If you have a love for makeup, skin care or hair styling, you can turn that passion into a career as a cosmetologist. You first need to attend a qualifying school to learn the latest techniques and safety practices. Then, you can earn your license and practice legally in your state.

Before you embark on this journey, learn how much you can expect to pay, your financial aid options and how much cosmetologists make after graduation.

Tip

The average cost of cosmetology school is between $5,000 and $15,000, but some top schools can cost up to $20,000.

What to Expect in Beauty School

Every state in the United States requires professionals to attend cosmetology programs before earning licenses and working in the beauty industry. The National Center for Education Statistics defines cosmetology school as programs that prepare students to perform services related to a client's appearance. This can include:

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  • Nails
  • Massage of head, arms and legs
  • Makeup
  • Hair cutting, coloring, shampooing and styling
  • Facial and skin treatments

Schools may teach learners how to work in one or all of these areas. Furthermore, classes cover customer service, salon management, labor laws and sanitation.

If you attend a full cosmetology program that covers several topics, you should expect to spend about one year in school. However, some programs only take eight months of accelerated studying. Single-area beauty schools, such as those specializing in nail care, tend to take less time than the full programs.

Average Cost of Cosmetology School

Your cosmetology school price will vary depending on what type of program you choose and the individual school. The average cost of beauty school lands somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on the type of school. Unaccredited schools sometimes offer lower rates, but learners should steer clear of these programs because they may not be able to earn licensure.

Some top beauty schools can set you back up to $20,000. For these programs, you pay for the diploma with a reputable school's name. This can help you get a job at a top salon or earn yourself a well-paying clientele.

It's important to consider the average cost of cosmetology school in the context of other options. For example, associate and bachelor's degrees can cost much more than a cosmetology license. The average public four-year university costs $19,189 annually, according to the NCES.

Costs of Popular Beauty Schools

Tuition at top beauty schools varies widely. As such, it can help to look at the specific rates for some of the top cosmetology programs in the country. Private schools tend to be the most expensive, including:

  • The Aveda Institute of New York: 

    $20,295 (prices vary by location) * Paul Mitchell School of Overland Park: 

    $15,500 (prices vary by location) * The Sassoon Academy: $20,000

Local community colleges can provide a similar education for much lower prices than these top schools. Some community colleges across the country include:

  • Ogden-Weber Technical College: $3,960

  • Atlanta Technical College: $8,154

  • Seward County Community College: 

    $4,708

Check your nearest community college to see if it has a low-cost option that suits your needs.

Explore Financial Aid Options

The type of financial aid you can get depends on the school you choose. You may earn eligibility for:

  • Federal financial aid (FAFSA)
  • Private scholarships and grants
  • Scholarships and grants from the school
  • Payment programs from the school
  • Private student loans
  • State assistance

Some schools have financial aid professionals to help you navigate your payment and financial aid options. Be sure to contact your desired schools for more information about financial aid eligibility.

Average Earnings After Graduation

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cosmetologists earn a median annual salary of $24,830. However, how much you can earn varies widely depending on your location and any specializations you earn. For example, cosmetologists in Washington, D.C. earn an average of $45,680 per year, and those in Massachusetts make about $42,260 annually.

About the Author

Mackenzie attended Texas Tech University, where she worked in the residence halls for three years. She also volunteered for school event committees and move-in welcome teams. These experiences fueled her passion for higher education and helping college students. Today, she uses her writing to help prospective college students find the right institutions for their needs. She writes for sites like The Best Schools, Nursing.org, Best Colleges, Nurse Journal, and PublicHealth.org.