Frequently Asked Questions about Cosmetology School Accreditation

Every new beauty school student needs to learn the importance of accreditation before making a final enrollment decision. Before you even start narrowing down your options, visit these FAQ’s to understand what accreditation means, the benefits for students, and how it can impact your ability to work professionally. While you’re here, find out how you can learn a beauty school’s student success and dropout rates. Additional information is provided in this section of questions that cover accrediting bodies and massage school accreditation.

General Accreditation Questions

What does it mean for a cosmetology school to be accredited?

Beauty schools that are labeled "accredited" have met certain academic and institutional requirements established by the cosmetology school accrediting organizations. Typically these organizations comprise schools with similar training programs and curricula, and they establish consistent eligibility criteria and an index to measure beauty schools against. NACCAS is not a government agency, but the United States Department of Education recognizes their authority in accrediting cosmetology schools and beauty schools. Accreditation helps preserve the integrity and quality of education in the cosmetology field.

Some of the factors that accrediting organizations look for are the cosmetology school's curriculum, quality of education, facilities, staff, and admission policies. NACCAS in particular accredits schools based on standards and criteria in a number of different areas:

  • Educational Objectives
  • Institutional Evaluation
  • Instructional Staff
  • Administrative Services
  • Admissions Policies & Procedures
  • Student Support Services
  • Curriculum
  • Financial Practices & Management
  • Instructional Space & Facilities
  • Student Evaluations
  • Courses of Study & Programs

The steps to NACCAS accreditation for beauty schools includes getting the school properly licensed, attending an accreditation workshop, completing an institutional self-study and having a candidate consultation visit, filling out the necessary applications and paying the required fees, and then having an initial accreditation full team visit, among other steps. Accredited schools are re-evaluated at least every six years, and they must continue living up to the established standards to keep their accreditation active. If they fall short of the requirements, they are assigned an amount of time to correct the issues. (Note that massage school accreditation follows different criteria.)

Being accredited means that the school meets national education performance standards established by the agency. While an unaccredited beauty school may live up to the same standards, being accredited is a reliable signal that the school has been objectively evaluated and meets high standards for quality in serving students. Attending an accredited beauty school can also improve your chances of finding employment after graduating and getting licensed, because many employers look for people who got their education at certified institutions. The primary advantage of choosing a cosmetology school that is "accredited" is its ability to offer federal financial aid resources to beauty school students who qualify . All that said, while accreditation is important to most beauty schools, there are still tons of excellent beauty schools available that are not yet accredited but are working on attaining that status.

Schools are required to publish exam pass rates and job placement rates ever since the Gainful Employment laws Job placement rate typically looks at how many people are working in jobs directly related to the field of study at any point since their graduation date. This information is usually collected through surveys of past graduates, and it is reported annually to the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences . Our survey of 70 beauty schools shows that the participating schools had a 93.98% board exam pass rate.

Another way to find out a beauty school's graduation rate is to request information from cosmetology schools admissions’ representatives directly. When you use this site to find beauty schools near you, an admissions representative will typically respond to your inquiry within 24 to 48 hours. When the admissions rep calls you, you can ask any specific questions you have about graduation and dropout rates. You may also wish to ask about how many people land cosmetology jobs after graduating beauty school in order to make an educated decision. You can also try contacting the licensing board for the state you're considering going to school in for more information about the graduation, dropout and job placement rates at schools in your area.

Accreditating Bodies

The largest accrediting agency for beauty and cosmetology schools is NACCAS, which stands for the National Accrediting Commission for Career Arts & Sciences. The agency is based in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1981, a merger incorporated the Cosmetology Accrediting Commission (CAC) into the organization. NACCAS is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an accrediting authority. NACCAS currently accredits approximately 1,500 institutions that serve more than 120,000 students nationwide. These schools offer more than 20 courses and programs of study under the NACCAS scope of accreditation – including all the cosmetology arts and sciences, massage therapy, esthetics and skin care, hair braiding, shampooing, makeup artistry, barbering, electrology and hair removal, manicurists and nail technology, and many more specific programs within the field.

To contact the NACCAS directly:
Phone: (703) 600-7600
Fax: (703) 379-2200
Address: 4401 Ford Ave., Suite 1300
Alexandria, Virginia 22302.

You can find an extensive list of accredited beauty schools that receive recognition from the NACCAS in our featured beauty schools section . Or for a list of cosmetology schools with accreditation status in your state, you can also contact your state cosmetology licensing board or use search the NACCAS list . When viewing the featured school pages for campuses on our site, look for this NACCAS logo.

Other accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education include:

In addition to these accrediting bodies, look for beauty schools that are members of notable professional organizations , such as the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) . Membership in these associations can be a strong indicator of a high-quality school that participates in the beauty community and places a high priority on networking and continuing education.

Massage School Accreditation

The purpose of accrediting massage educational institutions and the programs they teach is to maintain a standard of quality throughout the massage and bodywork industry. It creates a core set of standards by which schools are measured to ensure that students are getting the best possible education and training to prepare them for successful careers. Schools get accredited through a voluntary process of peer review based on established educational, professional and performance industry standards.

The standards for massage school accreditation are set by real practitioners and educators in the massage and bodywork business. The standards cover the curriculum taught in the institutions and the instructional methods used to teach the material to students.

Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) accreditation, for example, requires a school to be operating for at least two years, legally licensed to operate in its state, offer post-secondary level training, and offer at least one massage therapy or esthetics program of at least 600 hours. COMTA also requires the school to have at least 20 graduates from the longest non-degree program at the school.

To search for accredited massage therapy schools, click the “Find Schools” button below to get started.

Determining which massage school to attend can be a very exciting endeavor. One of the most important factors to take into consideration when deciding which school to attend is whether or not the school is accredited by a national or regional accrediting body. Beauty Schools Directory has compiled the information below to take the mystery out of massage school accreditation for you, and to help clarify what it means to you as a future student.

The benefits of attending an accredited school are many, but perhaps the largest benefit is the confidence in the educational experience you will have when attending an accredited school. On the other hand, there are still very many high quality schools that are not yet accredited. Whichever school you choose to attend, just be sure to do your research and compare schools to find the right one for you .

The benefits of massage school accreditation include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Having confidence in the quality and performance of the school and its curriculum, and its relevance to the current requirements of the industry.
  • Regular examination of the school’s practices and policies. This helps identify strengths and weaknesses, and helps schools make constant improvements.
  • A positive reputation of the school within the massage and bodywork industry, and the school’s local community.
  • Students may have access to more financial aid opportunities, such as Federal Title IV financial aid, state scholarships and grants.
  • Graduates of accredited massage schools may have better chances of landing jobs after getting licensed than those who graduated from unaccredited schools because of the seal of approval indicating the quality of the institution.
  • Accredited schools are required to have a complaints and grievances policy, and accrediting agencies can be contacted as a third party to involve if necessary.
  • Students may have an easier time seeking licensure reciprocity in other states, and transferring credits from one school or state to another.

Accrediting and regulatory bodies may be either regional or national organizations. They can be institutional – granting accreditation to the entire school, or they can be programmatic – granting accreditation to specific programs within a larger school.

The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is the largest accrediting body for massage schools in the United States and is also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to COMTA, there are numerous regional accrediting bodies in existence in the United States. There are currently 37 states, including the District of Columbia in which the practice of massage therapy is regulated. To find out if your state is regulated by either COMTA or any other accrediting body, you may contact your state's licensing board .

Other national accrediting and regulatory bodies for massage therapy schools include:

Other regional accrediting and regulatory bodies for massage therapy schools include:

The most convenient way to find accredited massage therapy schools is Beauty Schools Directory. Just click the “Find Schools” button below to get started. Make sure to select “Massage Therapy” as your program.