If you landed on this article, it's because you've got beauty school on the brain.
Maybe you're doing research around the question: How to know if cosmetology school is right for me? Maybe you've been dreaming about beauty school for a while, but a Negative Nelly has you second-guessing yourself. Maybe you're wondering about the viability of a long-term career. Or maybe you're simply a little nervous about "going for it."
Don’t worry. We got you!
Milady has been in the beauty education business for nearly 100 years, which is why we can confidently say we've seen it all, including the naysayers, the critics, the cautionary tales, and—most of all—the incredible success stories (of which there are MANY).
So let's talk about beauty school—including career paths, signs you're a good fit, how to find support if you only have critics in your life, and advice from beauty pros who've been in your shoes.
The beauty industry is BOOMING.
If anyone is not supporting your decision to attend cosmetology school because they think it's a dead-end career, share these compelling stats: The beauty industry generates over $100 billion worldwide and is projected to surpass $120 billion by 2025.
In other words, it's a serious industry fueled by serious money, which should help shut down any naysayers quickly. Not only that, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a strong outlook for beauty professionals. Overall employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 19 percent this decade.
Even better? Many career paths exist beyond the typical ones people think of when they hear the words "beauty school graduate." Just ask Kristina Santoro.
Kristina says the world of beauty has been her passion since childhood. After going to college and earning her bachelor's degree, she realized she wouldn't be happy until she pursued her true calling.
She explains, "Once I realized this was what I wanted to spend my days doing, and [that I] could actually make a living doing what I loved, I quickly applied to esthetics school and received my license in the state of New York."
Kristina says numerous career options exist for beauty school graduates. "This is a truly amazing career choice with many different avenues to explore. The people I went to school with are currently working in salons and spas, working as successful freelance makeup artists, sales reps, educators, and business owners. The options are literally endless with where a beauty career can take you."
Kristina is living proof that a cosmetology license can open many doors: Today, she is one of Milady's awesome account managers.
Kimberly Thomas, a cosmetologist who rents a booth at All-Star Cuts and Styles in Tallahassee, Florida, agrees that a cosmetology education offers many options, especially for unconventional learners. "Beauty school is for the creative person that does not like being boxed in," she says. When it comes to beauty careers, the sky's the limit. Below is a short list of what's possible . . .
- Makeup artist for films/TV shows
- Special effects makeup artist
- Beauty blogger/writer
- Creator of your own line of products (hair, skin, nails)
- Employee, freelancer, or consultant for a beauty company
- Employee, freelancer, or consultant for a beauty/fashion magazine
- Educator – at a beauty school or via online tutorials (or both)
- Business owner (spa, salon)
- Image consultant/stylist
- Your dream career here
Signs that beauty school is a great choice for you.
While people's reasons for attending cosmetology school are always unique to them, some common denominators exist. Kristina Santoro says, "I often find those who are the best fit are naturally creative, compassionate, and partake in experiences that demonstrate their love for the industry."
Ivy F. Harden, a cosmetologist who owns Designs by Ivy in Alliance, Ohio, echoes Santoro's sentiments while adding her own take. "A good sign beauty school is for you is if you are a visual learner," Ivy explains. "So you have a good color sense, like mixing and matching colors to create your own thing."
Janyetta Webb is a senior cosmetologist who runs several Maryland-based businesses, including a natural hair salon, a spa and wellness center, and a lash and brow bar. She says that if doing friends' and family members' hair and makeup doesn't feel like work to you, but rather something that brings you joy, then that's a good sign a beauty career would be a good fit for you. She also says you should pay attention to compliments. "When everybody tells you are talented, listen to them," she says. "They see something in you.”
A career in beauty can also make a good “second act.” (Or third or fourth.) Ivy Harden shares her circuitous route: "At the time I decided to go to beauty school, I was a stay-at-home wife and needed an outlet. I had done hair and nails for years on the side. But I wanted to be legit. So I enrolled at Raphael's Beauty School in Alliance, Ohio. I completed my 1800 hours and passed the state board with over 98% on both tests."
From an admissions point of view, Alejandra Castilla, a Milady Implementation and Training Specialist, has this to offer: "If you are someone that enjoys the beauty and wellness industry, and you love making others feel good and love themselves, this industry is for you."
Alejandra goes on to note that as a beauty professional, you'll have the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives every day. "You will come across clients or guests that will thank you for taking the time to service them, but also thank you immensely for making them feel beautiful," she says.
Signs quiz time!
Here's a solid list of signs that you'd be a good fit for beauty school. How many can you identify with? The more you can agree with, the more it indicates a great fit.
- You're naturally creative, and not just in hair and makeup.
- You're a people person—you love chatting and listening, and you're often complimented for your empathy and sensitivity.
- You have a great "eye"—an eye for detail, an eye for fashion, and an eye for color. You're that person who can look inside any closet and magically put a winning look together.
- You spend every free minute you have reading fashion and beauty magazines and following red-carpet looks (and finding ways to duplicate the looks!).
- You enjoy watching tutorials online and following beauty brands and influencers on social media.
- You innately understand that when a person feels confident about their appearance, it can transform their whole life for the better.
- You have an entrepreneurial spirit . . . and quite likely a "non-traditional" learning style.
- You crave doing work you love—and that makes a difference in people's everyday lives.
- You appreciate and are sensitive to celebrating people's inherent beauty and helping them feel good and confident in their own skin.
It's not enough to simply know that a cosmetology education is right for you. You also need to find the right program.
Milady’s Alejandra Castilla explains that finding the right beauty school program is just as important as recognizing that cosmetology is a good fit for you.
"Research as much as possible," she says. "There are many beauty schools and programs available, and it is important to find a school that is the best fit for your specific needs, interests, lifestyle, and finances. If available, take an on-site tour of the school. More than likely, you will easily determine if a school is the best fit based on what you learn during your visit."
When choosing a program, be sure to consider all areas of your life:
- Does the school provide a schedule that fits your lifestyle?
- Does the program cover most of your beauty interests?
- Does the school offer financial assistance for those who qualify?
Alejandra adds, "Once you find that perfect school, say yes, and never look back! Your time in school is your time to immerse yourself into a learning environment and soak up all that you can to uncover your full potential as a future beauty professional."
As you research, be sure to read and bookmark these articles:
How to handle critics—and find the support you need.
There will always be people who are critical of the choices you make—no matter what those choices are. But aspiring beauty professionals often have to deal with more criticism than the average person. Sadly, the stigma persists around beauty careers being silly, frivolous, or a backup plan.
Shutting down critics is easier now than ever before—just point to the hard numbers we shared above or to any of the countless success stories available online. Beyond that, the best advice we can offer is to ignore the critics (which we know is easier said than done, especially when the critics are family members). The even better advice we can offer is to surround yourself with people who inspire you and support your dream.
Kimberly Thomas from All-Star Cuts and Styles in Florida says the latter is what helped her decide to pursue her career. She saw firsthand how a person could thrive in the beauty industry. "I have an aunt that I admired," Kimberly explains. "She owned a successful salon. I watched her make women look beautiful and set her own schedule. I decided that’s what I wanted to do."
Finding a mentor can also help you navigate negativity and guide you in a more positive direction. At its simplest, a mentor is someone who will coach, encourage, and offer invaluable wisdom while you do the work needed to accomplish your goals.
Mentors don't have to be from the beauty industry, either. Like so many things, the key is finding the right person for you.
Check out these helpful articles:
Remember, if you find yourself dreaming of a life as a beauty professional, hold onto that dream. Don't let anyone tell you that you should pursue a different career or that beauty school isn't a "real" school. That's nonsense. A cosmetology education requires proficiency in numerous skills and rigorous requirements in terms of hours. Plus, in most states, you need to pass a written exam and a practical exam in order to get licensed. (How many liberal arts graduates have to do that?)
Bottom line? Don't stop believing.
Queue the rock band Journey's famous anthem and Don't Stop Believin' in your dream. It's your dream, after all. Protect it. Cherish it. And most of all, GO FOR IT. Because the results will be worth it. Ivy Harden from Designs by Ivy perfectly sums up the possibilities awaiting you: "Attending beauty school changed my life for the best. It gave me the freedom to work for myself, truly be myself, and do what I love doing every day."