|Number of Jobs:||98,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#14|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#56|
From bobs to buzz cuts, dreadlocks to ducktails, pixies to perms, hairdressers are maestros of styling. And although we usually associate them with the technical aspects of their job, "There’s so much more to what we do than cutting hair," says Scott J. Buchanan, president of Scott J. Salons in New York City and the vice chairman of the Professional Beauty Association. "We also get to change people's lives and make them feel good about themselves." Hairdressers, also known as cosmetologists, are trained and licensed to give manicures, pedicures, and to apply makeup. They consult with and advise clients on proper hair care and skin practices, and learn to tiptoe around the Achilles heel we all share—our vanity. The best stylists adeptly juggle the aforementioned tasks, and in the process, earn both our tips and our trust. And just like many of the professions on this year's list of Best Jobs, hairdressing is more than a career. It's a calling.
By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in this "calling" will grow by 15.7 percent, with nearly 98,400 new cosmetologist positions available.
The Labor Department reports that hairdressers, stylists, and cosmetologists made less money in 2011 than in 2010. Two years ago, the average salary for a hairdresser was $22,760; including tips. But in 2011, most in the profession earned around $22,750. The best-paid earned approximately $41,490, while the worst-paid made less than $17,000. If you’re looking to make styling a lucrative profession, consider working in Cape Girardeau, Mo., or Charleston, S.C., where hairdressers earned more than $40,000 per year. Also keep in mind that cosmetologists working in the entertainment industry earn top salaries.
Most states require hairdressers to have at least a high school diploma or GED to obtain a cosmetology license. You must also complete courses with a state-approved barber or cosmetology school—where programs usually last a minimum of nine months—before you can take a licensing examination. Shampooers are the exception, as they do not need a license to work. However, you should keep in mind that job prospects aren't as good for shampooers, as some salons cut costs by having stylists perform shampooing services themselves.
Some states have reciprocity agreements where licensed stylists who move will not have to complete additional training to practice in new states. And many cosmetologists take advanced courses to stay up to date on the latest trends.
Buchanan suggests that cosmetologists-to-be align themselves with a good beauty school. "That's going to give you some great foundation," he says. "And I call it 'graduate school' to work in a salon for at least a year after you graduate [from beauty school], because that's when you get to hone your craft." It's also a time when you can learn the most about relating to people, which is important. "You have to have an outgoing personality and be ready to serve the customer," Buchanan says. "The biggest headache is when you find people who are technically great but don't deliver great service."