How to Become a Makeup Artist

It's an interesting fact that people who want to become a makeup artist, like many in the beauty industry, are very career-oriented. It's not at all uncommon for people in their early teens to set themselves on a career in this field, and a high percentage of those who undertake formal training do make a career of it.

Makeup artistry is one of the most portable job skills in the beauty industry. It's also a good employment survival skill. Qualified makeup artists can get jobs even in tough employment markets. It's also one of the most salable industry commodities, including a lot of lucrative products, publications, and in some cases massive contracts with media. Makeup experts can make a fortune.

Education and training

Makeup artists are really specialist cosmetologists. In most cases they have formal and on the job training. The formal training is conducted by specialist schools. A combination of training and experience creates a "portfolio" of skills. In most cases, junior makeup artists work under direction from beauty salon supervisors, but experienced makeup artists may operate on their own and under their own direction, in many roles. 

Licensing and related issues

Although makeup artists don't require licenses in the United States, it's common for them to upgrade their qualifications to cosmetologist level. To practice as cosmetologists, licenses are required in all states. 

Makeup artists need to upgrade their qualifications to progress in the beauty industry. Although the "retail" level makeup artist is adequately qualified for that level, they're at a disadvantage for management jobs and lucrative contract work unless they have these higher qualifications. Cosmetology training is also particularly useful practical training, including advanced makeup and skin care studies, and opens up career avenues and job opportunities in other areas.

The work environment

This is a career where practical experience is essential. There's a natural progression in any makeup artist's work that reflects the career mode and status of the artist. The common image of a beauty salon makeup artist at work is a very simple version of the reality. There's a hierarchy of types and classes of jobs in makeup artistry:

  • Retail makeup
  • Media and performing arts makeup
  • Movies makeup
  • Fashion makeup

Retail makeup may make $8-10 an hour. Media and arts makeup artists make regular money at somewhat higher rates. Movies are often big budget payments for makeup artists, but erratic. Fashion contracts can make tens of thousands of dollars a day for years on end, doing fashion shows, shoots, advertising contracts, publicity and other account-based work.

These business operations are the next level of a makeup artist's career after cosmetology qualification and experience at retail and salon level. The qualified makeup artist can now walk into any beauty industry job or contract, and many do. They have to work their way up the ladder to get to the highly network-oriented fashion level, but fashion generates a lot of business for all forms of cosmeticians, so it's far from impossible to get to the top. A makeup artist really can start at $8 an hour, and wind up a millionaire.