Traits of Top Cosmetology Schools

Trying to choose the best school for you?

When you research training options for your future cosmetology career, you want to know what the best cosmetology schools in your area are, and what makes them the best value. Often there are many options available in your area, so it can be a challenging task to sift through your choices to choose the best cosmetology school for your needs. However, there are certain factors that top beauty schools have in common that will provide you with a solid foundation to prepare you for your career. So while you may be considering things like tuition and location, you will also want to look into the following characteristics of the schools you are researching.

Whether they are famous cosmetology schools or small local academies, if they have most or all of the following traits, you can get the quality of training you need for a successful cosmetology career.

Preparing Students to Pass Cosmetology Exams

The best cosmetology schools in the nation are going to focus their students' training on the things required to pass their state's cosmetology license exams, but they are also going to look beyond the test to help prepare you for a successful career in the beauty business over the long term. Since each state has a unique set of rules, tests, and hours of experience required to earn the cosmetology license, top beauty schools will incorporate these things into their curriculum. This can include the textbook theory topics covered in lecture, as well as the amount of time the school has each student spend on the salon floor working with clients on the different skills of the trade, like hair, makeup, and nail technology. For more info about what exam requirements will apply to you, check out your state cosmetology license requirements.

The licensing exams consist of a written portion (usually theory and law), and then a hands-on practical portion where you administer the beauty services you learned in school. The school should adequately prepare you to take both types of test, sometimes even having you take practice tests before graduation. In a survey of 55 cosmetology schools done by Beauty Schools Directory, we found that beauty schools claim an average licensing exam pass rate of 93.9% of their class. Beauty schools tend to fall in the 70 to 100% pass rate range.


Many of the top cosmetology schools are accredited. Accredited cosmetology schools are governed by the National Accrediting Commission for Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS), as recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education. NACCAS clearly defines the rules and curriculum requirements for a cosmetology school and sets industry standards that ensures that all the schools are of a high caliber. It is also important to note that students who apply to cosmetology schools with accreditation may be eligible for federal financial aid for those who qualify. So attending an accredited cosmetology school could offer some benefit to reduce the costs associated with your higher education. However, a school not being accredited is not necessarily a sign that it’s a bad school. It takes time to get accredited, so even the best cosmetology schools have to work toward that certification. Read more about accredited cosmetology schools here to get a deeper understanding of why accreditation matters to you as a student.

Providing Business and Professional Training

The top beauty schools in the nation will provide you with multiple levels of training, going beyond the general hair styling and nail care education that meets the state’s curriculum requirements. Rather than simply “teaching to the test,” these schools go above and beyond to provide business and professional training, helping you to prepare for the business side of the industry. These schools believe that teaching professionalism, ethics, and business management skills go hand-in-hand with your cosmetology training, so you don't go into your first job without the balanced knowledge needed to start and build a successful career in cosmetology. This kind of training at the best beauty schools can help you prepare for resume building, job hunting, job interview skills, best practices for client consultations, how to market yourself as a beauty professional to bring in new business, and more.

Graduation & Drop-Out Rates

Graduation rate and drop-out rate can be useful to take into account when choosing the best beauty school for you. While we don’t feel this is the only piece of information you should consider about a school, this can be a signal as to whether students are able to be successful at the campus and the types of students you will be learning alongside, and whether the school succeeds in retaining students throughout the entire course. Just ask your admissions representative for their graduation or drop-out rates when you request information from the schools near you.

Quality of Campus & Student Salon

The hands-on experience gained at the best cosmetology schools happens in the student salon. These salons bring in real clients from the community for discounted services, and provide a realistic working environment where students are able to practice their technical cosmetology skills while interacting with customers. While many of the beauty school clients are drawn to the student salon by the low cost of services, top cosmetology schools often build repeat clientele for the quality of work performed by the students, while under the supervision of their cosmetology instructors. A professionally run student salon provides excellent work experience for the student.

In addition to the student salon setting, be sure the campus is located conveniently near you, and if necessary near public transportation so you can reliably get to school if you don’t have car. Also, take a tour of the cosmetology school and get a feel for how the campus looks, the quality of the facilities and the technology they use.

Cosmetology Instructors Active in the Industry

Instructors who are passionate about beauty and stay active in their art are a major factor in what makes the best beauty schools. These beauty school instructors are at the top of their game, seeking their own continuing education, keeping up with changing industry trends and techniques, and passing along their passion for cosmetology to their students. Teachers who don't allow themselves to become rusty or outdated in their profession will provide their students with the highest quality and most relevant training to prepare them to step out into their career and become successful cosmetologists.

Schools Active in the Community

Look for schools who stay involved in the local community to help make connections for the students who attend the college. Many schools reach out to local theater companies, schools, theater groups and fashion shows to offer the hair, makeup and nail services of the students so you can log more training hours and get real hands-on experience practicing your skills. We also advise you to look for schools who stay connected to local salons, which can be extremely valuable when it comes time to find a job after graduating and getting licensed. Schools that have solid connections with local businesses can offer better job placement services to recent graduates. In the survey of 55 beauty schools conducted by Beauty Schools Directory, we found that some 96% of cosmetology schools offer some kind of career placement services or assistance to help you get your first job out of beauty college.

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