Beauty Careers

Attending beauty school gives you many different beauty career options to consider. The cosmetology profession offers a variety of jobs, ranging from positions styling hair in chain salons to jobs applying makeup for fashion shows and runway shoots. Employment is expected to remain strong in all aspects of the industry, with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 20 percent growth in job opportunities between 2008 and 2018.

Some of the possible beauty careers to consider after your beauty school graduation include:

The majority of personal appearance workers are employed in beauty salons. However, there are also jobs available in nail salons, day spas, and resorts as well as nursing homes and residential care facilities. Jobs exist in both rural and urban communities, although employment tends to be more heavily concentrated in highly populated areas.

When considering which beauty school careers are for you, remember that over 40 percent of all personal appearance workers are self-employed. Owning your own business can be challenging, sine you’ll need to be responsible for tasks such as marketing and accounting in addition to serving your clients. However, self-employment also comes with additional flexibility. If you’re interested in work/life balance, owning your own business can make it easier to find time for personal responsibilities such as caring for your children or an elderly parent.

Nail Technician

A nail technician provides manicures and pedicures, as well as beauty treatments for the fingernails and toenails. Some technicians may also spend time applying artificial nails, painting decorative nail designs, and using products such as strengthening agents or cuticle softeners to repair damaged nails.

Nail technicians may receive their training as part of a certificate or diploma program in nail technology. Some, however, choose to complete a broader cosmetology program that includes instruction in areas such as skin care, makeup application, and hairstyling. Think about your professional goals, as well as the amount of time you are willing to spend on your training, before you enroll in beauty school to become a nail technician.

Nail technicians, like hairdressers and cosmetologists, must be licensed before they are allowed to seek employment. The State Board of Cosmetology, which is usually part of the Department of Public Health or the Department of Consumer Affairs, regulates the activities of nail technicians because of the risk of spreading infections with improperly sterilized instruments or poor sanitation during nail treatments.

Becoming a licensed nail technician requires graduation from an approved beauty school program as well as completion of a written exam. Certifications are state specific and typically not transferable. If you move to another state, you will need to complete the licensing process a second time.

Nail technicians earn an average salary of between $10 and $11 per hour. However, a large portion of their income comes from tips. This means nail technicians employed at spas and high-end salons will earn more money than those employed at discount beauty parlors.

Barbers and Hairdressers
When discussing cosmetology careers, many people find themselves struggling to identify the difference a barber and a hairdresser. While the two occupations are becoming more similar each year, there are still a few differences to consider as you’re planning your career path.

Traditionally, a barber is someone who cuts and trims hair for men. A barber specializes in simple and traditional styles such as a flattop, fade, buzz cut, or military-style cut. He may also shave or trim beards and mustaches. Although some beauty schools offer courses in barbering, most barbers attend a specialized barber school to learn their trade.

A hairdresser is someone who cuts and styles hair for primarily female clients, although many hairdressers do see male clients as well. Generally, hairdressers see men who are more interested in current fashion trends or those who don’t mind using styling products as part of their grooming routine. Hairdressers also perform services such as shampooing, coloring, and highlighting for their clients.

Earnings for barbers and hairdressers will vary depending upon experience and location. In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual wage for a barber was $24,160 per year. During this time, the median annual wage for a hairdresser was $23,330 per year. Tips make up a large portion of income for both professions, however. Hairdressers may also receive commissions and bonuses based on the products they sell to their clients.

Over 40 percent of barbers and hairdressers are self-employed. This tends to lower overall earnings during the early stages, simply because of the time it takes to build a client base. However, self-employed workers enjoy a more flexible schedule and greater independence.

Makeup Artist

After graduation from beauty school, you may decide to put your cosmetology skills to work by seeking employment as a makeup artist. While a painter uses oils or acrylics to create his work and a sculptor works with clay or metal, a makeup artist applies cosmetics to the human body to make a creative statement.

Makeup artists use their skills to provide clients with a variety of looks. Some may specialize in highlighting a person’s strongest features, while others may provide assistance with makeup that camouflages acne, scars, and other imperfections. Sometimes, a makeup artist aspires to make it look like the client is wearing no makeup at all. On other occasions, however, the goal is to be as dramatic as possible. When creative expression is desired, makeup artists can use cosmetics such as glittered eye shadow or metallic liquid eyeliner.

Most makeup artists work in beauty salons. However, makeup artists may also be employed in a variety of other areas. For example:

  • Theater productions
  • Television shows
  • Movie sets
  • Runway shows
  • Photo shoots for weddings, graduation pictures, and other special occasions
  • Magazine shoots

Some makeup artists have a traditional full-time job, but many are self-employed or work on a freelance basis. This can result in an erratic income, but the added flexibility is often beneficial to people who are seeking a career that allows for greater work/life balance.

Massage Therapist

Using your massage therapy school training to work as a massage therapist may be an option to consider if you enjoy helping people relax or obtain relief from chronic pain.

There are more than eighty different types of massage therapy, including Swedish massage, acupressure, sports massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, and neuromuscular massage. An individual massage session can last between five minutes and two hours, depending upon the type of massage that is being given and the needs of the client. Many massage sessions include the use of oils, lotions, and creams.

Massage therapists can work in beauty salons, as well as fitness centers, airports, shopping malls, hospitals, nursing homes, and sports medicine facilities. A large number of people who work as massage therapists are self-employed. They may own a physical location for their business or travel to their clients to perform the massage.

The legal requirements for seeking employment as a massage therapist vary widely from state to state. Many states require graduation from an approved training program and successful completion of a written exam. Some may also require you to complete national tests such as the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB).

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for massage therapists are expected to increase by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018. Median hourly earnings for massage therapists, including tips, were $16.78 in May 2008. The top 10 percent of massage therapists had earnings in excess of $30 per hour for this time period.


If you’re interested in aromatherapy, there are a number of different ways to incorporate this aspect of your beauty school training into a cosmetology career. For example:

  • Practicing aromatherapy in a spa, salon, or resort
  • Working with another alternative therapist, such as an acupuncturist
  • Starting your own consulting business
  • Teaching people interested in learning more about aromatherapy
  • Selling essential oils
  • Writing for newspapers, magazines, or websites about aromatherapy

Although certification as an aromatherapist is not a legal requirement for seeking employment, becoming certified will help increase the number of jobs that are available to you. Many companies, especially those catering to affluent clients, will only hire certified aromatherapists. This means you will want to complete a specialized aromatherapy training program in addition to your beauty school education. There is no one set certification for the aromatherapy profession; you will have many different educational options to choose from. Some programs even offer online study if you want to continue your education while working in another position.

As a profession, aromatherapy is a very new field. Because of this, salaries vary widely. Entry level aromatherapists often make $20,000 to $25,000 per year. More experienced professionals, or those who are employed by high-end spas and resorts, may make $40,000 to $50,000 per year.

Many aromatherapists are employed on a part-time basis or work as independent contractors. This allows them greater flexibility in regards to work/life balance, but it also means they typically do not have paid vacation, health insurance, retirement plans, and the other benefits one would associate with traditional full-time employment.


Estheticians are also called aestheticians or skin care therapists. These cosmetology professionals can perform facials, waxing, eyebrow tinting, chemical peels, body wraps, skin care treatments, and various spa services. They may also help clients develop a skin care routine that involves the use of various creams, lotions, masks, and spot treatments.

The general public sometimes confuses estheticians with medical doctors, but an esthetician is not trained to diagnose skin conditions or prescribe medications. Some estheticians can provide electrolysis or laser hair removal, but this requires additional training as well as extra licensing in the esthetician’s state.

There are employment opportunities for estheticians at beauty salons, day spas, and resorts. Some estheticians also work with dermatologists to provide complementary services for people seeking treatment for specific skin care conditions. Job opportunities for estheticians are expected to remain strong over the next decade. Both full-time and part-time positions will be available, as well as opportunities for self-employment.

Estheticians, like cosmetologists, need to have a license before seeking employment. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically include graduation from an approved beauty school training program as well as the successful completion of a written exam. Licenses must be renewed on a regular basis, which may involve completing continuing education classes regarding the latest developments in skin care.

The average annual salary for an esthetician is approximately $35,000, although your personal earnings will vary based on experience, the type of employer, and the area of the country in which you are located.