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How to become a Cosmetologist

Updated on April 13, 2016

When I was only about to leave school and go on to receive my professional education, I did a thorough research on this topic, to make sure I was going to get proper training. Then, just out of curiosity, I started to dig for information about other countries. It turned out that the requirements to education and training in cosmetology may vary significantly in different parts of the world. If you are curious to find out how things are over there, here are my findings. By the way, if you come from a country which is not mentioned here, feel free to leave a comment and tell us how hard one should study to become a cosmetologist in the place you come from!

US

In the USA, being a cosmetologist implies being good at making people look better in many ways. To tell the truth, the definition of my profession is rather vague, so a hairdresser or make-up artist can be called a cosmetologist as well. In many other countries, this is not the case (we will see it later). As for me, I deal mainly with skin treatment, but my training included courses in general anatomy, hair treatment, practical chemistry, etc., so I can do any of the common salon things.

I didn’t have to go to college to get a higher education to become a skincare specialist, so my training didn’t take much time. As most of my colleagues, after getting my high school diploma, I took a gap year and then got training at a certified cosmetology school. I won’t give its name here, for privacy reasons, but I can tell you that there are plenty of them virtually everywhere. Choose the one you like best but don’t forget to check out its license exams and curriculum. Each state has its own requirements, so if you plan to work in another state, you’d better check on it in advance.

The program takes about a year but there is always an opportunity to get more training at specialization courses, workshops, seminars, etc., which can be done while working. They take several months, or even days or weeks (workshops). So, you see, professional training is not long, and you are only one year away from the job of your dream!

Canada

As I found out, things are easier in Canada in terms of mobility. While each and every of the 50 states has its own requirements to cosmetologists which should be met, Canadian provinces are a lot more flexible. If you get training in any of them, you can work in any part of Canada you like, without re-testing. Great, isn’t it?

On the other hand, the educational standards to become a cosmetologist in Canada are stricter than in the US. While here we can do perfectly well with a 1500-hour training for a start and at least one year of apprenticeship, it won’t be enough to get the right to work in a salon in Canada. Before you take your licensing exam (which, by the way, varies from province to province), you should do a 2000-hour apprenticeship in a salon before you can take the local licensing exam. Imagine that?

Moreover, as a skilled worker, you’d better earn a Red Seal, which is sort of a qualification certificate. This certificate can help you start your own business or move higher on the professional ladder in Canada. Also, there are lots of advanced courses on very narrow cosmetologist subjects which make Canada a very attractive country for me as a specialist!

Cosmetologists have a sense of humor, too!

UK

As I read on a forum, hairdressers and make-up artists are not normally licensed in the UK, but you are supposed to get some training to go into this field. There are beauty and cosmetology schools and courses in the country, offering 12-month full-time or 24-month part-time training programs (the average duration may vary between institutions).

There is an organization in the UK called BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) that advocated for more stringent standards in the field in order to “guarantee treatment by qualified and insured professionals”. They initiated a number of campaigns to raise the standards of cosmetologist training. While it is certainly good in general perspective, it means that many of my colleagues should get prepared for re-assessment.

EU

Europe (apart from the UK) is also getting stricter when it comes to cosmetology. The European Commission has a long list of requirements to those willing to enter this professional field. The list of subjects studied by would-be cosmetologists is quite impressive and includes biochemistry, microbiology, basic Latin, basic pathology and pharmacology, first aid, basic plastic and reconstructive surgery, as well as business and management disciplines and optional courses.

However, you don’t need to go that deep if you want to become, say, a make-up artist (though it won’t hurt to learn this stuff, anyway). You can choose a narrowly specialized course, like media make-up artist or nail artist, and go for it. However, many people learn to do it by themselves as a hobby or additional job, so unlicensed workers are not that rare. It is true, for example, for Sweden, where education at a beauty school is rather hard (see the list of selected subjects above), and quite a lot of nail artists have never graduated from there.

Russia

In Russia, the term “cosmetologist” is usually applied to skincare experts, and it seems that people have to get some solid medical learning to work in this sphere. The same is true for those who want to become a massage therapist.

However, if you want to work as a hairdresser or a nail artist, you can undergo a several months’ training course in the selected field, and that’s all. I can’t say much about specific requirements, but they don’t seem very strict. It also appears that you can easily do it as a freelance job, without any training (if you are lucky to find enough clients).

China

The Chinese have their own view on cosmetology, so studying to become a beauty expert in this country is a fascinating experience. A two-year program in Chinese cosmetology often includes learning a lot about traditional techniques like acupuncture, herbal medicine, and guasha (which are offered as quite expensive advanced courses on our continent). The thing is that an applicant is supposed to have a medical or healthcare educational background to start these courses, otherwise they are just not eligible. This makes Chinese cosmetology highly professional.

As for make-up artists, hairdressers and so on, I didn’t manage to find much information. It seems that the situation is typically strict and serious, as usual in China. However, dying hair and applying extensive make-up is not common in that country, so coming there to earn money on make-up doesn’t seem a good idea: you just won’t find enough clients. Still, there are some fields where you can apply your talents: media and runaway make-up is in demand in China. But what specific requirements do they have for these professions? Do they have specialized schools and courses? This is a topic for further research…

Which country is the best to work in as a cosmetologist?

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Thanks for reading the article! I do hope you have found something new in it. Please leave your comments and share your thoughts on this topic. See you!

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