Top 15 Career Paths for Cosmetologists

Top 15 Career Paths for Cosmetologists

Cosmetologists are focused on helping people look their best, and there are more career paths available besides working as a hairstylist in a salon. Exploring different career paths in cosmetology can lead to opportunities in various sectors such as film, fashion, and even in educational roles.

Some of the disciplines which are covered under cosmetology include hair styling, hair coloring, nail care, skin care, advanced makeup, and barbering.

As you begin your cosmetology career, be aware of all the different options available to you. Considering the various career paths in cosmetology will allow you to tailor your professional journey to your personal interests and strengths. Finding the right career path in beauty and cosmetology can help you find the perfect fit for your lifestyle and goals.

Becoming a licensed cosmetologist can help you explore your creativity while earning a good living. Each career path for a cosmetologist offers a unique set of opportunities and challenges, enriching your professional experience. Here are some of the most popular careers in this field.

1. Hairdresser / Hair Stylist

Hair stylists cut, color, style, and treat client’s hair. Hairdressers and hair stylists work in salons, spas, and independent salon suites, providing customers with regular haircuts, air styling, hair coloring and highlights, and hair treatments.

A hair stylist usually grows their clientele working in a salon or working independently. At the higher-end, hairdressers may work exclusively with fashion shows, celebrities, or in theatrical productions such as movies or TV.

Most hair stylists provide regular haircuts, hair maintenance, and hair styling to clients, with more lucrative appointments booked for clients on big event days, like a wedding or a photoshoot.

Professional hair stylists also recommend proper treatments and hair products for clients to use in between appointments to help keep their hair looking fantastic.

2. Salon Owner or Manager

Salon managers are one of the most important positions in the entire realm of cosmetology. Hair salons, barber shops, and day spas are all shops that may need a salon manager. The salon owner or manager oversees the entire operations of the salon, making sure the business end runs smoothly, clients are taken care of properly, and quality standards are met. The salon manager also makes sure that the shop is fully compliant with staff licensing, health regulations, and any local requirements. Inventory, ordering, scheduling, and customer service are all responsibilities of the salon manager.

Generally, to become a salon manager, you must be a fully licensed cosmetologist, an experienced stylist who has worked in the industry for several years. Though it is entirely optional, studying business administration may also be a good idea.

3. Nail Technician

Nail technicians give clients manicures, pedicures, and create impressive nail designs. Nail art is growing in popularity, so there is great demand for nail technicians. Some place nail techs work in are nail salons, spas, resorts, country clubs, and hair salons.

Manicurists and pedicurists can work in a variety of places, and nail salons are where innovative designs are created. Nail techs work with acrylic nails, nail polish, nail refills, and nail accessories which are attached to the nail or acrylics. Staying on top of what styles and techniques are trending in nail art will help you succeed in this position.

If you love creating intricate designs, and have an eye for attention to detail, using your cosmetology license to become a nail tech might be the career path for you. This is just one example of the diverse career paths in cosmetology that allow for personal expression and creativity.

4. Barber

Barbers cut, style, shave, and color men’s hair, beards, mustaches, and facial hair. Some barbers operate their own shops, while others work in a barbershop with several chairs. Although barbers generally focus on men’s hair, they can also cut women’s hair, though this is not typical. Both men and women can be licensed as barbers and build successful careers.

Though most barbers work in a traditional barbershop, some also work in cinema, television, and entertainment, keeping men’s hair and beards looking fresh and stylish. Some barbers also work on military bases, cutting hair for personnel.

One of the other differences between barbers and hairstylists is barbers are licensed to use straight razors to shave facial hair, trim mustaches and beards, and to style hair. Most barbering students have the goal of opening their own barbershop, but some cosmetologists also get a barbering license to expand their clientele and skillset.

Barbering is a career for creative individuals who can do traditional haircuts and shaves, but also follow current techniques and trends to stay current with customer requests. It's a dynamic career path in cosmetology that emphasizes both classic skills and modern flair.

5. Makeup Artist

Makeup artists often work with wedding planners or photographers to make sure their clients look perfect for photo shoots. But makeup artists also play a critical role in television, movies, theater, performing arts, and entertainment. Anytime professional photos, videos, or film are being captured, makeup artists are there, making their clients look their best.

Typically, makeup artists work in salons and spas, as independent businesses, or in cinema and television. Makeup artists know how to use cosmetics to create the intended look, accentuating the client’s natural appearance, and hiding any flaws.

6. Cosmetologist

Cosmetologist is a broad term that means a beauty professional is trained in many disciplines. This flexibility opens up a myriad of career paths for cosmetologists, each with its own unique focus and clientele. The cosmetologist title itself can mean that a beauty professional mostly works in a few areas, or in certain cases, they may be expected to be fluent in a wide variety of beauty techniques.

Some of the responsibilities a cosmetologist might be tasked with include:

  • Hairstyling
  • Nail care and manicure
  • Advanced makeup
  • Skin Care
  • Barbering
  • Hair Braiding
  • Loctician

Most cosmetologists work in beauty salons or day spas.

7. Hair Coloring Specialist

Hair coloring specialists are experts in the technical and practical aspects of coloring hair. These techniques can include full coloring, streaks, balayage, highlights, lowlights, permanent and semi-permanent dying. Hair colorists primarily work in hair salons and day spas.

8. Permanent Makeup Artist

Permanent Makeup Artists are not required to have a cosmetology license, but they must be registered with their local health department. In California, requirements for permanent makeup artists are covered in the California Safe Body Art Act, which also covers traditional tattoo artists and body modification.

Some cosmetologists may be cross-trained in this discipline and offer it as a service.

9. Skin Care Specialist

Skin care specialists are trained to beautify their client’s skin and may have mastered several techniques. Skin treatments, facials, exfoliation, microneedling, and microdermabrasion may be some of the methods a skin care specialist might use to improve the complexion of their clients.

A skin care specialist will also be an expert on which products will work best for their clients, and work with them to improve their skin and facial clarity. If the specialist sees a serious problem with a client, they may refer them to a dermatologist.

10. Beauty Writer

Experienced cosmetologists who are looking to stay in the industry while changing their typical work may become beauty writers. A beauty writer creates articles and blog posts for beauty magazines, fashion publications, marketing agencies, and industry blogs. A thorough knowledge of cosmetology products and the ability to write professionally.

This job requires an extensive knowledge of trends in hair, skin, makeup, and beauty. Editors may have you re-write articles before publishing them, and travel is also part of the job.

11. Beauty Business Consultant

Cosmetologists with many years of experience gain unique insights and knowledge about the beauty industry. They share this knowledge with other beauty businesses as consultants. Their objective is to help beauty and hairstyle businesses become more successful, improve retail layouts, and give advice on what products to stock and purchase. A beauty business consultant may work independently, in a retail makeup location, or in a beauty store.

12. Hair Product Sales Representative

Product sales representatives travel to different salons and beauty shops, representing specific brands and beauty product lines. Their job is to encourage salons and shops to sell their company’s products. Communication and sales skills will be crucial for this role. They may be paid a salary, or commission.

13. Fashion Show Stylist

Fashion stylists prepare models for fashion shows, helping them get their hair, makeup, and appearance perfect. Many of these stylists started as regular cosmetologists and put in the work to make connections with and work alongside prominent designers. A good tip is to start by trying to get practice in at local fashion shows. This can be a path to level up into larger and larger fashion show styling jobs.

14. Advertising Stylist

Ad agencies often do photo and video shoots for their clients for promotional and ad spots. They require a cosmetology team that can show up at the photo and video shoots to take care of hair, makeup, and aesthetics. These mobile teams may include makeup artists, hair stylists, hair colorists and more.

15. Cosmetology Instructor

Cosmetology instructors are usually experienced cosmetologists who have transitioned into teaching the generation of cosmetology students. Some instructors may specialize in specific areas of cosmetology, such as hair styling, nail care, makeup, or skin care. Some states may require cosmetology instructors to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree to become a licensed instructor.

If you have extensive experience in different aspects of cosmetology, and you have a passion for teaching others, becoming a cosmetology instructor may be a viable career path for you. Passing on your skills and knowledge will help you give back to the cosmetology industry and inspire others.

Learn Cosmetology From World-Class Instructors in Sacramento

Discover the various career paths in cosmetology through our comprehensive programs that cater to aspiring professionals in multiple beauty disciplines. If you want to learn more about hairstyling, coloring, barbering, and cosmetology, you can take one of our Cosmetology or Barbering programs at Paul Mitchell the School at Campus, formerly known as MTI College, in Sacramento. Our experienced instructors will help you get the practical training you need to become a licensed cosmetologist and start an exciting career. Classes start at various times throughout the year. We partner with Paul Mitchell the School to bring students a thorough cosmetology training program. You can learn more by requesting information from our cosmetology faculty.