Length of Cosmetology School & What You Learn

How Long is Cosmetology School & What Will I Learn?

Curious about what each beauty program has to offer?

In the ever-expanding world of beauty services, your career options are plentiful! With so many options, it can be confusing to choose which path is right for you.

Some of the most popular beauty school programs are:

  • Cosmetology
  • Makeup artistry
  • Esthetics
  • Permanent makeup
  • Hair design
  • Barbering
  • Nail Technician

We know it’s a lot to take in…

That’s why we outline each of these major programs, and include links to other relevant information about each one. We hope this helps guide you in your search to find the right beauty school and career path for you!

What are the benefits of using Beauty Schools Directory to compare programs?

  • We have endless resources about licensure, training, and common FAQ’s students have.
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If you already know what program is right for you, simply enter your zip code in the box to the right and choose your program from the list. Click "Find Schools" to find colleges near you that offer your desired program!

Jump to Your Question:

How long is cosmetology school and when will I complete a beauty program?

The following three factors will have the biggest impact on your timeline for completing a cosmetology program:

  • Type beauty program you enroll in
  • State license requirements
  • Whether you enroll as a part-time or full-time student

Quick facts about beauty school program timelines:

Full cosmetology curriculum is the most comprehensive and requires the most training hours.  

National average for cosmetology training hours is 1,500-2,100.

Average training hours required for the other beauty programs are as follows:

  • Nail technology - 300-600 hours
  • Makeup artistry – 300-600 hours
  • Electrology - 500 hours
  • Esthetics and skin care - 300 – 1,500 hours

Remember…State Cosmetology License Requirements Can Vary

In most cases your state's required beauty training hours are determined by the state licensing board. For example, a full cosmetology program in Montana requires 2,000 hours, while the same program in New York State only requires 1,000 hours. Overall, how long cosmetology school takes can vary by each state's training hour requirements.

Regardless of which beauty program you take, the answer to how long it will take depends upon the required training hours and whether you are enrolled full time or part time. Many full cosmetology programs can be completed in less than two years, while some programs in nail technology and esthetics can often be completed within six months.

Contact schools near you for more information on how long their programs take to complete.

What training cosmetology programs do beauty schools offer?

Beauty schools may offer the following training cosmetology programs, or combination of training programs: cosmetology, esthetics and skin care, electrolysis and laser hair removal, nail technology, makeup, beauty school instructor training. Also, massage therapy

Which Beauty School Is Right For Me?

Beauty schools may offer the following cosmetology training programs, or a combination of training programs:

  • Cosmetology
  • Esthetics and skin care
  • Electrolysis and laser hair removal
  • Nail technology
  • Makeup artistry
  • Beauty school instructor training

Additional Beauty School Programs

Students can also find work and training in these relevant programs:

  • Massage therapy
  • Fashion design

And let’s not overlook these growing fields in cosmetology…

  • Permanent makeup
  • Hair braiding
  • Natural hairstyling
  • Salon management

Beauty school students can elect to take comprehensive cosmetology programs, or they may choose to narrow their focuses to something more specific, like esthetics, nail tech, makeup, or hair only. How long cosmetology school is, the cost of tuition, and the licensing requirements may vary by program and state.

But, which beauty program is best?

Check out our Choosing Between Programs article and How to Choose a Beauty School article to get more help deciding which program is right for you.

Find Cosmetology Schools

What do you learn in cosmetology school?

The American Heritage dictionary defines cosmetology as “the study or art of cosmetics and their use." When beauty schools say they offer full cosmetology programs it generally refers to the study of hair styling, skin care, nail care, and makeup in one comprehensive program.

Cosmetology students learn how to choose and apply these services for clients through a variety of learning styles, including:

  • In-class lectures
  • Textbooks
  • Hands-on training in student salons
  • Online tools for knowledge-based courses

The official cosmetology curriculum varies from state to state, but a beauty school student should graduate with a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the beauty industry. Most students are also permitted to specialize in a specific area or service.

If you are looking at the broad cosmetology school option, you may find some additional information by looking at the questions below. Or…if you are still wanting to know about your options, keep reading.

What do you learn in esthetician school?

A beauty school offering esthetics training refers to the study of facial science and skincare. Estheticians’ scope of work includes:

  • Applying make-up
  • Facials
  • Massages
  • Waxing
  • Reflexology
  • Abrasive treatments
  • Skin peels and masks

Additionally, esthetician programs teach students how to prescribe skin care regimens, body wraps, laser treatments, anti-aging treatments, and more.

Students at esthetics and skin care schools will also learn about:

  • Anatomy and skin sciences
  • Safety and sanitation
  • Salon management
  • Customer service
  • Retail sales

There are many schools that teach only esthetics and skin care, but esthetician training is often a subset of a comprehensive cosmetology program at a beauty school. Learn more about specifics below!

What do you learn in barbering school?

Barber schools teach barbering students both traditional and modern, cutting edge skills to cut men's hair. Courses typically cover the following topics:

  • Cutting and trimming
  • Men’s grooming and shaving services
  • Scalp treatments
  • Adjusting of wigs, toupees, or artificial hair
  • Coloring, permanent waves and treatments

Because barbering is such a traditional niche, and a popular independent business path, some barber schools go so far as to teach business management and marketing skills to get ahead in the industry. Safety and sanitation is also an important component of barbering school.

What do you learn in nail tech school?

Nail technology schools will help students learn:

  • Nail art and design
  • Tips
  • Forms
  • Wraps
  • Gels
  • Manicures
  • Pedicures
  • Calf and foot massage
  • Safety and sanitation

Just make sure the program you choose will meet your state requirements for licensure as a nail technician!

What Do You Learn In Makeup School?

Students at a makeup artist school learn how to:

  • Design and implement creative makeup looks
  • Pair makeup with specific hairstyles
  • Apply full makeup and corrective or spot makeup
  • Outline custom makeup regimens for clientele
  • Execute specialized makeup for events and television

Many schools are dedicated solely to makeup or have specific makeup programs, but most often makeup artist certification is learned as a part of a comprehensive cosmetology training program.

What do you learn in hair braiding school?

A hair braider is a beauty professional that specializes in the art of twisting, braiding, and tying many small braids all over the head. This service is especially popular among African Americans and African or Caribbean immigrants.

Hair braiding involves intricate techniques, such as:

  • Twisting
  • Pulling
  • Shaping
  • Braiding
  • Weaving
  • Intricate hand techniques that result in innovative styles!

Some states also include the "loctician" job title in a hair braider's job description, which includes dreadlock care, maintenance and styling. Some states may also include natural hairstyling in this specialty because it focuses primarily on the unique hair needs of black clients.

What do you learn in permanent makeup training?

Permanent makeup is a creative and growing industry that attracts individuals who seek to pursue a career in the beauty or medical professions. Permanent makeup is the art and science of using tattoo artistry to apply cosmetic looks more permanently than one's daily makeup routine. Students of permanent makeup school will learn how to tattoo to recreate the look of cosmetics such as eyeliner, lipstick, brow liner, blush, eyeshadow and other makeup products. The field of permanent makeup attracts individuals who are seeking to become a near-medical beauty professional.

What Do You Learn In Hair Removal School?

As much as we’ve been talking about hair, it’s funny to make the transition to a beauty program that teaches you how to remove it! But, unwanted hair is just as much an issue as not enough, for some.

Electrology, electrolysis or laser hair removal is medically recognized as being a permanent hair removal method for the face and body.

In electrolysis training you will:

  • Learn the latest hair removal technology and techniques
  • Develop consulting & patient care skills
  • Receive hands-on education for certification
  • Maintain a safe and sanitary work environment

Electrolysis is a very popular service to get rid of unwanted body hair, so you will learn how to apply laser hair removal methods with the utmost care and accuracy for clientele.


What Do You Learn In Permanent Makeup Training?

Permanent makeup is a creative and growing industry that attracts individuals who want a career tattooing for cosmetics reasons. Permanent makeup is the art and science of using tattoo artistry to apply cosmetic looks more permanently than one's daily makeup routine.

Students of permanent makeup school will learn how to tattoo to recreate the look of cosmetics such as:

  • Eyeliner
  • Lipstick
  • Brow liner
  • Blush
  • Eyeshadow
  • Other makeup products

The field of permanent makeup attracts individuals who are seeking to become a near-medical beauty professional. It’s one of the most intriguing and fastest growing fields within the beauty industry.

What do you learn in cosmetology teacher training?

Teacher training programs are designed to prepare students who are interested in teaching beauty and cosmetology. Most of the teachers you'll have in beauty school completed a teacher training program, in addition to their experience in the field. Beauty school teacher training equips potential instructors with all the skills, knowledge and resources necessary to become a successful educator.

Cosmetology teacher classes include practical training and theoretical training. Future beauty teachers will learn how to teach beauty school students using the issued textbooks, in-class lectures, and hands-on training in student salons.

Becoming a cosmetology teacher requires that the individual already be knowledgeable about:

  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Makeup
  • Skin care
  • And have additional experience working in their field

Some cosmetology teacher training classes may include:

  • Theory
  • Practical cosmetology
  • Record keeping
  • Lesson planning
  • Classroom management
  • Retention tips
  • Learning styles

Just make sure you learn from experienced professionals with a proven track record of inspiring cosmetology students!

What do you learn in salon management training?

Salon, spa or barbershop management training may include courses in:

  • Leadership and management
  • Basic accounting
  • Customer service
  • Retail sales
  • Advertising
  • Health and safety compliance
  • Business operations
  • Business building
  • Money management
  • Employee contracts and relations

This may occur in a cosmetology school setting, through a series of third-party advanced classes, or through an internal company program that helps groom employees for growing into leadership roles.

Massage therapy is practiced by trained and licensed professionals. They provide specialized care with their clients' medical health in mind. At massage therapist school, massage students learn to manipulate clients' soft tissues, which improves circulation and acts as a "cleanser" of sorts for muscles. Students are taught to provide specialized, tailored care to clients with their medical and holistic health in mind.

Massage therapy students will learn to relieve pain, discomfort and stress for clients through physical pressure and touch.

Massage school could teach students to perform a number of techniques such as:

  • Sports massage
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Chair massage
  • Stone massage
  • Swedish massage
  • Reflexology
  • Hydrotherapy
  • And any other new, cutting edge techniques!

Other parts of the curriculum may include anatomy, kinesiology and ethics.

What do you learn in fashion design school?

Most fashion design programs require students to complete basic art and design courses and to submit sketches or other examples of their artistic skills in order to be admitted to the program.

Here are some common skills and topics covered in most fashion programs:

  • Traditional artistic techniques
  • Marketing skills
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) technology
  • Fashion merchandising
  • Textiles and fabrics

Plus, you will develop a portfolio that demonstrates your style and skills. You will probably have the opportunity to enter your designs in fashion contests or shows during school.

What are "advanced beauty courses" and does it matter if my cosmetology school offers them?

Does it matter if my cosmetology school offers them?

"Advanced beauty courses" refers to a class that offers a very-in-depth and focused curriculum about a particular topic. Before taking an "advanced class" students will likely be required to have taken basic classes in the same beauty program, or to be already licensed.

Sometimes “advanced beauty classes” is actually referring to continuing education hours that you must take to keep your license active in your state.

Advanced beauty courses can be found in the following areas:

  • At local beauty schools
  • Salons and spas may offer them
  • Workshops sponsored by product companies or salons
  • Tradeshows may offer quick training sessions on new skills or trends

If you already know you want to pursue a career in a specific field of beauty such as custom hair coloring, acrylic nails or something else, it is a good idea to find a beauty school to attend that offers advanced beauty classes in your niche or specific area of interest. More education in your beauty trade is essential to becoming a true, trusted expert in your field and advanced beauty courses are the perfect way to continue that education.

Want to connect with beauty schools that offer programs near you?

If you’re ready to pursue a career in cosmetology, consider these options for next steps:

  • Enter your zip code, or choose your preferred program and state in the search box to view your local schools
  • Continue reading about your state’s license requirements, which can impact your enrollment decision
  • Check out these valuable FAQ’s to continue researching your options
  • You HAVE to look at our awesome scholarship for beauty students. Why not?


Good luck finding the training you need to start a beautiful career in cosmetology!

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