In most cases, in order to become a licensed cosmetologist, one must complete training in all areas of practice. This may take one of two forms. Some people choose to attend
formal schooling and take classes that teach theory and allow for practical application in school salons to earn the required experience and master the knowledge necessary. Others may choose to follow an
apprenticeship, wherein they work with a licensed cosmetologist (who has gotten a special license to allow him/her to train an apprentice) and learn the craft “on the job”.
Some apprenticeships are paid positions allowing the individual to earn some income while training and others are simply an internship where the reward for the work put in is
the experience and education being received. Generally, the benefit of “school” versus “apprenticing” is that the number of hours you are required to log before becoming eligible to take the examination for a
license is less for those who take the formal classes. In most areas, an apprenticeship has a specific time period requirement as well as an “hours” requirement.
For example, a student taking a full-time cosmetology study program in Georgia can complete his education in one year, and earn the required 1500 hours for a “school” student
inside of that time. By comparison, an apprentice in Georgia must spend a minimum of 18 months as an apprentice and must earn 3000 hours as an apprentice to qualify for the license exam. “Hours” in this case are
awarded for performing specific services. Things like roller sets, permanent wave wraps and crafting hair styles are given values in hours. The hours must be divided among a range of services, so that the
student/apprentice is practiced in all different techniques.
Once the education/apprenticeship and hours are completed, the candidate must take a two part examination that takes place over several hours in the course of a day. The
examination includes a written portion, wherein the theoretical knowledge of the various techniques and processes is assessed. It also has a multi-part practical portion where the candidate must demonstrate
at least a basic mastery of the techniques needed to style the hair and perform various services safely and professionally. Sanitation is a major factor in the testing and can count against a candidate heavily.
NOTE: It is my personal and professional opinion that while there are apprenticeships that provide top-notch training to a prospective cosmetology candidate, these are few and
far between and a candidate is generally far better prepared by taking a certified course at an accredited school. Many of the salons who take on apprentices tend to use them as an inexpensive work force and leave
the bulk of their training and education to the candidate themselves. In addition, most salons have developed their own “short cuts” that while being perfectly legitimate in their own right, are in direct
contradiction to the basic techniques that the state boards want to see demonstrated to verify a candidate’s technical ability. As a result of these considerations, the failure rate in the examination process
is higher among apprentice-trained candidates than among those who took accredited courses in schools.
Opportunities In Cosmetology
While the field of cosmetology is primarily about enhancing the natural beauty through hair and make-up services, the practical application of these skills can lead to a wide
range of career paths. You might go to work in an established salon, or open a salon of your own. You might opt to rent space in the salon, get a freelance hair job, or become an employee of a chain salon and work for wages. There are pros
and cons to each of these endeavors.