5 Steps to Becoming a Hair Stylist

5 Steps to Becoming a Hair Stylist

Becoming a hair stylist is a dream for many people who have a passion for hair and an eye for style. As a profession, hair styling offers a wide range of opportunities for creativity and self-expression. Whether you’re drawn to the art of designing the perfect hairstyle or helping someone find their own unique look, becoming a hair stylist can be a rewarding career choice.

Here’s a step-by-step process to help you become a licensed hair stylist:

Step 1: Research and choose the right school

The first step on the journey to becoming a hair stylist is to find a state-approved school that offers programs in hair styling. There are many schools out there, so it’s important to do your research and find the one that best fits your needs. Look for schools with experienced teachers, a strong curriculum, and good reviews from other students. Once you’ve found a few schools that you’re interested in, reach out to them and schedule a visit. This will give you a chance to see the facilities, meet the teachers, and get a feel for the atmosphere.

Step 2: Complete a state-approved hair styling program

Once you’ve chosen a school, you’ll need to enroll in and complete a state-approved hair styling program. These programs typically last anywhere from 9 months to 2 years, depending on the level of education you want to achieve. During your time in the program, you’ll learn the basics of hair styling, including cutting, coloring, and styling techniques. You’ll also learn about proper hair care and maintenance, as well as state-sanctioned health and safety practices.

Step 3: Pass the licensing exam

After you’ve completed your hair styling program, you’ll need to pass a state licensing exam. This exam consists of both a practical and written portion, and it’s designed to test your knowledge and skills as a hair stylist. The exam will vary from state to state, but it typically covers topics such as salon operations, sanitation practices, and styling techniques. You’ll need to study and practice diligently in order to pass the exam, so be sure to take advantage of any study materials or practice exams that your school offers.

Step 4: Obtain your state license

Once you’ve passed the licensing exam, you’ll need to apply for and obtain your state license. This will allow you to legally work as a hair stylist in your state. The requirements for obtaining a license may vary depending on your state, so be sure to check with your local licensing board for specific details. In some states, you may need to complete additional training or apprenticeship hours before you can become fully licensed.

Step 5: Begin your career as a hair stylist

Once you’ve obtained your state license, you’re ready to start your career as a hair stylist. You can choose to work in a salon, spa, or even open your own business. Many hair stylists find it helpful to gain experience by working under more experienced professionals before venturing out on their own. This can help you build your skills, learn new techniques, and get a feel for the industry. Plus, working alongside other hair stylists can be a great way to network and make connections within the industry.

Step 1: Research the Industry

Becoming a full-fledged hairstylist is a challenging yet fulfilling journey. Before you embark on this path, it is essential to do your research and understand what it entails. This step-by-step guide will help you navigate through the process of becoming a hairstylist and give you a clear picture of what to expect.

1. Understand the State-Approved Education

To become a licensed hairstylist, you must complete a board-approved cosmetology program. Research the right schools in your area that offer this education. Learn about the cost, the curriculum, and whether they have specific courses in hairstyling.

It’s important to note that each state has its own licensing requirements. Check the state’s website or reach out to the relevant organizations to get accurate information on what you need to do to become a licensed hairstylist.

2. Choose the Right Training Route

Once you find the right cosmetology school, you can enroll and start your education. During this time, you will learn various hairstyling techniques, including cutting, coloring, and styling. Take this opportunity to soak in as much knowledge as possible and practice your skills.

Some cosmetology schools also offer additional courses for specialized fields like barbering or esthetics. If you have a specific interest, explore these options and see if it aligns with your career goals.

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3. Stay Informed and Updated

The beauty industry is constantly evolving, so it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques. Follow industry publications, attend workshops and seminars, and join professional organizations to stay connected and learn from other experienced hairstylists.

Continued education is not only beneficial for enhancing your skills but also for networking and keeping abreast of new opportunities in the field. It shows your dedication and willingness to continuously improve as a stylist.

4. Gain Hands-On Experience

While attending cosmetology school is essential, nothing compares to the experience you gain by actually working in a salon. Once you graduate, look for salons in your area that are willing to take on new hairstylists.

Working as an assistant or apprentice is a great way to learn from seasoned professionals and get hands-on experience. It may involve tasks like shampooing clients, maintaining salon cleanliness, and observing the stylists. This phase is crucial for building your skills and confidence as a hairstylist.

5. Get Licensed and Set Your Career in Motion

Once you’ve completed your education and gained the necessary experience, it’s time to get licensed. Each state has its own licensing exam, which usually includes a written and practical test. Make sure you are well-prepared and confident before taking the exam.

Passing the licensing exam will open doors to a wide range of opportunities as a licensed hairstylist. Whether you choose to work in a salon, start your own business, or pursue other career paths like becoming a hairstylist for celebrities or working in the fashion industry, the possibilities are endless.

Remember, the journey to becoming a hairstylist may be challenging, but with hard work, dedication, and a passion for hair, you can achieve your goals and have a fulfilling career in the beauty industry.

Exploring the Exciting World of Hair Styling

Working as a hair stylist can be a challenging yet fulfilling journey. If you have a passion for hair and enjoy creating new styles, becoming a hair stylist might be the perfect career choice for you. In this article, we will explore the exciting world of hair styling and discuss the steps you need to take to become a successful hair stylist.

Step 1: Choose the Right Education Route

To become a licensed hair stylist in California, you need to complete a board-approved training program. There are a variety of educational options available, including vocational schools, community colleges, and private institutions. Enrolling in a hair styling program will provide you with the essential skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the industry.

Step 2: Obtain a License

After you have completed your hair styling education, you will need to obtain a professional license. The process includes passing a written and practical exam. It may seem hard, but with the right training and continued education, you can pass the licensing exams and become a licensed hair stylist.

Step 3: Find the Perfect Work Environment

Once you have obtained your license, it’s time to start searching for a job. There are many different work environments for hair stylists, including salons, spas, and even freelance opportunities. Consider your preferred work style and search for locations that align with your career goals.

Step 4: Join Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations and industry associations can help you stay current with the latest trends and techniques. It also provides networking opportunities and access to resources that can help you grow in your career. Some organizations even offer additional training and certifications to further enhance your skills.

Step 5: Continued Learning and Career Development

Becoming a hair stylist doesn’t mean that the learning stops. Continued education and career development are essential for staying ahead in this dynamic industry. Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences to expand your knowledge and refine your skills. This will not only benefit you as a stylist but also help you provide the best service to your clients.

Step 2: Choose the Right Education

Obtaining the right education is a crucial step if you want to become a successful hairstylist. Without proper training and education, it’s challenging to enter and excel in the competitive world of hairstyling.

First, you will need to decide whether you want to attend a hairdressing school or a college. Both options have their pros and cons, so it’s essential to weigh them carefully. Hairdressing schools focus specifically on hairstyling, while colleges may offer more comprehensive programs that cover other beauty-related subjects.

Once you’ve decided on the type of institution you want to attend, it’s time to research different schools or colleges. Look for board-approved programs that provide the necessary training for licensing. Check their websites for information on the curriculum, requirements, and locations they offer.

Cost is also a significant factor to consider. Look into the tuition fees, as well as any additional expenses you may incur during your education. Keep in mind that becoming a hairstylist doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on education. There are many affordable options available.

Another aspect to consider is the practical training you will receive. Look for schools that offer hands-on experience working with clients. This real-world practice is invaluable for your growth as a hairstylist.

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When searching for the right school, pay attention to the faculty. Find out if the instructors are experienced professionals in the industry. Learning from someone who has been working as a hairstylist can provide valuable insights and mentorship.

Before making a final decision, it’s a good idea to visit the school in person. This way, you can get a feel for the environment and see if it aligns with your goals and values.

Once you have completed your education and graduated from a board-approved program, you must obtain a license to work as a hairstylist. Licensing requirements vary depending on the state you plan to work in, so make sure to research the specific requirements for your area.

It’s important to note that some states, like California and Ohio, have more stringent licensing requirements than others. This means you may need to pass additional exams or complete extra training to become licensed in these locations.

Having a license not only shows that you have met the necessary educational and training standards, but it also opens up more career opportunities. Many salons and organizations only accept licensed hairstylists.

After you become a licensed hairstylist, your education doesn’t stop there. The beauty industry is constantly evolving, and you must stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques. Continued education and training can help you stay competitive and advance in your career.

Remember, becoming a hairstylist is a step-by-step process. Choosing the right education is a crucial second step in your journey to becoming a successful hairstylist. Take the time to research and find the perfect option for you.

Pursuing a Formal Education in Hair Design

If you’re serious about becoming a professional hair stylist, pursuing a formal education in hair design is the first step you need to take. While it isn’t always required to have a college degree, going through a formal education program will give you the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the industry.

One of the main reasons why pursuing a formal education is important is because it sets a standard for the profession. By completing a board-approved hair design program, you show that you have met the requirements and have the necessary skills to transform hair. This not only gives you credibility, but it also ensures that you are aware of best practices and are capable of helping your clients achieve their desired looks.

Many hair design programs will have a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practice. This allows you to learn the necessary theory and technical skills, while also gaining practical experience in a salon setting. The classroom portion of the program will teach you about the different aspects of hair design, such as cutting, coloring, and styling techniques. It will also cover important topics like client consultation, safety and sanitation practices, and business management.

After you graduate from a hair design program, you will need to complete the licensure process in your state. This typically involves passing a written exam and a practical exam to demonstrate your skills. Licensure is crucial because it legally allows you to work as a full-fledged hair stylist and earn a salary.

Here’s what the process of becoming a licensed hair stylist looks like:

  1. Complete a board-approved hair design program
  2. Graduate from the program
  3. Pass the licensure exams
  4. Obtain your state-approved hair stylist license
  5. Start working as a professional hair stylist

While pursuing a formal education in hair design may seem challenging, it is a necessary step to take if you want to become a successful hair stylist. It not only provides you with the skills and knowledge you need, but it also gives you the confidence to excel in your career. So, if you’re serious about becoming a hair stylist, make sure to choose a board-approved and licensed program and start your journey towards a rewarding profession.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience

Once you have completed your education and obtained your license, the next step in becoming a hair stylist is to gain practical experience. This is an essential part of your journey as it allows you to apply the knowledge and skills you have learned in a real salon environment.

There are several ways you can gain practical experience. One option is to enroll in an apprenticeship program or internship. Many salons and beauty organizations offer these programs, which provide hands-on training under the guidance of experienced professionals. This allows you to learn from experts in the field and gain valuable insights into the day-to-day workings of a salon.

Another option is to work as an assistant or junior stylist in a salon. This gives you the opportunity to observe and learn from more experienced stylists, while also taking on smaller tasks and gradually building your skills. This can be a great way to transform your theoretical knowledge into practical expertise.

It’s important to note that gaining practical experience does not mean that you will be making a high salary right away. In the beginning, most stylists earn an average or entry-level income. However, with dedication, hard work, and continued education, you can gradually build your skills and increase your earning potential.

When choosing a salon to work at, pay attention to the type of clientele they serve and the overall atmosphere. Make sure it aligns with your personal style and goals as a hairdresser. It’s also a good idea to ask about the opportunities for further training and advancement within the salon.

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In some areas, there may be specific requirements or steps to follow to become a licensed hair stylist. For example, in California, stylists are required to take and pass state licensing exams. Make sure you are aware of the licensing regulations in your area and follow the necessary steps to obtain your license.

Here’s a list of things to consider when gaining practical experience:

  1. Enroll in an apprenticeship or internship program
  2. Work as an assistant or junior stylist in a salon
  3. Choose a salon that aligns with your personal style and goals
  4. Ask about opportunities for further training and advancement
  5. Ensure you follow the licensing requirements in your area

By following these steps and gaining practical experience, you will be on your way to becoming a skilled and successful hair stylist.

Learning the Ropes through Apprenticeship and Internship

If you’re passionate about hair styling and want to pursue a career in this challenging yet fulfilling industry, it’s important to learn the ropes before you can become a full-fledged hair stylist. One of the most perfect ways to do this is through apprenticeship and internship programs.

While attending a state-approved cosmetology school is a step-by-step process to obtain the proper licensing, there’s a lot you can learn outside of the classroom. Enrolling in an apprenticeship or internship program allows you to get hands-on experience and learn from seasoned professionals in real salon environments.

Gaining Practical Experience

One of the key advantages of apprenticeship and internship programs is the opportunity to learn from someone who has already gone through the steps to become a successful hair stylist. You’ll get the chance to work alongside professionals who have a wealth of knowledge and skills to share.

During these programs, you’ll keep up with the latest trends and techniques in hair styling. You’ll be working hard to style hair, assist clients, and observe professionals as they transform their clients’ looks. This hands-on experience is invaluable in honing your skills and gaining a deep understanding of the hairdressing profession.

Learning State-Approved Practices

Apprenticeship and internship programs also give you the opportunity to learn state-approved practices and procedures. Some states, like California, require a certain amount of hours working under a licensed professional before you can apply for a cosmetology license. By participating in these programs, you’ll be able to fulfill the licensing requirements while gaining practical experience.

Working in a salon environment allows you to learn about the proper use of salon tools and products, handle different hair types and textures, and understand the importance of client consultation. These programs also help you develop a keen attention to detail and acquire the ability to create a variety of hairstyles that suit different clients’ needs and preferences.

Networking and Career Acceptance

Aside from learning hair styling techniques and practices, apprenticeship and internship programs provide a great opportunity to network and build relationships in the industry. By working in a salon, you’ll get to know professionals, clients, and organizations related to the hair styling world. These connections can open doors for future job opportunities and help you stay updated on the latest industry trends and advancements.

Furthermore, completing an apprenticeship or internship program can enhance your resume and make you more marketable to potential employers. Many salons prefer hiring stylists who have already learned the ropes and have practical experience, as they can hit the ground running and contribute to the success of the salon.

Whether you choose to attend a board-approved cosmetology school or participate in apprenticeship and internship programs, learning the ropes is an essential part of becoming a successful hair stylist. By taking the time and effort to gain practical experience and learn state-approved practices, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling and rewarding career in the world of hair styling.


What are the steps to becoming a hair stylist?

Becoming a hair stylist involves several steps. First, you need to complete a high school education or equivalent. Then, you can enroll in a reputable beauty school or cosmetology program. After completing the required training and education, you will need to pass a state licensing exam. Once you are a licensed hair stylist, you can gain practical experience by working in a salon or apprenticing under an experienced stylist. Continuing education and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques is also important for a successful career as a hair stylist.

What education do I need to become a hair stylist?

To become a hair stylist, you will need to complete a high school education or equivalent. Additionally, you will need to attend a beauty school or cosmetology program where you will receive the necessary training and education in hairstyling techniques, salon management, health and safety procedures, and more. It is important to choose a reputable school that is accredited and recognized by the state licensing board.

How can I become a licensed hair stylist?

To become a licensed hair stylist, you will need to meet the requirements set by your state’s licensing board. Generally, this involves completing a certain number of training hours at a beauty school or cosmetology program, passing both written and practical exams, and paying a licensing fee. The specific requirements may vary from state to state, so it is important to check with your local licensing board for the exact steps and qualifications needed in your area.

What professional organizations are available for hair stylists?

There are several professional organizations available for hair stylists. One example is the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), which offers resources, education programs, and networking opportunities for hair stylists. Another organization is the National Association of Barbers (NAB), which provides support and advocacy for barbers and hair stylists. Additionally, there may be local or regional associations and groups that cater specifically to the needs of hair stylists in your area. These organizations can provide valuable support, education, and networking opportunities for hair stylists.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.