Every U.S. state has a professional cosmetology board that oversees the cosmetologist and barbering industries in its state. This regulatory control agency is designed to protect the health and safety of consumers by ensuring that all personal appearance workers and establishments comply with specific laws and licensing requirements.
Although each state’s cosmetology board has different licensing requirements, all states do require cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists and estheticians to complete a cosmetologist training program from a licensed school prior to applying for licensure. Cosmetologist training programs must be approved by the state and must offer a minimum number of training hours in order to meet the requirements of the cosmetology board. Some states also require cosmetologist applicants to earn a high school diploma or GED prior to applying for licensure.
After completing the educational requirements and filling out the cosmetologist licensure application, applicants must sit for a written exam to test their understanding of the career. Test questions for the cosmetologist exam will cover a wide range of topics including chemistry, hair cutting, hair coloring, anatomy and physiology, nails and skin. The esthetics licensing exam, on the other hand, covers skin conditions, electricity, facials, body systems, makeup and hair removal. Career-specific exams are also available for manicurists, barbers, instructors and salon owners.
The cosmetology board will award licenses to applicants who pass the cosmetologist exam. These licenses are only valid in the state where they were issued, though some states do offer reciprocity which allows working cosmetologists to obtain licensure easily without retaking an exam. These licenses must be periodically renewed, a process that requires cosmetologists to pay a fee. Renewal is important, because licenses must be kept current in order to continue working as a cosmetologist in the state. It’s also important to realize that these licenses can be revoked or suspended by the cosmetology board if a cosmetologist violates any part of their licensure agreement or is convicted of a crime.