When most of us envision the typical high school experience, subjects like math, English and chemistry often come to mind before cosmetologyhair designnail technologyskincare or massage. A traditional high school curriculum is designed to prepare students for a four-year university experience, but many students have a different plan for their educations and careers.

In high schools across the country, many educators think these students deserve to take practical classes that will introduce them to the subjects about which they are most interested. At some schools, this means an opportunity to begin a cosmetology education before graduation.

Submitted by Elizabeth on 11/21/2012 - 14:14

For instance, in Lancaster, Ohio, about 50 students at Lancaster High School apply each year for the school's cosmetology program. To gain acceptance in the program, students must have a solid academic record and complete an interview process with their instructors. Teachers say that nearly all of their students in the program share a genuine enthusiasm for working in the cosmetology field, but they don't yet realize how in-depth a cosmetology education really is. In the Lancaster High School cosmetology program, students begin the classes during their junior year, and study everything from the chemical compositions of hair products, massage treatments, common skin ailments and cosmetic applications.

Another example of cosmetology programs in high school is happening at Cashmere High School in Cashmere, Washington. To earn their certificate of completion through the Hair Academy, students must acquire a total of 1800 hours. (The state of Washington requires 1600 hours to sit for the board exams.) Students begin freshmen training their first year at no cost and acquire hours toward this certification at the rate of 2 hours and 45 minutes per day. During their second year, students move to the clinic floor and are eligible to earn hours at a quicker pace. Once a student has acquired the 1800 hours, they are eligible to take the practicum and state exam to become certified. The cost factor does not begin until their second year when they are on the clinic floor. Once they graduate from high school, they are eligible for financial aid.

"Students determine how long it takes to graduate," Cashmere High School counselor Pat Henning said. "Motivated students are capable of getting their full 1800 hours in before they graduate from high school. We have one student that is currently in this situation, she will likely be taking her exams in the spring. She worked Saturdays and every possible hour that she could."

Like other high school trade and vocational programs, these narrowly tailored cosmetology programs allow students to learn through hands-on activities and practice in the beauty trade. Some programs even offer internship opportunities that allow high school students to see a salon or spa's inner workings.

Most of these high school beauty courses do not replace a cosmetology license or training from postsecondary cosmetology schools, but the irreplaceable experiences can help students explore their career interests in hair design, nail technology or skincare.

It is always great to attend an accredited cosmetology school to begin your career in beauty, but ask around at the high schools near you if you're interested in a high school cosmetology program. You may be able to get your foot in the door of the cosmetology industry even sooner than you realized!