How to Become a Hairdresser

Hairdressers and hair stylists cut, wash and style hair, and they may offer additional esthetic services depending on their training, and all hair dressers, no matter where they work, should be licensed by the state, which means attending a cosmetology school.

Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, there are over sixty schools in the US that offer training in hair styling and cosmetology. Most programs take at least nine months to complete, and many hair stylists pursue additional professional development in hair care, skin care, cutting techniques, dyeing, styling and product training.

You need to be at least sixteen years of age and have a high school diploma or GED to attend cosmetology school. It is also helpful to be interested in chemistry since you will be mixing chemicals for dyeing, curling and straightening hair. You should also like people and have good customer service skills, which you can obtain by working in a salon or spa as a receptionist or as a shampooer. There is also a preference to hire organized, dependable people who are neat in their appearance, since it is important to keep a clean station, fulfill appointments and to act as representative for the salon or spa.

Licensure

All states require that hair stylists are licensed, which means that they have attended a recognized cosmetology school. You may also have to take a state exam, including an oral examination and demonstration. If you train in one state but wish to work in another, you may have obtain additional training in that state to work as a hair stylist.

Work Environment

Hair stylists usually work for forty hours a week, including evenings and weekends. Hair stylists spend most of the day on their feet, bending over clients, and performing repetitive work with their fingers, hands and wrists. It is not uncommon for a hair stylist to acquire a repetitive stress injury, or even "tennis elbow", from their work in the salon. They may also have to deal with unhappy clients, as well as clients who are absolutely ecstatic about their appearance as a result of their hairstylist's services, so there is a mix of risk and reward in this profession.

Unless supplied by the salon, stylists are responsible for purchasing their own tools of the trade, such as combs, scissors, mixing bowls, brushes, curling and drying utensils, razors and shears. They are also responsible for cleaning their stations, as well as cleaning and disinfecting their utensils after use.

Including tips, most hair dressers make ten dollars an hour, though this could vary based on the location where the stylist works, the numbers of clients they see in a week, and if they can offer additional esthetic services. Some hair stylists are the employees of a salon, or they rent a chair from a salon owner. Others work out of their car and offer mobile services, traveling to care facilities, such as seniors' centers, or to weddings and other special events.

Unlike stylists who work for a salon, a mobile stylist may spend significant amounts of time arranging their schedule, traveling, marketing their services, bookkeeping and networking. Though they may make more money than a stylist employed by a salon, their independence may mean that they spend a significant amount of their time on business tasks and not with their clients.

Hair stylists and hair dressers can begin their career with only one year of vocational school, limited expenditure on supplies, and experience significant independence in their schedule. Though their services are not highly paid, they are highly sought after.