Working in the New York Beauty Industry: What to Know

If you’re considering working in the cosmetology industry in New York, this is the place to start! We’re here to answer your burning questions about beauty schools, tests, careers, and more!

Attending Beauty School in New York

Here are answers to common questions about beauty school and licensure in New York.

What Are the Best Beauty Schools in New York?

While you can attend any school that provides you a state-approved beauty education, our staff has done the heavy lifting to find the best cosmetology schools in New York based on publicly available data.

If you’re looking for top schools in a particular metro area, we have you covered:

Best Cosmetology Schools in New York Metro Areas

We've ranked the top cosmetology schools in metro areas within or near New York to help you find your perfect fit.

What New York Beauty Program Should I Choose?

Most people choose a beauty discipline and program based on what they want to do when they graduate. But there are differences in how long (and therefore how expensive) it is to get the training you need in the state, so keep that in mind as you select a beauty career. Related to the length of program is how many subjects or topics you will need to study as part of your training.

New York Beauty School Curriculum

1,000 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

Subjects taught include natural hair, skincare, nail care, waxing, cutting, styling, chemicals, and scalp and hair problems.

Learn more about becoming a cosmetologist

600 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

Subjects taught include hair removal, facials, and makeup application.

Learn more about becoming an esthetician

250 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

Subjects taught include manicure, tip application, shaping, wrap application, acrylic application, and polish application.

Learn more about becoming a manicurist

Licensure hours are determined by the barber school in New York state or a 2 year apprenticeship,

Subjects taught include haircutting, shaving, and facial massage.

Learn more about becoming a barber

Natural Hair Styling
300 hours are required to become licensed in New York (unless already a barber).

Subjects taught include locking, braiding, cornrowing, and weaving.

Learn more about becoming a natural hair stylist

Massage Therapy
1,000 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

Subjects taught include various biology topics, hygiene, first aid, infection control, chemicals, theory, and technique.

Learn more about becoming a massage therapist

Permanent Makeup
New York state licensure requirements are currently under review.

Subjects taught include infection control; others currently in flux.

Learn more about becoming a permanent makeup artist

Salon Management/Appearance Enhancement Business
0 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

You don't need to take any classes. But you must know relevant laws and the signs of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Learn more about becoming a salon manager

Waxing Specialist
75 hours are required to become licensed in New York.

Subjects taught are decided by approved course of study, but include domestic violence awareness.

Can I Apprentice Instead of Going to Cosmetology School in New York?

No, New York doesn’t allow cosmetology apprenticeships. If you are set on apprenticing for a beauty license, consider a barbering career in the state instead.

How Can I Pay for Beauty School In New York?

You can pay for New York beauty school out of pocket or through loans, scholarships, or grants. Here are resources to help you learn more about ways to pay for school.

What New York Beauty School Scholarships Are Available?

Check with individual schools that you are interested in. Many New York beauty schools give out scholarships for students, especially those who are taking a cosmetology program.

Looking For More Scholarships? offers a $2,500 scholarship for beauty and wellness professionals. We've also gathered the most comprehensive list of nationwide scholarships available for beauty students.

What Beauty Jobs Do I Need Licenses for in New York?

You need a New York state license to be in these jobs.

What Tests Do I Need to Take to Get a New York Beauty License?

To keep things interesting, different licenses in New York have different test requirements.

Make sure you have your ID set up.

The other test you need to take, regardless of license, is a physical test. We’ll talk about that in another section.

Can I Get Disability Accommodations for My New York Cosmetology Exams and Classes?

Yes, you can get disability accommodations in your cosmetology classes and exams! Well, most of the time. Unfortunately, the system isn’t perfect.

In theory, you turn in paperwork about your disability and your needs, and that's that.

But if accommodating you would cause "undue hardship" for a school, it could refuse you entry. Undue hardship does NOT include denying your service animal, even if someone else at the school has allergies or fears dogs.

For accommodations for New York cosmetology exams, you must fill out other paperwork that names your disability/disabilities and needs. You’ll also need a doctor’s note. It may be annoying to fill all this out because it could feel private. But, unfortunately, pretty much every state requires this kind of paperwork for an accommodations request.

The board can reject your request for any number of reasons. Make sure you’ve crossed all your t's and dotted all your i's to help avoid this.

How Much Do New York Cosmetology Licenses Cost?

It seems like everywhere you look, you’re spending money, but New York cosmetology exam and license fees are actually lower than in many other states!

  • Initial Application: $40
  • Renewal: $40
  • Written Exam: $15
  • Practical Exam: $15
  • Six-Month Temporary License: $10
  • Temporary License Renewal: $10
  • Late Renewal Penalty: $10
  • Name Change: $0
  • Address Change: $10
  • Duplicate License or Registration Request: $10

You can combine your initial and temporary license applications and only pay $50. This is true for all licenses except massage, salon management, and permanent makeup.

Massage therapy fees include:

  • Exam + Initial License: $115
  • Re-examination: $45
  • Initial License Without Exam: $50
  • Renewal: $50

Salon management fees are:

  • Initial Application: $60
  • Renewal: $60
  • Personal Name Change: $0
  • Address Change: $10
  • Duplicate License or Registration: $10

Tattoo and permanent makeup laws are, as of 2022, kind of a giant question mark. But, fingers crossed, things will clear up soon so we can update.

What Beauty Jobs Can I Do Without a License in New York?

You don’t need a license to work as a makeup artist, theater makeup artist, or electrologist/laser hair removal specialist in New York. But certifications or training may make you more employable.

Do I Need to Speak English to Get a Beauty License in New York?

Being able to speak English before taking your cosmetology tests in New York is best. All tests are in English, but you can ask to use an approved translator. The folks in charge can decide whether you get to use one.

Your translator can’t have special cosmetology knowledge.

A sign-language interpreter should be a reasonable accommodation, though. Getting permission shouldn’t be hard unless the interpreter has cosmetology knowledge.

Do I Need a Medical Test to Work in Cosmetology in New York?

Yep, you need a doctor’s note to practice cosmetology in New York. But don’t panic! All they need to say is that you have no diseases that could spread through casual contact.

New York Cosmetology Career Planning

A large part of deciding what beauty program to enter is what your career will be like: how hard is it to land a job in each field? What is the pay like for different beauty jobs? Read on to learn more about the variety of beauty careers in New York state.

What Are the Most In-Demand Beauty Jobs In New York?

Being “in demand” is about more than how much these jobs may grow. Beauty, cosmetology, and wellness is a very broad field, and those who have specialized skills, particular techniques that they are good at, or who market themselves well could be desirable regardless of the growth projections of the larger job categories.

That said, here are a few careers that look like they’re doing pretty darn well in NY state.

Cosmetics Sales

  • Why choose this job: NY is the most makeup-obsessed state!
  • Career outlook: Not reported
  • Salary potential: $21,315 - $437,230 (NYC)

Cosmetologist Trained in Hair Loss or Wig Making

  • Why choose this job: NY has the highest number of online searches for “hair loss.”
  • Career outlook: No specific data, but cosmetology is expected to grow by 6% for cosmetologists
  • Salary potential: $26,950 - $60,920
  • Learn more about how to become a cosmetologist.


  • Why choose this job: NY is the worst state for dry skin AND oily skin.
  • Career outlook: +73% for 2020-2030
  • Salary potential: $29,820 - $60,770
  • Learn more about how to become an esthetician.

Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance

  • Why choose this job: NYC has the country's highest number of theater seats, and all actors need makeup.
  • Career outlook: +37% for 2020-2030 (nationwide)
  • Salary potential: $98,780 - $163,030 (not including self-employed workers)
  • Learn more about how to become a makeup artist.

Massage Therapists

  • Why choose this job: The field is booming in NY.
  • Career outlook: +75% for 2020-2030
  • Salary potential: $31,930 - $75,940
  • Learn more about how to become a massage therapist.

Salon Manager

  • Why choose this job: NY has the second-highest number of searches for “hair salon.”
  • Career outlook: “Very active” per ZipRecruiter (NYC)
  • Salary potential: $21,313 - $63,392 (NYC)
  • Learn more about how to become a salon manager.

Information from CareerOneStop, TheYesStylist, and ZipRecruiter (2022).

Specializing or advancing within fields often takes additional training or continuing education.

How Do I Open a Salon in New York?

New York calls salons, spas, and other beauty businesses “Appearance Enhancement Businesses.” They’re pretty different from all other cosmetology careers regarding how you get started.

There are tons of nitty-gritty details about how to open your own New York state beauty business. The broad strokes are:

  • Be at least 18.
  • Know and follow all relevant laws.
  • Have the right insurance.
  • Pay at least the required state salaries and fees.

As a salon manager you can also be an "area renter," which means you work in someone else’s salon, but you don’t work for the salon itself.

Is Working in Beauty Stressful in New York?

New York is the 25th most stressed state in the country and eighth in work-related stress.

But the beauty industry can be stressful everywhere. This is why you have to be mindful of where you choose to work in the state. The fast pace of NYC may be fantastic for some, but others may prefer the slower pace of rural areas. The type of work environment can vary greatly, from medical offices to busy salons, and the level of stress can be different in each workplace.

How Can I Do Makeup and Hair for Theater in New York?

Not all theaters in New York are on Broadway, though that’s the ultimate destination for many in the theater arts. Before getting to that level, you must build a broad set of skills and an excellent resume.

You don't need a license to do performing arts makeup. But 18% of theatrical makeup artists have bachelor’s degrees, 11% have associate degrees, and 34% have at least some college. This could be because makeup designers have to be able to read and dissect scripts to create their work.

Be sure to make connections along the way and get more and more training as you go. Like many other fields, theatrical makeup isn’t just about what you know but who you know!

How Can I Become a Social Media Influencer in New York?

Becoming an influencer in New York is the same as becoming one in any other state. The reason New York tends to be home to influencers could be the idea of New York glitz and glam, as well as proximity to many other related industries. Use that to your advantage!

The short version of how to become a beauty influencer is:

  1. Pick what you want to do.
  2. Get your social media presence and personal brand perfected.
  3. Post content your audience should like.
  4. Try to make contacts with beauty companies for collaborations.

Checking out other awesome beauty influencers can help you get inspiration.

How Much Can I Make as a Beauty Professional In New York?

While most beauty careers pay more in New York than in the rest of the country, New York is, no surprise, an expensive place to live.

In a cost of living ranking, if the US average is 100, New York comes in at 120.5.

That’s about 1.21 times more expensive than average, but most beauty salaries don’t match that difference. So do some job hunting and keep an open mind about places to live to get the most bang for your cosmetology buck!

Career Average Salary in New York Average Salary in the U.S.
Barbers $35,920 $35,700
Cosmetics Counter Managers* $44,416 $36,775
Cosmetic Sales Consultants* $73,572 $60,916
Estheticians $43,960 $41,700
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists (Includes Natural Hair and Braiding) $40,330 $35,990
Makeup Artists* $53,847 $44,584
Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance** $127,660 $124,380
Massage Therapists $52,660 $49,260
Nail Technicians $29,060 $30,480
Permanent Makeup Artists* $60,421 $55,093
Salon Managers* $38,773 $39,182
Shampooers $34,410 $25,160
Personal Care and Service Workers, All Other $40,900 $30,790

Information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, PMU Hub, and ZipRecruiter (2022).

*Median salary data for New York City.
**Doesn’t include self-employed artist pay, which is often less. Pay can range from under $40,000 to over $170,000.

How Do New York Cosmetology Salaries Compare to Cost of Living?

New York is expensive, but some parts of the state are costlier than others. Here are the highest-paying areas of New York as compared to the cost of living (one person, rent included) in those areas.

City Approximate Median Monthly Pay Monthly Cost of Living
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY $2,900 $1,764 (Albany)
$1,932 (Schenectady)
$1,592 (Troy)
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $2,500 $3,531 (NYC)
$1,987 (Newark, NJ)
$2,419 (Jersey City)
Kingston, NY $2,440 $1,836
Utica-Rome, NY $2,440 $1,461
Syracuse, NY $2,430 $1,620

Salary information from O*Net. Cost of living information from (2022).

Jobs upstate tend to have lower pay but a lower cost of living.

Are Beauty Profession Jobs in New York on the Rise?

Career New York Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030 National Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030
Barbers Unpublished 18%
Estheticians 73% 29%
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists (Includes Natural Hair and Braiding) 57% 19%
Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance Unpublished 37%
Massage Therapists 75% 32%
Nail Technicians 71% 33%
Shampooers 75% 30%
Personal Care and Service Workers, All Other 40% 25%

Data from CareerOneStop (2022).

Is it Hard to Get a Beauty Job in New York?

Getting beauty jobs can be difficult if you don’t have a good education, references, and a portfolio. Beyond that, some jobs may be easier to get because of how many positions could be available.

Article Spotlight:
Create Your Best Portfolio

The New York Cosmetology Professional’s Work, Life, and Community

Living and working as a cosmetologist in New York is about more than the daily grind. Though knowing what to expect from a job is important, understanding what you can do as a community member is at least as essential.

How Is Working in Beauty Different in Upstate New York and Downstate NY/NYC?

A New York cosmetology license allows you to work anywhere in the state. If you haven’t decided where to work, here are a few things to consider when choosing between upstate and downstate.

There isn’t an official definition of "upstate" and "downstate" New York. Generally, any place north of New York City or Westchester may be considered upstate. In a 2016 poll, New Yorkers saying upstate begins north of Westchester beat those saying it’s north of NYC. So that’s what we’re going with.

One list of US cities with the best quality of life includes Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester—all of which are in upstate New York. Of course, this doesn’t mean NYC is terrible or anything, but it does speak to the merits of living up north.

Upstate, easier healthcare access could mean more opportunities working for a medical esthetician, for instance. Meanwhile, in fashion-forward NYC, you could be more in demand in hair and makeup artistry.

How Does New York’s Diversity Affect Cosmetologists’ Work?

New York is a pretty diverse state. You should learn about inclusivity and the beauty needs of different populations.

For instance, the state has one of the highest LGBT-identifying populations in the country, at 8.2%. So in every group of 100, about eight people are LGBTQ+ community members. So knowing how to serve the beauty needs of the LGBTQ+ community by offering things like gender-neutral pricing and a welcoming environment can go a long way.

The state is also diverse racially and ethnically. White people make up less than half of the population. Blacks (or African Americans) make up almost 24%, and Hispanic or Latinx people come in at about 29%.

Understanding natural hair and hair braiding could give you a competitive edge. Learning Spanish or Portuguese could be helpful to you and your clients, too.

How Can Cosmetologists Give Back to Their Communities in New York?

New Yorkers rank an impressive first among all states for charitable giving—but giving is about much more than money. This is where New York needs your help! Unfortunately, the state ranks 17th in overall charitability and a dismal 45th in volunteerism. Fortunately, your beauty school training can help improve those numbers.

For example, New York has the highest homeless population by percentage. Helping the homeless by giving makeovers or skin care could be both kind and a great way to give yourself more professional experience.

Plus, people in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be homeless than cishet people. Knowing the appropriate ways to serve both populations can make your skills invaluable.

Resources for the Beauty Industry in New York

Here are some resources to help you learn about the New York cosmetology industry:

International Beauty Show
Large beauty industry show held in New York and Nevada

The Makeup Show NYC
Beauty industry conference held in NYC every year

Meetup Beauty Industry Groups’s resource for beauty professionals to find others to network and collaborate with

The NY Hispanic Cosmetology & Beauty Chamber of Commerce
Bilingual classes, discounts, and more

New York Licensing Board