How do I get a Cosmetology License?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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A cosmetology license is authorization from a professional board that enables individuals to work in salons within their licensing state. To obtain a cosmetology license, specific requirements, as set forth by your state, must be met and you must pass an exam issued by your state’s board of cosmetology. In general, attendance at a school of cosmetology is required before an exam will be administered.

Depending on your state of residence, you will be required to obtain a certain number of hours of instruction at a cosmetology school before you can take an exam for issuance of a cosmetology license. In most states, salons are governed by a state board. The state board also issues and enforces the laws pertaining to operation of a salon, as well as issues proctored exams and licensing. Each state’s rules for licensing may vary, but will require some sort of formal training and instruction, as well as continuing education.


Any accredited cosmetology school will be equipped to prepare students for the state board exam. Some vocational schools offer the training to high school students, but many are independently operated and provide vocational training ater high school. Instruction and training is usually achieved through a combination of theoretical instruction and practical instruction. Much of the training takes place in classrooms with textbooks and in practical “labs” of sorts, where the student practices various cutting, coloring, and chemical techniques on mannequins or other students. After a sufficient number of hours and credits are earned, the student will advance to practical application of their knowledge on other people who seek salon services at the school at discounted rates.

Once the minimum number of hours of training have been met, students are eligible to take the state board exam. The exam consists of both written and practical tests, which are observed and graded by members of the board. There are fees associated with licensing and the exam. Successful completion of both parts of the exam will result in a cosmetology license issued by the state.

Once a cosmetology license has been obtained, continuing education credit hours will have to be obtained between the time the license is issued and its expiration in order to qualify for renewal. Some states issue licenses for two years, but others may issue different licensing terms. Some states require further testing to obtain a managing or instructors cosmetology license, which enables an individual to also teach at a cosmetology school.

For information on cosmetology licensing and schools, you can visit your state’s board of cosmetology website or contact the board by phone.


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