer service skills are paramount to having a successful career as a hairdresser. Other than that, you must know how to make use of POS (Point of Sale) software, accounting and spreadsheet tools, etc.
Certified hairstyling and cosmetology training programs are offered by various public vocational institutes as well as private beauty schools. Some high schools also conduct classes in hairstyling. It takes around 9 months to complete a cosmetology/hairstyling program.
During this period, you will learn techniques for cutting, styling and coloring hair along with the right way of using different hair chemicals. You will also get a thorough grounding in salon management laws and regulations. Because of the nature of the work, the time spent in the classroom will be relatively short. You will mostly be working with artificial hair to hone your craft.
Steps to Become a Hairdresser
The following steps will help you get started as a hairdresser in the US.
1) Finish High School
This is the basic educational requirement without which you cannot enroll for hairstyling/cosmetology training. You will have to complete either a High School Diploma or an equivalent GED (General Educational Development) certificate.
2) Enroll Into a State-Licensed Cosmetology Program
Once you are done with high school, you will be eligible to enroll in a cosmetology training program approved by the state you live in. In this regard, some vocational high schools offer cosmetology training which allows aspiring hairdressers to get the required education before graduating from high school.
You can also enroll into a cosmetology certificate program after high school. Such courses are offered by different vocational institutes and trade schools. Moreover, some community colleges offer associate degree programs in cosmetology.
3) Get Your License
After you have completed cosmetology training, you will be eligible to apply for your state license. While requirements vary from state to state, hairdressers generally have to qualify a two-part exam to earn their license. This test typically consists of a written and practical section.
The written portion covers the health and safety aspect while the practical part tests candidates’ knowledge of hairstyling. Some states may also conduct a viva as part of their hairdresser licensing assessment.
4) Seek Employment
When you have received your license, it is time to start your career as a hairdresser. Employment opportunities can be found in spas, beauty salons, hotels and resorts, etc. You can also venture into entrepreneurship and set up your own hairstyling service.