how to become a hair stylist

Industry • Best Practice

How to Become a Hair Stylist in 5 Not-So-Easy (But Profoundly Rewarding) Steps

Got your sights set on becoming a hair stylist? Here’s the step-by-step process of how to get there.

For many people, a hair stylist represents a treasured relationship. Finding your stylist is akin to dating — you keep trying different people until you find the right one. And when you finally do, you feel like you’ve struck gold. 

How amazing would it feel to become that hair stylist? The power to transform people into their most confident selves doesn’t come easily — it comes with loads of hard work and dedication to the craft. Thankfully, there’s a serious payoff, financially and otherwise. Read on to learn how to become a hair stylist so you can get out there and start changing lives (including yours!) today.

Here’s how to become a hair stylist

How long does it take to become a hairdresser? It’s not quite as easy as 1-2-3, but we think you’ll find that the process is #worthit. The time it takes to complete all the below steps depends on your schedule and effort, so the power of the timeline is in your hands. It typically plays out over 12-24 months, though it’s doable in just 6 action-packed months. 

Here’s all you need to know about becoming a hairstylist.

Step 1: Hair stylist school

The first step in your journey to becoming a hairdresser is to get schooled — the good way. Before you can have clients sitting in your chair, you’ve got to sit at a desk and start learning. 

You can’t take just any hair styling classes; you have to attend a state-approved cosmetology program. Thankfully, there are plenty of approved cosmetology schools out there, and we are confident you’ll find the one that is the right fit for you. You can begin your search for the best hair styling school in your area here

If you learn better IRL, then you can opt to attend classes in person. If virtual classes are more your vibe, then attend online hair school instead. Either option (as long as the school is state-approved) will give you the fab education and credentials you need to get clients in your chair and start working. 

Hair stylist school costs vary depending on where you decide to go. Big cities mean bigger bucks, and more rural areas will see a pretty significant decrease in hair stylist course fees. However, oftentimes the opportunities following your education in a big city can be greater than those in a small town. There are different pluses and minuses to each, so do your research to weigh all the different factors (cost, location, opportunity, etc).

Curious what subjects are needed to become a hairdresser? Your initial education in hair will include all sorts of fun classes that cover topics such as shampooing, hair design, color methods, hair extensions, texturizing, hair analysis, and more. And in order to get into these classes, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED.

Step 2: Training

The learning process of becoming a hairstylist happens not only in the classroom but outside of it too. Class is where you read the books, take the tests, and cram your brain with information that will help you be the rockstar hairstylist you’re meant to be. But you don’t want to just be book smart — you want to be street smart, too. And the ticket to this is training, which you can do in tandem with your classes. 

Training is where you learn more about how to style hair and also what the day-to-day life of a hair stylist looks like. It’s the practical application of all that knowledge you’re cramming into your head.

The requisite number of training hours varies from state to state, so be sure to refer to your state’s cosmetology license requirements to find out how many hours you need in order to go from young grasshopper to master of the hair world. 

You can expect to spend, on average, 1,000 to 1,500 hours in training. We know what you’re thinking – 1,500 hours?! That’s a long time. And you’re not wrong — that is a lot of hours. However, in that time you will learn incredibly valuable skills that you’ll carry with you throughout your entire career.

Step 3: Hair stylist licensure

Finishing hair stylist school does not mean the end of your journey to becoming a hairstylist — in fact, it’s just the beginning (but a big, running start). The next step is applying for a cosmetology license. 

How do you get this license? By taking (and passing) a written exam. The state that you want to start your hair styling career in may also require you to take and pass a practical exam. And this is where your #madskillz are really put to the test. This exam asks you to show off what you learned by demonstrating styling skills to see how you will do hands-on with clients.

Step 4: Scoring the job

The hard work is done, and now you can focus your sights on creating the hair styling career of your dreams. For some, this may look like working your way up in a salon, while for others this may look like taking the self-employed route and becoming a mobile hairdresser.

Is one option better than the other? No. It depends on you, your working style, and where you envision your career going. So take the time to consider the pros and cons of each and which one looks like it will take you on the path you’re wanting to go down. 

Some aspiring hair styling entrepreneurs may even find that working in a salon for someone else gives them an inside look at the business side of the biz. Like we said, there is no right or wrong answer, there is only the right or wrong answer for you.

Step 5: Continued Education

Learning in the world of hair styling doesn’t stop once you land a gig. Continued education is key to the ongoing success of your career.

Hair styling training never really stops because the industry is constantly changing and evolving. New trends pop up, new tools emerge, and new approaches to hair styling are created, which makes this industry a fun one to work in. You will likely never find yourself bored, as long as you stay on top of learning the new goings-on in hair. 

How many people can say that their job is exciting? Not enough. But the opportunity to feel that way certainly exists as a hair stylist.

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