Cosmetology License Requirements by State

How to Get Your Cosmetology License

Whether you are pursuing your overall cosmetology license, or a more specific specialty certification like an esthetician license or hairstylist license, there are some consistent steps in the process across each discipline. In order to get licensed or certified for the beauty specialties in your state, it all begins with education.

As of 2015, most states require you to attend an approved school for a minimum number of hours, get hands-on training in the student salon or clinic, and sit for the state's board exams. A few states allow apprenticeship in lieu of school to get those training hours.

Once you have passed the board exams specific to your state, you are required to renew regularly. Some states require continuing education hours to renew your beauty license, some require taking a safety and sanitation quiz to renew, and others simply require the license renewal fee.

All State Cosmetology Boards

Find out your state's specific 2015 cosmetology license requirements by choosing your state from the alphabetical list below:


Number of Hours to Get Your Cosmetology License

Licensed Cosmetologist Cutting HairEvery state has different cosmetology license requirements, and even different beauty licenses available as options. (For example, Illinois now has a hair braiding license, but not every state has adopted this new specialty certification yet.)

Beauty Schools Directory keeps in frequent contact with the regulatory boards in each state to offer the most thorough and up-to-date information possible about beauty licensing laws, including the number of cosmetology hours required in each state.

The national average for required hours to get a cosmetologist's license and barber's license is between 1500 and 2100 hours, but it varies from state to state. Some states offer a hair license that is a slightly shorter program than cosmetology, and may not include nails or makeup. Nail technology licenses and makeup artist certifications typically require between 300 and 600 hours. Esthetician license requirements varies wildly from state-to-state, with as few as 300 hours in some states up to 1500 hours in others. Electrology/electrolysis and laser hair removal typically requires around 500 training hours.

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How to Change or Transfer Your Cosmetology License

Licensed Hairstylist Straightening HairIf you are moving, you may want to transfer your cosmetology license from your home state to your new place of residence so you can perform beauty services legally in that state. Some states have what's called "reciprocity" with other states, or a mutual arrangement that allows licensees to transfer with ease. This is often an option when two states have substantially similar or equivalent licensing requirements. Some states simply require an application and a transfer fee, whereas others may require you to take more training hours or sit for the new state's board exams. Choose your state from the list above to find out how to transfer your cosmetology license.

What is the difference between a cosmetology diploma and cosmetology degree?

We find that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between these two career milestones in cosmetology. Once you read through this you should understand the difference between a diploma or certificate vs a cosmetology degree.

Cosmetology Diploma

Let's start with the cosmetology diploma or certificate first, this is also called a Post-Secondary Diploma Program. You first will need your GED or high school diploma to attend one of these programs, no ifs, ands or butts. When you attend Cosmetology School you will most likely be earning a cosmetology diploma after you have completed all the requirements that the college set forward and if you completed the number of hours necessary by the state. Once you've obtained your diploma you will still need to take the NIC Exam (National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology) or for a few states the State Issued Cosmetology Exam and this information will be sent to the state where you live and they will award you a cosmetology license and cosmetology license number for your state.

So the process for receiving a diploma in cosmetology or a certificate in cosmetology is:

  1. Completing school requirements and hours
  2. Getting awarded your cosmetology diploma / certificate
  3. Taking the NIC exam (or state issued in some cases) + passing
  4. Having the state issue you a cosmetology license after it is confirmed you passed NIC.

Now, some cosmetology schools have partnered with local community colleges or Universities to provide a combined 2 year business degree as well as the cosmetology diploma. This is not applicable to all states and they vary by law. In some states, like Illinois, you can't go through both at the same time. Once you graduate from cosmetology you can go into the degree program. In a lot of states this is more the case than not.

Cosmetology Degree

Now let's get to the cosmetology degree and how that differs from the diploma. This is a full 2 year business degree / 2 year associates degree (sometimes called a Health and Beauty Management Degree / Applied Technology Cosmetology Degree) and it will not provide you with a diploma which then allows you to take the NIC Exam to then obtain a license. You will still need to complete the diploma step before, during or after you earning your degree depending on which state you live in. What a cosmetology degree does allow you to do is take college classes that teach you things that are also outside of the beauty industry specifics like Math, Science, English Composition & Social Sciences. The advantage to getting the degree is that it can set you up for success in enhancing your prospects and abilities in the future in the beauty industry. People with a degree and a diploma are better prepared to manage a beauty salon, be in supervisory roles, do marketing or sales or even run and own their own beauty salon.

So the process of receiving your degree in cosmetology as well as your cosmetology diploma is:

  1. Depending on state attend a Cosmetology Degree program
  2. Either attend a cosmetology school for your license before, during or after you obtaining your cosmo degree (depends on your state)
  3. Take the NICS exam
  4. Have the state issue you a cosmo license upon passing NIC Exam
  5. Graduate from your associates level degree and have both degree + diploma

Get Cosmetology Requirements by State

We offer the most current information possible for each state's licensing, including continuing education requirements, minimum training hours required for each specialty license, renewal information, reciprocity/endorsement/transfer information and contact information for the board. Be aware that not every state offers every beautician license, and in some states the cosmetology board is not always the one that oversees that license.

We regularly update licensing information for the following beautician licenses: cosmetologists, barber, esthetician, nail technician, makeup artist, permanent makeup artist, laser hair removal specialist, cosmetology school instructor, hair braiders and massage therapists when available.

The information you find listed within each state is the latest data that Beauty Schools Directory has on file for each board of cosmetology's license requirements. Training hours and minimum license requirements are subject to change. We always recommend contacting the appropriate state board licensing agencies directly for the most up-to-date information, and have included contact information for each board on their respective state page. If you see an error in any of the licensing information or contact information for each state, please contact us and let us know!

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