It might have been for a promising date, that crucial job interview or just a night out on the town, but chances are there's been a time when you really wanted your appearance to turn heads (yes, gentlemen, we know you've been here too). Whether your goal was to look as glamorous as a movie star or to express your unique individuality, this was exactly the kind of dream a cosmetologist or an aesthetician could (and maybe did!) make come true. From transforming your hair — raven- black or bubblegum-pink, pixie-short or princess-curled — to shaping your nails — fingers and toes both — to finding the perfect skin cream for that last-minute pimple, cosmetologists go out of their way to make you look, and more importantly feel, like a million bucks.

Anyone who thinks that cosmetology just involves cutting some hair and nails is underestimating the work these professionals do. The cosmetology industry is strictly regulated, and keeping up to date with styles, techniques and tools for the job is no mean feat. In order to prepare for earning their license and the career to follow, aspiring beauticians would be well advised to enter school for beauty and cosmetology — in particular a school offering some online courses, which can be more easily attended around a busy work or family schedule.

Degree Overview: Beauty and Cosmetology

Beauty and cosmetology schools exist to help students learn what they need to know in order to succeed in the beauty industry, whether they intend to work in skin care, facial care, hair care or something completely different. The programs these schools offer consist of multiple courses that can teach a prospective cosmetology professional many important skills; here, we'll review a handful of those courses and skills, in order to present a rough picture of what an online beauty and cosmetology degree program can be like.

Online Beauty & Cosmetology Courses

For most entry-level positions in this field, a certificate can be sufficient to allow a new professional to earn a position. These certificates are typically focused on a single aspect of the field, such as Hairstyling or Esthetician, and their function is to prepare its students for professional licensing in that aspect. In order to do this, the courses of these programs focus on the basics of cosmetological care, such as:

  • Hair cutting, styling and coloring
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Makeup application and facials
  • In-depth product knowledge
  • Employer and client communications

Those who want to dive more in-depth — or perhaps are less certain which aspect of this field they wish to focus on — can opt to pursue a diploma program instead. In contrast to the highly focused certificate programs, a diploma program is more likely to cover many different beauty and cosmetology topics, from makeup application to hair styling to nail care. Those who take beauty and cosmetology courses online might be well-served by plying their skills on mannequin heads or hands first, then making arrangements with a local salon to test their skills on real people under close supervision.

Another option is that of an associate degree program. The difference between the associate program and the certificate or diploma options is the general education requirement; students in these programs are generally required to take courses in English, mathematics, history and the like. This level of degree demonstrates extreme dedication to a prospective employer, and it can also be used as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree program.

While online bachelor's degree programs in cosmetology are almost impossible to find, someone who has earned previous education in the field and has the dream of starting their own business may choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in a field such as management or entrepreneurship in order to help realize that dream. Courses in business, finance or management that were taken during the pursuit of the associate degree might then be transferable into a bachelor's program, bringing your business that much closer to fruition.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

During the course of study in online beauty and cosmetology programs, students have the opportunity to hone certain skills to carry with them throughout their career. Creativity is one of the most important, as many clients are looking for a certain style or makeup that can express their individuality; the cosmetologist cannot be afraid to get creative to accomplish their clients' goals. Going in line with this, great listening skills are important, as is excellent customer service — working closely with clients is key to understanding and realizing their dreams.

Believe it or not, working in cosmetology is often a physically demanding job, as individuals might be on their feet and moving around for long shifts. Physical stamina is therefore important for positions in this field. This may sound intimidating, but students can gradually improve their stamina as they gain experience with tasks in preparation for licensure, giving them a great head start on the rigors of the field. Organizational skills to keep the workplace neat and tidy are also important, as a messy workplace can lead to physical and chemical hazards that could cause harm to you or your clients.

Finally, those with an eye toward owning their own business will need to consider how they will handle time management; business-oriented decision making; navigating the challenges of marketing; and taking the initiative to find new clients and pursue new opportunities.

Beauty and Cosmetology Career Outlook

Our physical appearance is a huge component of who we are and how we can assert our individuality to the world. As more and more people take an interest in their appearance, not just to look trendy but to express themselves in society, beauty and cosmetology careers are increasing rapidly — and may continue to do so for some time to come.

Average Salary
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Entry-level Education
Postsecondary nondegree award
When it comes to beauty, the cosmetologist has many roles. These professionals provide scalp, hair, makeup, skin and even style analysis in order to make recommendations for products that can make you look and feel healthier and more confident in yourself. Cosmetologists can provide many different beauty services. Hair care — shampooing, cutting, coloring and styling hair — is one such service; applying makeup, dressing wigs, performing hair removal and providing nail- and skincare services are other possible responsibilities these professionals may take on. Through their ministrations, a cosmetologist doesn't just make a person beautiful for a day: they teach others how to feel self-love and confidence, by showing them ways to take care of and express themselves.
Makeup Artists
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Entry-level Education
Postsecondary nondegree award
For a professional makeup artist, your face is a canvas for their art. Using color, contrast and shading, these experts can transform a person. A plain individual becomes ravishingly beautiful. A human acquires the face of an animal. Unbroken skin is made to appear torn and bleeding. A healthy person appears to have developed a fatal disease. Lovely, grotesque, inhuman, unremarkable… all this and more is within the power of the well-armed makeup artist, whose career may be spent helping the general public to achieve their best look, or devising new trends in the realm of high fashion, or creating the impossible in film and theater.
Skincare Specialists
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Entry-level Education
Postsecondary nondegree award
Skincare specialists don't just try to improve the look of your skin; they dig deeper to find the root cause of any problems so they can suggest skincare solutions. Skincare specialists evaluate their clients' skin, discuss possibilities and available treatments, and perform a wide range of hands-on therapies in order to enliven skin tone, reduce or eliminate blemishes, improve skin health and more. Skincare specialists give more than facials, however. Many give full-body treatments as well as upper-body massages that help their clients relax and improve the health and appearance of their skin. An associate degree is typically required for this position, but possessing training in vocational schools or related on-the-job experience can be an additional asset. While many skincare specialist careers are set in spas or beauty salons, some also work in doctor's offices and other healthcare settings.
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