Online Cosmetology School

As more degrees become available online, you may be wondering if earning your cosmetology licensure can be done this way. There are no 100% online cosmetology programs due to the hands-on nature of the work.

But the good news is that many schools are beginning to offer online coursework on the science and theory behind cosmetology, creating hybrid programming that may best fit your schedule.

What Is It Like to Take Classes Online?

Accredited online cosmetology schools offer the same education and licensing preparation you’d get with an in-person program.

If you enroll online, you’ll likely have to do some practice in person. Many schools choose to cover these portions of the program online:

  • Reading and theory
  • Written assignments
  • Reading on topics specific to your area of focus, including hairstyling, makeup artistry, aesthetics, and beauty management
  • Practice exams to help you prepare for the written portion of your state’s licensing exam(s)
  • Continuing education coursework in areas including color theory, nail health, skin health, cosmetology theory, and salon management

Many online classes are self-directed. You’ll get access to the full syllabus, course materials, and assignments on the first day and work at your own pace.

Some online classes have assignment deadlines and require you to post to discussion threads with your classmates. You still have some flexibility with these, because you may be able to work ahead and take time off if you need it.

If your state requires practical experience, you may have to do these portions of the program in person at a cosmetology school or as an apprentice at a salon:

  • Hands-on practice in skills such as hairstyling, makeup artistry, and skincare
  • Apprenticeship hours as required by your state licensing board
  • On-site practical skills exam to obtain your license

When choosing a program, look into the school’s apprenticeship or internship opportunities to make sure it can connect you with a local business to complete required hands-on training.

How to Know If an Online Cosmetology Program Is Legitimate

To ensure an online program is legitimate:

  • Check whether it’s accredited with the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, the accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for cosmetology schools and departments.
  • Confirm the program’s curriculum meets the licensing requirements in your state— including the number of hours, subjects covered, theory versus practice, and apprenticeship programs.
  • Read reviews and reach out to alumni or enrolled students to learn more about individual experiences with the program.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Program?

An online program should take the same amount of time to complete as an in-person program. Program length depends on your area of focus and state requirements and can vary between two months and two years.

Makeup artistry programs typically take two to three months to complete, while skincare and nail technician programs can last longer—anywhere from three months to a year. A cosmetology program can demand a year or longer, and an associate degree program typically lasts two years.

How much of the program is online versus in-person depends on your state licensing requirements.

For a full cosmetology program, most states require around 1,000 to 2,000 hours of coursework before licensing exams.

A majority of states do not require apprenticeship hours to obtain a license. Those that do require anywhere from 300 to 4,000 hours and requirements vary by the type of license you seek.

Depending on your cosmetology school, you may be able to complete the rest of the program online.

What Are the Benefits of Online Cosmetology Classes?

You might prefer to take online cosmetology classes rather than in-person classes because:

  • It’s possible to save time and money by skipping a commute to campus.
  • You can study for online classes anytime, which is an advantage if you work full time or care for children or family members.
  • You can sometimes work ahead if you want to, and you can take time off when you need it.
  • Online programs might be self-directed, so you can work on your schedule, take as long as you need, and not fret about assignment due dates.
  • Online courses might be cheaper than in-person courses, yet offer the same level of education.
  • Taking classes online might make you location independent, so you can travel or move while you’re enrolled.
  • You could start an online program in a different state if you plan to move to that state for work. (Check each state’s licensing requirements to determine steps to take if you need to transfer your license.)

However, if you have trouble with self-motivation or learn best through face-to-face discussions, online classes might not be right for you.

Which States Allow Online Cosmetology School?

Whether you can become a licensed cosmetologist online depends on the regulations in your state. The states in the map below do not require apprenticeship hours, so you may be able to complete all your required education online in these locations. Some of the states include Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

However, according to the National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicines, most states—excluding Connecticut—include a practical skills exam to obtain your license, which you’ll need to prepare for with hands-on training.

map of states that allow online classes: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming,