Cosmetology Career Field Structure
The hair salon is the most well-known icon of the cosmetology industry. Salons can range from a space in a stylist’s home to a small storefront operation to a large multi-station facility with separate rooms for shampooing, cutting, coloring, perming, makeup, massage, and other services.
Cosmetologists who have finished training and have received a state license to practice usually start in entry-level positions in salons. These positions might include floor sweeping, shampooing clients’ hair, making appointments, ordering supplies, and other tasks. Gradually, new cosmetologists take on more responsibilities and have more direct client contact, starting with simple cuts and styling. With more on-the-job experience while building a client base, they do more complicated cuts and styles, perms, and hair coloring.
Another popular alternative for cosmetologists is self-employment. Some work as freelance hair and makeup designers who work with photographers, modeling agencies, film production companies, theaters, or television studios. Some open their own salons or rent a station in an established salon.
Because so many cosmetologists seek self-employment, there is a great deal of mobility within the industry. According to a 1999 survey (the most recent information available) conducted by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS), one out of every three salon employees changed jobs in the last year. Approximately 25 percent of those who left salon establishments went into business for themselves, either as salon owners or booth renters.
There are a number of specialties within cosmetology. In hair styling alone, cosmetologists can specialize in cuts, color, or perms. They may also become makeup artists, nail technicians, electrologists, image consultants, or developers and marketers of beauty products. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were 670,000 barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists, 60,000 manicurists and pedicurists, 30,000 skin care specialists, and 25,000 shampooers in 2005.
The cosmetology industry also includes people working in other career fields, such as health care (cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, surgical aides), the film industry (hair and makeup artists, costume designers, special effects artists), advertising, retail sales, fitness, and management. Magazine, newspaper, and Web publishing offer opportunities for full-time and consultant cosmetology experts. There is a variety of jobs available in the manufacturing of beauty and personal care products (such as cosmetics, hair care products, skin care products, and toiletries), including chemical scientists, technicians, packaging designers and engineers, advertising and marketing professionals, sales and distribution personnel, and production workers.