Professional Makeup Artist Career Profile

Professional makeup artists work as freelancers, in salons and spas. Their line of work also allows them access to the world of t the performing arts and the movie industry. To get started, professional makeup artists all require the same basic education and work a similar schedule, but there is a big difference in activities and salary.


If you want to break out as a professional, you need to get a cosmetology license. All states require that professional makeup artists have a license. You need to be at least sixteen years of age and possess a high school diploma or GED to apply to cosmetology school.

According to the College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 1,400 cosmetology schools to choose from nationwide. Each will offer a program with different strengths and weaknesses. It is best to select a school in the state where you would like to work because it will also help facilitate other local licensure processes.


No makeup artist can set their own schedule. They can make appointments, but they must be available during the times that clients will need them. At a salon, makeup artists could find themselves starting early in the morning, and working until late in the evening. Many clients visit salons for special events, so the late hours can be common. If you lease a chair in a salon and are self-employed, your schedule will be dictated by clients and by the salon's owner.

As a freelancer, you will have to accommodate the early morning schedules of hurried brides and other clients who are preparing for special events, and may find that during the summer, you have no free weekends. You may also be required to travel long distances, between appointments. On movie sets, the day can start at three in the morning, and you will need to be available to remove makeup late in the evening when filming is over.

The varying schedule and long hours are difficult to deal with. However, you may also have to handle anxious, demanding people. The relations with people may be the greatest factor that encourages artists to leave the profession.


Professional makeup artists apply cosmetics to their clients, but they also give advice on skin care, provide instructions on how to apply cosmetics properly, keep notes about their long term clients, maintain their schedules, and clean up their work spaces.

You will also have to maintain your own tools and materials, though some may be supplied by your employer. Since hygiene is also an important issue, you will need to clean your tools and take care of your materials, replacing them if they become contaminated or worn.

You will also have take additional professional development about skin care, cosmetic application, and keep current on new cosmetic trends and materials.

You may also find that you will add other services to your makeup kit, such as selling skin care products or cosmetics to your clients, or offering other aesthetic services.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cosmetologists employed by salons, on average, earned about $10 per hour, including tips. Some high earners made up to $18 per hour. It is not surprising that many makeup artists increase their wages by selling skin care products to their clients because it is a good way to make more money.

If you work for a performing arts company--though a great deal of travel is required--you can make from $12 to $38 an hour, though you usually won't make tips from these clients.