What is a Cosmetologist

A cosmetologist (Hairdresser, Makeup Artist, Hair and Makeup Designer, Beautician, Hair Stylist and Hair Colorist) is someone that provides beautification services. They help to improve a client’s appearance through hairstyling, skin care, and cosmetic application, as well as providing manicures/pedicures and electrology (using electrical epilation to remove hair). Their work is similar to estheticians, however their field has fewer requirements and a greater diversity of potential skills, including providing coloration and extensions to hair. For more information about job duties of a cosmetologist, please visit our cosmetologist job description page.

Work Environment

Cosmetologist work environment is usually in a salon or spa. These will provide clean, comfortable environments, with relaxing atmospheres.

As they tend to spend a lot of time on their feet during the day, physical strength and stamina is important. As well, many of their clients are often quite appreciative of the work done; while there are occasional grouches, most are there for a pleasant experience, and receive that.

Work Schedule

The work schedule for cosmetologists is highly variable. Many work full time hours, and many others work part time. In 2012, nearly half of all cosmetologists were self-employed, working from home or in their own salon. With the great range and diversity of potential schedules, it is a field where anyone can find the amount of work they want. 

Mean Annual Cosmetologist Salary

The average annual cosmetologist salary is $27,530. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $17,010 and the top 10% makes well over $44,220.

Cosmetologist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$27,530 per year
$13.24 per hour
Top 10% Salary$44,220 per year
$21.26 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$17,010 per year
$8.18 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013351,960

Cosmetologist Job Outlook and Prospects

Employment of cosmetologists is expected to grow between 2012 and 2022, and that growth will be about on par with all other occupations at around 13%. Most new job openings, however, will be due to people leaving the profession, either by retiring, or by pursuing another career.

What Affects Cosmetologist Salary

Cosmetologist salary is highly influenced by the geographic area worked, not simply because wages differ across the country, but also because the demand in particular geographic regions for particular types of cosmetologists differs. In other words, industry is a large factor in cosmetologist salary, as is education and experience. Furthermore, position and specialization are matters for consideration. Indeed, every factor has some degree of influence on cosmetologist salary.

That being said, the mean annual wage for cosmetologists is $27,530. The lowest 10% in the field earn around $17,010, and the highest 10% have an average around $44,220.

Education and Specialization 

Cosmetology is a well-regulated field, with all states requiring that cosmetologists be licensed. As such, candidates must graduate from a state-approved cosmetology program. These programs can be found in state colleges, vocational schools, and other trade-based educational institutions.

Those who seek more in-depth educations, covering a broader range of skills, will see cosmetologist salary gains. A longer education with more areas of study will make a cosmetologist able to offer more treatments. Further to that, with extended education, a cosmetologist can upgrade their position to that of esthetician, and find work in medical offices as well.

Similarly, potential specializations are an area for consideration; the ability to offer treatments such as mechanical massages or electrology will make one more desired in a spa, or make their private salon more desirable to frequent.

Experience and Position 

Experience is always a matter for salary improvement. Cosmetologists with more experience will be more desirable both for their skill and plurality in the treatments offered, as well as in their abilities to work with clients. Being able to put someone at ease, elicit greater descriptions of what is desired, and generally work with people is vital to cosmetologist work.

Position, though less important a factor than others, still bears consideration. One can move up the hierarchy in a salon or spa to a managerial position. However, for those nearly half of all cosmetologists running their own business, they are already as high in the field as they can go.


The industry worked can play a large part in cosmetologist salary, though this is dependent on the geographic location. Many industries hover around the average. Health and personal care stores, however, can see salaries of $33,780. Mortuaries and other funerary services will see even greater salaries, at $38,200. However, those industries more geographically differentiated are performing arts companies and motion picture and video industries, offering salaries of $56,950 and $65,160, respectively; these will be in more urban areas, especially regions such as Hollywood or New York. 


The geographic location has a large effect on cosmetologist salary, as well. With potential differences of $19,010 to $47,520, it isn’t as lucrative as the industry worked, but it can coincide with that.

The District of Columbia has the highest average salaries, at $47,520. Hawaii follows, at $35,690, and Washington state has the third highest average wage, at $34,360.

Cosmetologist Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Easton, MA: $37,980District of Columbia: $47,520Motion Picture and Video Industries: $65,160New York: (25,010 jobs) $27,600
Seattle, WA: $37,850Hawaii: $35,690Performing Arts Companies: $56,950Texas: (24,030 jobs) $26,910
Fairbanks, AK: $37,820Washington: $34,360Professional, Scientific and Technical Services: $41,950Pennsylvania: (23,360 jobs) $25,680
San Francisco, CA: $37,460Connecticut: $29,930Death Care Services: $38,200Florida: (22,620 jobs) $25,750
Honolulu, HI: $$37,120Vermont: $29,590Health and Personal Care Stores: $33,780California: (22,610 jobs) $27,360

Cosmetologist Salary State by State 2013