How to Become a Cosmetologist in California

How to Become a Cosmetologist in California

California is one of the top states for cosmetology jobs, second only to Texas in sheer number of cosmetologists employed in 2022.

Many of these jobs are located in larger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento. In particular, the film and television industry near Los Angeles has a substantial need for cosmetologists, hairdressers and makeup artists.

With thousands of salons and spas across the state, there are plenty of career opportunities in California.

You're probably wondering how to become a licensed cosmetologist in California, and we have the exact steps you’ll need to follow, listed below.

1. Attend an Approved Cosmetology School

Anyone who wants to become a cosmetologist in California must attend an accredited cosmetology training program with at least 1000 hours of training. These are the new hours requirements as set forth by Senate Bill (SB) 803 and the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. The minimum 1000 hours of training in cosmetology school cannot be split between the cosmetology program and an apprenticeship, and vice versa. The full 1000 hours must be completed for applicants to take the State Board Cosmetology licensing exam.

Most cosmetology programs take a year or less to complete training.

Curriculum at various beauty schools may vary. After you complete the theoretical, technical and practical training, you should be able to do the following:

  • Hair cutting and hair styling
  • Hair coloring
  • Skin care
  • Nail services
  • Makeup
  • Beauty treatments

Be sure to choose a cosmetology school which offers advanced, hands-on training in the latest techniques for hair cutting, styling, and coloring, as well as nail care and skin care. These skills should help you become fully licensed and get a job as a cosmetologist.

2. Submit Application to Take the Cosmetology Licensing Exam

While you are finishing cosmetology school and doing license exam prep, you’ll need to register for the exam by completing the form on the Board of Barbering & Cosmetology website. It may take 8 to 12 weeks to receive an exam date. You can register before you have completed the required 1000 hours of training. Many cosmetology programs will help you file the paperwork and often cover the $125 exam fee.

Once you have you test date set, it is time to complete and pass the licensing exam.

3. Pass the State Cosmetology Licensing Exam

Once you have graduated from cosmetology school, the only thing left to do is to pass the state licensing exam. This is a written exam that ensures you know all the skills and techniques needed to start your cosmetology career. Previous to 2022, there was both a written and practical portion of the exam.

Cosmetology licenses in California are issued by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

Each beauty school and cosmetology school are required to list their students performance on this text from the previous school year on their website. This may be listed under “California Examination Pass Success Rates” or “BPPE Report”. You can also look up all cosmetology schools and compare passing rates on the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology website.

To look up Campus, formerly known as MTI College, look up the Written Examination Results, and for years 2021 and before, Written Examination Results and Practical Examination Results.

4. Explore Career Options as a Licensed Cosmetologist

Now that you’ve earned your cosmetology license, it’s time to put it to good use. There are many viable career options for you to explore as a licensed cosmetologist. Here are just a few:

  • Hair stylist
  • Hair colorist
  • Nail technician
  • Skin care specialist
  • Manicurist
  • Makeup artist

For many graduates, the first few years of your career may be best spent working in a salon or spa, under the guidance of an established cosmetologist. This is a good way to get extensive practice handling clients, and getting real-world experience. Through this time, you may develop a client base which are regular customers. If you want to branch out on your own, opening your own salon, or working as a salon manager.

Though there are no continuing education requirements to remain a licensed cosmetologist, it may be a good idea to continue to study any new trends and techniques that emerge, as the beauty industry changes constantly.

In California, you must renew your cosmetology license every two years, in odd-numbered years. The cost of renewing your license is $50, and can be done through the Department of Consumer Affairs BreEZe online system.

As your career progresses, you should network with other hairstylists and beauty professionals to help build connections and learn more about your craft.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Cosmetologist in California?

There is no degree requirement to practice cosmetology in California, but you must complete a cosmetology training program of at least 1000 hours, and pass a State licensing exam.

Cosmetology licenses are issued by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

Become a Cosmetologist in About 30 Weeks at Campus

If you are interested in cosmetology, and want to make it your career, Paul Mitchell the School at Campus, formerly known as MTI College, has a world-class cosmetology program. New classes start throughout the year. Our students go through a rigorous cosmetology training program that prepares them to start a career in cosmetology. You can learn more by requesting information by clicking the button below or filling out the contact form on this page.