While a barber is the historical hair care mainstay of small communities and is steeped in corresponding romantic ideals, the cosmetologist instead embodies the more complex processes that are used to tend to the hair needs of those who embrace the modern age. Dying, permanents, curling, and other procedures that are commonly associated with the salon and the fairer sex are the domain of the cosmetologist. Given the notion of dying and curling hair is the province of style and vanity, the cosmetologist must also be familiar with the most modern of styles. These more stringent professional requirements make themselves known through greater educational requirements than that of the barber; however, the average pay of the cosmetologist is greater, about $22,500 annually.
As a specialized professional service, the cosmetologist has its own school. Whether the institution refers to itself as a beauty school or a cosmetology school is completely up to the particular location. Most of these schools require a high school diploma or GED in order to enroll; however, this is not a hard and fast rule, so those without these credentials can find a certified school. In addition to hair care training in cutting and styling, including advanced techniques like waving, cosmetology school offers courses containing instruction in various spa offerings, such as pedicures, manicures, facials, and the application of fake nails. For those with an entrepreneurial bent, some schools offer courses in spa and salon management, including ethics and general best practices in business. Given the profession’s use of various chemicals to achieve its aims, some beauty schools also offer rudimentary courses in the hard sciences, such as anatomy, biology, and chemistry, in order to give the professional some awareness regarding the products used in day-to-day operations and their effects on the human body.
Given the lack of a federal licensure, all cosmetologists are licensed at the state level. This, of course, makes the licensing of a cosmetologist a variable venture. State licensure boards require a specific number of hours at a beauty or cosmetology school. This amount varies depending on the cosmetology license desired. For example, a full cosmetologist typically requires 1,500 hours of schooling, while a nail technician only requires 200-300 hours, plus eight hours of instruction regarding the proper use of a nail file. Rather than attend barber school, a cosmetologist can also qualify to become a barber by spending an additional 300-400 hours in school after acquiring a cosmetology license.
Once a license is acquired, it must be continually renewed. This both keeps the records straight and keeps the coffers of the regulatory body filled. For the state of Ohio, a cosmetologist must apply for renewal by the end of January in every odd-numbered year. In addition to the renewal fee, which is higher if you are an independent contractor, you are also responsible for eight hours of continuing education credit, which keeps the profession up to date with the latest trends, styles, and techniques right out of London, Paris, Milan, and the other fashion capitals of the world.
In the end, the life of the cosmetologist is far more regulated than that of the barber. The chemicals are harsher and the education is everlasting, but the pay really isn’t that much better. The one true advantage the cosmetologist has over the barber is that of stylistic modernity. By remaining relevant in the fashion world, it is possible to maintain a much more creative career as a cosmetologist, as the profession is actively expected to take more risks, try bigger ideas, and generally handle more complicated work. For those who wish to exercise this creative impulse above all else, this is a way to make a respectable living doing it.