Working in the North Carolina Beauty Industry: What to Know

Considering becoming a cosmetologist, barber, esthetician, massage therapist, or another beauty professional in North Carolina? Have some questions before you dedicate the time and money to this journey?

We're here to help!

Read on to learn about the cosmetology field in North Carolina and get the answers to a ton of frequently asked questions.

Attending Beauty School in North Carolina

Here are answers to common questions about beauty school and licensure in North Carolina.

Where Should I Go to Beauty School In North Carolina?

North Carolina has a ton of state-approved cosmetology, barbering, massage, and other similar schools ready to open their doors to you. We've created a list of the best cosmetology schools in North Carolina for you to check out. You can also read through options in different parts of the state below.

Best Cosmetology Schools in North Carolina Metro Areas

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

How Long Is Beauty School in North Carolina?

The length of time it takes to graduate from beauty school depends on the beauty subject and discipline you are studying for. Let's look at North Carolina's licenses, hours spent in school, and a short list of the topics you'll learn about.

North Carolina Beauty School Curriculum

1,500 education hours or 1,200 apprenticeship hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include makeup, hair, nails, bacteriology, anatomy, electricity, chemistry, barbering, hair braiding, hair removal.

Learn more about becoming a cosmetologist

600 hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include makeup, skincare, hair removal, anatomy or physiology, infection control, nutrition, brow and lash treatments.

Learn more about becoming a esthetician

300 hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include basic nailcare, treatments, decorations, infection control .

Learn more about becoming a manicurist

1,528 education hours or 12 apprenticeship months are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include shaving, trimming, cutting, dyeing, hair chemicals, perming, scalp and face massage, sanitation.

Learn more about becoming a barber

Natural Hair Styling & Hair Braiding
300 hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include an exclusive focus on hair braiding or other tension-based treatments.

Learn more about becoming a natural hair stylist

Massage Therapy
500 hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include types of massage, anatomy and physiology, ethics, laws, business management, psychology.

Learn more about becoming a massage therapist

600 hours are required to become licensed in North Carolina.

Subjects taught include trichology, endocrinology, dermatology, neurology, bacteriology, electricity, equipment and treatments, business management.

Learn more about becoming a electrologist

Beauty Instruction
Education and experience requirements vary by field.

  • Cosmetology teacher: 800 hours or 5 years of work experience
  • Esthetician teacher: 650 hours or 3 years of work experience
  • Manicurist teacher: 320 hours or 2 years of work experience

Subjects taught include lesson planning, classroom management, instructional techniques.

Learn more about becoming a beauty instructor

How Can I Pay for Beauty School In North Carolina?

Most people pay for a beauty school in North Carolina by using their own money, taking out loans, or getting scholarships or grants. Instead of making you read paragraph after paragraph for all of those things, you can find some information about the most relevant parts below:

Individual schools offer most cosmetology and trade school scholarships in North Carolina. However, you may find a few options at the state level if you attend specific, approved schools.

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 North Carolina?

The state doesn't have one central licensing location. If you want to find your beauty career's licensing board, look up to find out where to get all the licensing info.

What Specialties Need Licenses in North Carolina?

North Carolina makes cosmetology specialty licensure a bit confusing. Here are some specialties people ask about a lot:

  • Eyelash and Brow Coloring: Esthetician license
  • Eyelash Extensions: Esthetician or cosmetology license
  • Makeup Artist: Esthetician license, but cosmetology licenses might be okay
  • Microblading, Dermaplaning, and Needling: Environmental health or medical training, depending on the situation
  • Hairstylist: Cosmetology license

Most other specialties also fall under cosmetology or esthetics. In fact, North Carolina defines "cosmetologist" as "any individual who is licensed to practice all parts of cosmetic art."

What Can Natural Hair Stylists Do in North Carolina?

Hair styling licensure is one of the most confusing parts of the North Carolina cosmetic arts rules. Even they admit it should be a "Braiding License."

North Carolina natural hair stylists can do services dealing with hair tension. These include locking, twisting, wrapping, placing extensions, or installing weaves. They can also cut off artificial hair.

Natural hair stylists in North Carolina can't cut real hair, use rollers alone, or work with chemical adhesives.

To do more in-depth natural hair work, you need to get a cosmetology license. You could also take voluntary continuing education classes to perfect your skills. The state board offers many free options.

What Beauty Jobs Can I Do Without a License in North Carolina?

Shampooers in North Carolina don't need licenses. Those who work in tanning need certification, but a license isn't required. Permanent makeup artists in North Carolina need permits but don't need specific training.

Pretty much everyone else needs a license.

How Much Do North Carolina Beauty Professional Licenses Cost?

  • Apprentice: $20
  • Cosmetologist: $49
  • Esthetician: $20
  • Instructor: $20
  • Manicurist: $20
  • Massage Therapist: $150
  • Natural Hair Care Specialist: $20
  • Barber (Standard or Apprentice): $50

Do I Need to Speak English to Get a Beauty License in North Carolina?

You need to speak and read English to take hands-on tests from the cosmetic arts board in North Carolina. The written exam may be in other languages, but the state doesn't say which are available.

The barbering written exam is available in Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. You need to request this modification ahead of time.

The electrology board doesn't talk about languages offered for the exam. But, since they plan to merge with the barbering board, there's a chance the languages will be the same.

Massage therapists must prove English proficiency.

No matter what, you need to speak, read, and write English to some level to work in cosmetology in North Carolina. If you aren't fluent, getting help from bilingual teachers or peers may help. You may also be able to take English language classes through your local community college or other programs.

Can I Get Disability Accommodations in Cosmetology School and on My Exams?

In most circumstances, you can get accommodations in cosmetology school and exams.

For the exams, you need to contact the examiners ahead of time so they can decide upon your request.

North Carolina cosmetology schools have to follow customary ADA laws. But, those that don't receive federal funding may have less of an obligation.

What Are the Beauty Professional Licensing Agencies in North Carolina?

Lots of states have one or two licensing agencies or boards overseeing cosmetology and related beauty careers. North Carolina takes individual jobs super seriously, though. It has licensing agencies for a bunch of different professions.

The North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Arts regulates:

  • Cosmetologists
  • Estheticians
  • Manicurists (Nail Techs)
  • Natural Hair Stylists
  • Apprenticeships for these disciplines
  • Teachers and instructors for these disciplines
  • Salon Managers

Massage therapists go through the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy.

The Board of Barber Examiners is the place to look at if you're wanting to become a barber.

Even electrologists have a board: the North Carolina Board of Electrolysis Examiners.

Note: North Carolina ratified a bill to merge the barber and electrolysis boards. This hasn't happened as of August 2022. Look up "NC Board of Barber and Electrolysis Examiners" if things are different when you read this. (We do our best to stay on top of these things, but hey, we're only human!)

What Are the Most In-Demand Beauty Jobs In North Carolina?

All cosmetology jobs in North Carolina should grow over the next several years. To up your chances of employment, look into some of these options.

Bilingual Cosmetologist

  • Why choose this job: North Carolina is one of four states where French is the most spoken language after English and Spanish! They also have a high Chinese-speaking population.
  • Career outlook: Many people like talking in their native languages, so your services could be in demand.
  • Salary potential: People who speak more than one language make 5% to 20% more on average than people who only speak one language!
  • Learn more about how to become a cosmetologist.


Hair Braider

  • Why choose this job: The CROWN Act is about to go into effect in some municipalities in North Carolina. This means hair discrimination isn't allowed in the workplace anymore!
  • Career outlook: Natural hair experts may be more in demand thanks to the CROWN Act.
  • Salary potential: They fall under "cosmetology," and the average pay is $34,880 in 2022.
  • Learn more about how to become a hair braider.

Oncology Esthetician, Nurse Esthetician, or Medical Esthetician

Where Can I Do Makeup and Hair in North Carolina?

Most North Carolina cosmetologists are self-employed or work in places like salons and spas. Almost as many pros work in stores, hotels, and care facilities like nursing homes.

The only North Carolina beauty pros more likely to work for others are estheticians and nail technicians.

North Carolina Cosmetology Career Salary and Outlook

You can make a good living as a beauty pro in North Carolina because the state's cost of living is lower than average. And that’s with mean (average) salaries that are either on par with or more than the norm for the country!

Career Average Salary in NC Average Salary in the U.S.
Barbers $49,870 $35,700
Cosmetics Counter Manager* $39,275 $36,736
Cosmetic Sales Consultant* $65,009 $60,806
Esthetician $42,770 $41,700
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists (Includes Natural Hair and Braiding) $34,880 $35,990
Makeup Artist* $47,090 $44,045
Massage Therapists $46,810 $49,260
Nail Technician $30,900 $30,480
Permanent Makeup* $53,593 $55,488
Salon Manager* $37,521 $39,562
Personal Care and Service Workers, All Other $34,260 $30,790

Information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and ZipRecruiter (2022).
*Median salary data for Raleigh.

Where Can Cosmetologists Make the Most Money in North Carolina?

Here are the top five highest-paying cities (by median salary) for cosmetologists. Remember, the more money you make above the cost of living, the farther your dollar can go.

The costs of living are for one person and include rent.

City Approximate Median Monthly Pay Monthly Cost of Living
Durham-Chapel Hill $3,200 $2,090 (Durham) / $2,248 (Chapel Hill)
Raleigh $2,500 $1,896
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC $2,500 $1,968 (Charlotte) / $1,842 (Concord) / $1,828 (Gastonia)
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC $2,500 $1,944 (Virginia Beach) / $2,034 (Norfolk) / $2,029 (Newport News)
Greensboro-High Point $2,400 $1671 (Greensboro) / $1,596 (High Point)

Salary information from O*Net. Living cost information from (2022)

What Is the Job Outlook for Beauty Jobs in North Carolina?

The cosmetology field in North Carolina is growing slower than the national average for cosmetology. But don't fear! Make sure you have a great portfolio, technical demo, and unique skills, and you could be good to go. And the anticipated growth in jobs is total new jobs expected to be created, which does not include job openings from other people retiring or leaving the workforce, for instance.

Plus, all fields are growing!

Career North Carolina Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030 National Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030
Barbers 9% 18%
Esthetician 26% 29%
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists (Includes Natural Hair and Braiding) 14% 19%
Massage Therapists 28% 32%
Nail Technician 25% 33%
Shampooers Unpublished 30%

Growth information from CareerOneStop (2022)

North Carolina Cosmetology Work, Life, and Community

You should work to live, not live to work. But you can improve your work life by having many clients and making the world better.

North Carolina has many different demographics that you can work with.

Older Adults in North Carolina

North Carolina has one of the highest aged 65+ populations in the country. Knowing the needs and styles of older generations could get you more clients. This is why residential facilities have so many cosmetologists working for them.

Tourism in North Carolina

Want to hang out with people from all over the country, if not the world? North Carolina's tourism industry is on the rise! This could be anything from visiting a busy town like Asheville to relaxing on a beach or island on the Outer Banks.

If this sounds like your deal, ensure you're ready to work with anybody from anywhere.

LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in North Carolina

North Carolina is in the middle of the pack for the percentage of the population identifying as LGBT.

In raw numbers, the state has the 7th highest transgender population. (The overall number of transgender people is still low.)

Not everyone understands how scary entering a salon may be for the LGBTQ+ population. So, learning to ensure they look great and feel comfortable is essential!

Plus, becoming known as an inclusive beauty pro could help open your business up to new clients.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity in North Carolina

North Carolina is the 20th most racially diverse state. Most people identify as white, but over 22% are Black/African American, and about 10% are Hispanic or Latino. Plus, 8% of people who live in the state were born in other countries.

Understanding different languages and cultural norms could give your beauty career a boost. This is extra true if you live in Charlotte, where many of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state are.

Homelessness in North Carolina: How Cosmetologists Can Help

The great news is that North Carolina is in the top five states for decreasing homelessness. The bad news is that the state's number of students experiencing homelessness is increasing.

COVID-19 seems to be a contributor to homelessness, as many people have lost jobs and homes. LGBTQ+ youth are also more likely to be homeless than their cishet peers.

Beauticians can help people experiencing homelessness in many ways, like preparing interview looks or keeping up with grooming when bathroom and other facilities or equipment are difficult to access.

Is Working in Beauty Stressful in North Carolina?

Work stress is relative, but North Carolina is the 12th most stressed state. But most pressure comes from family stuff. It falls to 23rd for work-related stress.

To help keep your stress level low, make sure you find a job you like and practice self-care.

Resources for the Beauty Industry in North Carolina

If we missed something, you may find other details about North Carolina's beauty industry below.

DL Roope North Carolina Exam Information
Details about cosmetic exams from the testing organization

North Carolina Barbers Association
Trade association supporting barbers and the industry in North Carolina

Electrolysis Association of North Carolina
Membership organization giving support and continuing education

Free Continuing Education
The Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners has free continuing education

North Carolina Licensing Board