Cosmetology Degree Guide: 2022 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities

Cosmetology Degree Guide: 2022 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

STEM, Humanities, and Fine Arts are perhaps the most common academic paths but they surely are not the only options. For individuals who are interested in making a career out of caring for other people’s skin, hair, and nails, a degree in AAS cosmetology will be of great help. Having credentials in this field will help you assure your clients that you have the necessary expertise to safely apply therapeutic and cosmetic treatments on them.

Like many popular online degrees today, these programs typically combine coursework and practical skills development. The course of study ensures that aspiring cosmetologists have the skills needed to pursue successful careers in the beauty industry.

This guide aims to provide extensive information on getting an AAS degree in cosmetology, including details on costs, program requirements, and job outlook.

Cosmetology Degree Guide Table of Contents

  1. What is a Cosmetology degree?
  2. Cost of Cosmetology Degree
  3. Cosmetology Degree Jobs
  4. Types of Degrees in Cosmetology
  5. Cosmetology Degree Requirements
  6. What to Look for in a Cosmetology Degree
  7. Majors Related to Cosmetology Degree

What is a Cosmetology degree?

An associate degree in applied science (AAS) in cosmetology is a program focused on teaching students the proper care of hair, skin, and nails. In most cases, a degree from an accredited school is required for individuals who want to earn a cosmetology license.

In studying cosmetology, individuals learn to apply a wide variety of basic and advanced cosmetic procedures, including hair care and coloring, aesthetics, nail care, and massage therapy. Due to the nature of cosmetology, the course of study also includes hours of hands-on practice. Hands-on experience ensures that students have the necessary expertise to properly apply beauty procedures.

In addition to cosmetic procedures, students of AAS cosmetology programs may also take business lessons. These lessons cover topics, such as entrepreneurship, personnel management, and retail sales (, 2021). With these business skills, students are ready to become salon managers once they gain their cosmetology license.

The program typically takes less than a year to complete, though more comprehensive beauty programs may require students to study and train for as long as two years (Beauty School Programs, 2018).


What can you do with a degree in cosmetology?

AAS cosmetology programs prepare students for a wide variety of jobs in the beauty industry. With the AAS cosmetology skills they learn, students have numerous options in terms of job prospects, including those of hairstylists, barbers, or nail technicians.

Licensed cosmetologists can also focus on skincare (esthetician), cosmetics or makeup (makeup artists), and electrology (hair removal procedures (MTI College, 2020). As with other fields, AAS cosmetology graduates can also pursue a career in teaching technical education.

Cost of Cosmetology Degree

An AAS degree in cosmetology tends to be more affordable than other types of degrees, such as bachelor’s or master’s degrees. However, costs typically vary depending on a number of factors, including location, specializations, and the school itself.

How much does it cost to get an AAS cosmetology?

According to the Imagine America Foundation, attending an accredited cosmetology school can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 (Imagine America, 2018). This is significantly lower than the average costs of tuition and fees at public and private universities ($36,000 and $22,000, respectively).

AAS cosmetology tuition costs also tend to vary depending on the school’s reputation and location. In 2019, for instance, the Aveda Institute of New York charged $20,295 for an AAS certificate in cosmetology (Maxwell, 2019). In contrast, pursuing the cosmetology program at Pasadena City College, California, would set back students approximately $4,000 (Pasadena City College, n.d.)

Textbooks and supplies such as hair styling products and mannequins also increase the costs of studying cosmetology. Furthermore, cosmetology specializations, such as hairstylist training and nail technician training can also bump up AAS cosmetology costs (CPT Guru, 2019).

Source: US Census Bureau

Is a cosmetology degree worth it?

An AAS degree in cosmetology is a worthwhile pursuit for individuals interested in working in the beauty industry as professionals. The theoretical coursework and practical hands-on training provided by these programs ensure that students have all the skills needed to succeed in the beauty industry.

The business and management lessons tackled during cosmetology programs also prepare students for entrepreneurship. With an AAS cosmetology degree, students are ready to manage their own salons.

However, people interested in pursuing these jobs should be aware of the potential negative effects of such careers. Factors such as job stress and the emotional labor involved in working in the beauty industry have been extensively studied by researchers in recent years. Emotional labor involves managing or controlling emotional expressions around others to effectively fulfill a professional work role (The Pennsylvania State University, n.d.).

For instance, Sang-sook and Cheol-ho discussed these factors in their 2018 article, “The effect of emotional labor of beauticians on job stress, job satisfaction, and turnover intention,” published in the Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology. According to their findings, “Job stress and turnover intention increased as the surface behaviors of emotional labor increased…. The increase in job stress of cosmetologists lowered job satisfaction and increased turnover intention, and when job satisfaction was high, turnover intention decreased.” (Seo, S., & Park, C. ,2018)

Cosmetology Degree Jobs

Going by the AAS cosmetology definition, individuals with these credentials are qualified to work as beauty professionals. However, with cosmetology being a broad field of study, many cosmetology students opt to specialize in fields such as nail care, hair styling, and massage therapy.

Is cosmetology in high demand?

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is expected to decrease by 1% from 2019 to 2029. Despite this negative job outlook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job opportunities to be “good” on the whole.

Job prospects are significantly better if you choose to specialize as you pursue your AAS degree in cosmetology. For manicurists and pedicurists, for instance, employment is expected to grow 19% from 2019 to 2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021a). Similarly, the BLS expects a job growth of 17% for skincare specialists from 2019 to 2029.

What jobs can you get with an AAS cosmetology?

  1. Cosmetologists – They apply a variety of cosmetic treatments to clients’ faces and hair. In many cases, cosmetologists also help clients discover the best cosmetic products based on clients’ skin type and tone.
  1. Hairstylists and barbers – These professionals examine clients’ hair and use procedures such as cutting, dyeing, and styling to achieve the look clients want. They may also offer additional services such as facials, shaving, and hair treatments.
  1. Skincare specialists – They evaluate clients’ skin to determine appropriate treatments to improve the skin’s health and appearance. They also advise clients on proper skin care procedures.
  1. Manicurists, pedicurists, and nail technicians – Manicurists and pedicurists ensure that clients’ nails are clean and aesthetically pleasing. This typically involves cleaning and filing the nails and removing rough skin.
  1. Cosmetology instructors – Individuals with an AAS degree in cosmetology can work as instructors in the field. They create lesson plans and demonstrate proper cosmetic procedures to ensure that students have the right knowledge and skills to be cosmetologists.

Aside from these common AAS cosmetology jobs, researchers posit that cosmetologists may play a bigger role in proper health education and the promotion of proper health habits. Michalak discusses this in her 2021 article “The role of a cosmetologist in the area of health promotion and health education: A systematic review,” published in Health Promotion Perspectives.

According to Michalak, who works in the Institute of Medical Sciences in Jan Kochanowski University (Poland), “It was found that cosmetologists have the potential to promote pro-health activities. The results of this review also suggest that beauty salons are suitable places for increasing pro-health awareness and can be successfully used to conduct educational programs about healthy lifestyle, as well as skin, breast and cervical cancer prevention.”

What kind of salary can I earn with an AAS cosmetology?

The salary you can earn with an AAS cosmetology depends on the specific jobs you get once you gain your license. According to the BLS, median hourly wages for cosmetologists in May 2020 were at $13.28 per hour (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021b).

With an AAS cosmetology, you can earn a median annual salary of $24,830 while working as a cosmetologist (Maxwell, 2019). Maxwell also suggests that the average annual cosmetologist salary varies from state to state. A cosmetologist in Washington, D.C., for instance, may earn an estimate of $45,600 annually.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Types of Degrees in Cosmetology

Unlike other fields of study, most schools today offer AAS cosmetology programs instead of bachelor’s or master’s degrees. These programs are commonly offered by beauty schools and vocational schools.

AAS Degree in Cosmetology

Average time to complete: 2 to 2.5 years (coursework plus, required hours for licensure)

Considered the terminal degree in its field, an AAS degree in cosmetology qualifies individuals to professionally care for clients’ scalp, hair, and nails. The program usually lasts around two years and combines theoretical coursework with hands-on training and laboratory sessions.

In the pursuit of this program, students learn a wide variety of cosmetic techniques, including hair cutting and styling, facials, and nail care. Aside from basic and advanced beauty and personal hygiene procedures, coursework also covers proper sanitation procedures to fully prepare students for working in salons and spas.

Aside from cosmetology techniques, an AAS cosmetology program also covers business principles, including small business finance and interpersonal communication (, 2021). Classes on these topics prepare students for managerial positions and entrepreneurship.

In addition to coursework, most programs in cosmetology also include a set amount of training hours. The required program training hours range from 1,000 to 2,100 hours, depending on state regulations.

Cosmetology Degree Requirements

The application process to cosmetology programs may vary depending on the school and state. For instance, requirements may differ if you are enrolling in trade school vs college. However, beauty schools tend to have minimum requirements for applicants.

Admission Requirements

Proof of Graduation

Beauty or cosmetology schools in the majority of states require applicants to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. GED transcripts or other high school completion certificates are also typically acceptable. An associate’s degree in cosmetology may require students to have at least a cosmetology certificate.

Transcripts or SAT/ACT score

There is often no GPA requirement for high school students who want to apply for an AAS degree in cosmetology. The same is true for SAT or ACT scores, as most beauty schools do not have this requirement for applicants.

A high GPA or SAT/ACT score, however, may be beneficial for applying to more comprehensive cosmetology certificate programs. Some schools, for instance, require students to show proof of competence in writing and reading (Evergreen Beauty College, n.d.).

Other Requirements

One of the most common AAS cosmetology prerequisites is age. In some states, applicants must be at least 16 years of age to qualify for these programs. Meanwhile, other states require program applicants to be at least 18 years of age.

Skill Requirements

Due to the nature of an AAS cosmetology program, students would do well to have a solid foundation in basic problem-solving. Basic knowledge in finance and management will also make it easier for cosmetology students to grasp business concepts during their course of study.

What to Look for in a Cosmetology Degree

One good thing about pursuing an AAS degree in cosmetology is that you have plenty of schools to choose from. The information below can help you pick the best beauty school or institution for cosmetology programs.

Available Specializations

If you’re interested in more specific studies, you can choose from a wide variety of cosmetology specializations. These specialty programs can help you achieve different AAS cosmetology types. These include:

  • Esthetics
  • Hair design
  • Makeup artistry
  • Laser treatments
  • Massage therapy
  • Salon management
  • Events styling
  • Wig care


Accreditation is particularly important to schools offering cosmetology programs. Students must enroll in a board-approved cosmetology program in order to obtain a cosmetology license (, n.d.). Beauty schools can have either a national or regional accreditation.

The largest accrediting agency for cosmetology institutions and schools is the National Accrediting Commission for Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS). Currently, over a thousand cosmetology and beauty schools are accredited by NACCAS.

Student-Teacher Ratio

In addition to available specializations and accreditation, it’s also best to consider the student-to-teacher ratio offered by a cosmetology school. By choosing a school with a student-to-teacher ratio that matches your learning style, you get a better chance of succeeding at an AAS cosmetology program.

Financial Aid Options

Individuals planning to pursue an AAS cosmetology program can benefit from a wide variety of financial aid options. For instance, the U.S. federal government offers financial aid to all college-bound students through the Pell Grant. As of July 2021, students awarded with the grant can get as much as $6,495 each.

Many cosmetology schools and professional organizations also offer various in-house grants and scholarship programs to cosmetology students in need. For instance, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools has partnered with various sponsors to provide financial aid to qualified individuals. One of these scholarship programs is the Great Clips Great Scholarship Program, which provides tuition assistance to cosmetology students (American Association of Cosmetology Schools, n.d.). In case you are not sure where to start in applying for financial aid, be sure to check out this guide on how to write a cover letter for scholarship.

Source: College Board

Majors Related to Cosmetology Degree

Is an AAS degree in cosmetology the right choice for you?

If you’re planning to make the most of your love for beauty treatments and procedures, then an AAS degree in cosmetology may be the ideal program for you. Aside from teaching skills in proper care for the skin, hair, and nails, a cosmetology program also provides coursework on entrepreneurship, sales, and management.

An AAS in cosmetology also opens up various career paths. While you can remain a general cosmetologist, you can also specialize in areas, such as skincare, massage therapy, and hairstyling.

With an AAS cosmetology, you also won’t have to worry if you don’t have the deep pockets required for a college education. These programs tend to be more affordable than typical college degrees, and you can apply for various student scholarships and grants as well.



  1. American Association of Cosmetology Schools. (2021, June 22). Grants & scholarships. American Association of Cosmetology Schools
  2. Beauty School Programs. (2018, December 11). Cosmetology school outlook in 2019: What you need to know. Beauty School Programs
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, April 9a). Manicurists and pedicurists : Occupational outlook handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, April 9b). Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists : Occupational outlook handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. (2016, August 30). Cosmetology license requirements | Cosmetologist, hairdresser and hair stylist licensing.
  6. CPT Guru. (2019, November 23). How much does cosmetology school cost? CPT Guru
  7. Evergreen Beauty College. (2012, December 28). What are the requirements to get into a cosmetology school. Evergreen Beauty College
  8. Maxwell, M. (2019, May 14). The average cost of cosmetology school. The Classroom
  9. Michalak, M. (2020). The role of a cosmetologist in the area of health promotion and health education: A systematic review. Health promotion perspectives, 10(4), 338. Tuoms Press
  10. Pasadena City College. (2021). Cosmetology. Pasadena City College
  11. Seo, S., & Park, C. (2018). Effects of emotional labor for aestheticians on job stress, satisfaction, and turnover. Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology, 16(3), 333-345. Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology
  12. (2021). Cosmetology Certification: Certificate Program Outline.

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