California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists in California

May also be called: Beauticians; Colorists; Beauty Operators, and Stylists

What Would I Do?

Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists offer services to improve the physical appearance of their clients. These include shampooing, cutting, coloring, and styling hair, and massaging and treating the scalp. Note: This guide does not describe manicurists or skin care specialists.

Cosmetologists provide hair styling services for their customers to help them look attractive. Most of their time is spent styling hair according to their clients’ directions, hair type, and facial features. Knowledge of the latest hair styles and cutting techniques is essential. They shampoo, cut, set, and comb hair. They may also color or straighten hair or give it a permanent wave.

Cosmetologists use tools such as combs, scissors, razors, and clippers to cut hair. They set hair using rollers, clips, setting lotions, and gels. Styling hair calls for the use of dryers, combs, brushes, and blow-dryers. They may also use hot combs and curling irons to press and curl hair. Cosmetologists may apply rinses or conditioners after shampooing to treat dry or damaged hair.

Additional duties include scheduling appointments, using the cash register, cleaning the work area and equipment, and keeping records of hair color formulas and permanent waves used by regular patrons. Self-employed Cosmetologists have a managerial role in addition to their work as Stylists.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Schedule client appointments.Time Management
Analyze patrons' hair and other physical features to determine and recommend beauty treatment or suggest hair styles.Operations Analysis
Shampoo, rinse, condition and dry hair and scalp or hairpieces with water, liquid soap, or other solutions.Manual Dexterity
Cut, trim and shape hair or hairpieces, based on customers' instructions, hair type and facial features, using clippers, scissors, trimmers and razors.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Bleach, dye, or tint hair, using applicator or brush.Chemistry
Update and maintain customer information records, such as beauty services provided.Customer and Personal Service
Keep work stations clean and sanitize tools such as scissors and combs.Equipment Selection
Operate cash registers to receive payments from patrons.Service Orientation
Demonstrate and sell hair care products and cosmetics.Speaking
Develop new styles and techniques.Visualization
Apply water, setting, straightening or waving solutions to hair and use curlers, rollers, hot combs and curling irons to press and curl hair.Trunk Strength
Apply water, setting, straightening or waving solutions to hair and use curlers, rollers, hot combs and curling irons to press and curl hair.Finger Dexterity
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Cosmetologists generally work in attractively decorated, well-lit, clean, air-conditioned salons. In most salons, Stylists have their own work stations. The work of the Cosmetologist requires a great deal of standing, stooping, and reaching throughout the workday. Exposure to coloring and curling chemicals may cause allergic skin and lung reactions in some individuals. Most beauty salons are open six days a week, and some are open seven. Cosmetologists usually work five days a week and must be prepared to work weekends and some evenings. The occupation offers excellent opportunities for part-time work. Personal tools are usually furnished by the Cosmetologist. Salon owners may provide most of the other equipment.

Some Cosmetologists belong to the California Cosmetology Association or the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Cosmetologist will appeal to you if you have an enterprising, artistic, and social nature. Enterprising jobs involve starting up and carrying out projects. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs, and patterns. They often require self-expression and work that can be done without following a clear set of rules. Social occupations involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They can involve leading people and making many decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The wages listed in the table below do not reflect the earnings of self-employed Hairdressers and Cosmetologists, which can be higher depending on the location of a salon, customer tipping practices, and competition from other salons. A Cosmetologist’s initiative and ability to attract and hold regular clients are key factors in determining his or her earnings. Earnings for entry-level workers are usually low; however, for those who stay in the profession, earnings can be considerably higher.


The median wage in 2021 for Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists in California is $31,180 annually, or $14.99 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Full-time Cosmetologists who are salaried often receive medical and dental benefits, sick leave, and vacation credits. Those who work part-time and Cosmetologists who own their own businesses generally must purchase their own health and dental insurance.

What is the Job Outlook?

The job outlook for Cosmetologists is favorable. Along with new jobs expected, many more job opportunities will occur to fill vacancies as Cosmetologists retire or leave for other kinds of work. Factors that contribute to a demand for cosmetology services include a growing population with higher incomes, more styling services for men, the increasing number of working women, and a general expansion of the beauty salon industry.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists are expected to increase by 6.7 percent, or 4,400 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A formal training program in cosmetology is the typical education path for Cosmetologists. The length of time required to complete these programs varies between nine months and two years. Public and private vocational schools offer daytime or evening classes in cosmetology.

Formal training includes classroom study, demonstrations, and practical work. Students study the basic services—cutting and styling hair, chemically treating hair, and giving hair and scalp treatments—and, under supervision, practice on customers in school “clinics.” Students attend lectures on the use and care of instruments, sanitation and hygiene, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and the recognition of simple skin ailments. Instruction also is provided in communication, sales, and general business practices. Experienced barbers and Cosmetologists may take advanced courses in hairstyling, coloring, the sale and service of wigs and hairpieces, and sales and marketing.

Early Career Planning

Chemistry, health education, art, and business courses would offer high school students knowledge to help succeed in this career.

Continuing Education

There are no continuing education requirements required to renew a Cosmetologist license with the State of California.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

Another, less-common method of qualifying for the State Board examination is working as an apprentice for two years in a beauty salon under the supervision of a Board-approved Cosmetologist. This type of training must consist of at least 220 hours of instruction to qualify for a license.
 For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.


Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information.Click on the license title below for details.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

While Cosmetologists are typically found in hair salons, others work on cruise lines and resorts, in department stores, and retirement facilities. Nationally, about 48 percent of Cosmetologists are self-employed. The largest industries employing Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Personal Care Services44.0%
General Merchandise Stores5.8%
Health and Personal Care Stores2.6%
Motion Picture and Video Industries1.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to hair salons remains one of the most effective job search methods. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists.

  • Barbers
  • Beauty Salons & Services
  • Hair and Beauty Salons
  • Hairstylists

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Advancement is usually in the form of higher earnings. This occurs as a Cosmetologist gains experience and builds up a steady clientele, or becomes a skilled specialist in one or more phases such as hair styling, straightening, or coloring. Managerial positions may be available in large beauty salons. More commonly, Cosmetologists advance by opening their own salons. Some become teachers in beauty colleges, sales representatives for cosmetics firms, beauty editors for newspapers or magazines, or examiners for State cosmetology boards. Advancement is based not only on ability, but on the Cosmetologists willingness to continue training to keep up with changing hair styles and techniques.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists with links to more information.

Floral DesignersProfile
Skin Care SpecialistsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification39-5012
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists39-5012.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)AES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Cosmetology/Cosmetologist, General 120401
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Cosmetology and Barbering300700