So long as each state has its own hours requirements, the relationship between hours required and earnings breaks down. Longer educational programs incur higher costs for students, which usually means a higher federal student debt load. In the past two years, 11 states have lowered their hours requirements for beauty industry licensing. Some states require 1,000 hours, others require upwards of 2,100 hours. For real licensing mobility to be possible, hours and testing requirements must be standardized nationwide. Issuing nationally recognized cosmetology licenses would also increase client confidence.
One of the most promising proposals being discussed in the beauty industry right now is pre-graduate testing. Currently, less than 70% of all beauty school students graduate. In an ideal world, students would have the opportunity to sit for certain exams at the 50% and 75% marks in their beauty school programs. Instead of failing post-graduation and backing up the already clogged pipeline while re-testing (all without the ability to earn wages in the industry), pre-grad testing would give students the opportunity to brush up on skills while still enrolled, allowing more of them to successfully become licensed and join the workforce. Higher graduation rates mean more licensed professionals earning wages, paying taxes, and repaying student loans.
While some organizations argue that licensing is altogether unnecessary for a number of industries, doing away with cosmetology license requirements isn’t the answer. In fact, it would be dangerous if anyone could open a salon and serve clients without training, education, and safety standards set and maintained by a central institution in the industry. That’s why organizations like the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), the Future of the Beauty Industry Coalition (FBIC), and the International SalonSpa Business Network (ISBN) are leading the charge toward licensing mobility.
The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate licensing altogether, it should be to remove the barriers to licensing and create a nationally recognized industry standard that supports workers. Hair is hair — why aren’t all stylists created equal from state to state? Hopefully, they soon will be.