“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”
The poet John Keats was undoubtedly drunk when he wrote this famous line at the end of “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Either that, or he had no clue what Fanny Brawne was doing upstairs while he was waiting for her to come down. This has got to be one of the biggest lies ever told, right up there with the classics — “I’ll call you in the morning,” “I am not a crook” and everything ever said by a football coach to a potential recruit. Beauty is not truth, not in our society. As long as men have been chasing women, women have been going to extraordinary lengths to make themselves look better.
The Market of Cosmetology
Cliches about beauty are as common as the creams and powders meant to enhance it. Sure, beauty is just skin deep, but what people forget is that our skin is what’s up front. If we could wear our beautiful personalities on our heads, we would. You can change your hairstyle or your hair color, but it is in fact still our hair the world is seeing. You can paint your nails a bright color, a subtle “natural” tone, or just apply a clear top coat, but those nails are still a part of your body. You might choose an eye shadow that dramatically jumps off your face and into the world’s lap, or a smoky color meant to draw the eyes of the world in. There are a million conscious beauty decisions to be made — in order to make these decisions we often need someone to help us, to guide us on the path of beautiful deception. A beauty professional. That’s how the market for cosmetology was created.
This is where you come in. Offline and online cosmetology schools can make you the bearer of beauty and open up your path to a lucrative career, but you can’t just hang an “Open” sign on your front door and start handing out hairstyles. The state in which you live regulates cosmetologists and beauty work for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious — you can’t have any Tom, Dick or Harriet working people over. While an incompetent cosmetologist will quickly lose business due to word of mouth. Sometimes a single botched job can be disastrous to a cosmetologist’s bottom line. Remember, a hair style is not a carton of milk — if you purchase spoiled milk you can simply pour it down the drain. A bad hairstyle or dye job is somewhat permanent. More importantly, there are hygiene issues associated with cosmetology and beautification work. Your barber or hair stylist didnt’ just dip his or her comb and other tools in the blue liquid because he loves it — there are honest to God diseases that can be transmitted from person to person if proper procedures aren’t followed. Outside of the transmission of disease, there are some nasty chemicals at work in your average cosmetologist’s workspace — beauty takes work, and sometimes that work requires the use of caustic substances.
Online Cosmetology Schools
Want to become a cosmetologist? You know that these days, an on-site education is not a requirement. Millions of people are turning to online cosmetolgy schools for a first degree or to expand their education. You don’t have to worry about becoming a “beauty school dropout” — online cosmetology classes are available from a wide range of sources, and the time it takes to become certified varies according to state licensing and the program you attend. For the most part, though, you can expect to finish your cosmetology training online in a matter of months
The first question you must answer is whether to go in person to a cosmetology school or seek your beauty school training online. Unlike some other degree plans, you have to seriously consider whether or not you want a more hands-on approach, like the kind available at on site beauty schools. Learning how to properly color hair, for instance, is difficult to put in practice if you simply learn the theory and never the practical application. However, if you are concerned about the time it may take to learn from a traditional beauty school, or if you need to keep a day job while you attend classes, the Internet based cosmetology classes available right now are probably the right thing for you.
How to Choose Online Cosmetology Courses
The first thing to do is to find what kinds of courses are available online. If you run a Google search on the term “online cosmetology school”, you’ll find well over one million results. Since you can’t visit each result and weigh the ups and downs (unless you don’t mind starting beauty school when you’re 134 years old) your goal is to narrow the choices down to a handful of web based beauty school options.
So what’s your first decision? Whether to chose an accredited school or a non-accredited one. It turns out that this decision makes itself for you. If you will require financial aid for Internet beauty school, you will have to choose an accredited school. Unfortunately, accredited online beauty schools are just not that common. Here’s a partial list of known cosmetology schools online that are accredited and thus able to offer some form of financial aid:
- Genesis Career College
- Salon Professional Academy
- Fortis College
- Remington College
- Virginia College
- CDI College
- Arizona School of Massage Therapy
- Eveline Charles Academy
- Empire Beauty Schools
- International Academy of Beauty
- Apollo College
- Marinello Schools of Beauty
- Regency Beauty Institute
- The Skin and Makeup Institute of Arizona
- International Academy of Beauty
- Imagine Paul Mitchell Partner School
- PCU College of Holistic Medicine
- Alameda Beauty College
- Federico Career Colleges
- American Beauty Academy
- UEI College
- Western Career College
- Salon Success Academies
- Western Beauty Institute
This is by no means a complete list, but researching some of these twenty-five accredited Internet cosmetology schools will give you a good idea of how much time and how much cash it will take to get certified in cosmetology on the web.
Just how much money will it cost you to earn this certification? As with any other aspect of an online education, that number varies by program. Some courses are quite affordable, like the Stratford Career Institute (admittedly non-accredited) which offers a full online degree plan in beauty for about $750.
Once you have been accepted in their program and are fully enrolled in Stratford’s aesthetics and cosmetology course, that one low tuition fee covers everything a beauty school student may need to graduate and earn the career diploma you need to start a career in beautification. What is included in most tuition plans online:
- All the necessary textbooks, workbooks, study guides, and videos (many of these videos are now online as well)
- A full range of student oriented services, including online exams, support, and even career counselling
- A personalized career school diploma upon your graduation to proudly display your certification
- Unlimited access to the school’s instructors either via e-mail or a toll-free phone number
- Free shipping and handling for your instruction materials, diploma, etc.
After you visit a few dozen online cosmetology schools and you think you’ve found the right beauty program for you, it is time to make sure this program will certify you the way your state requires you to be certified. This is crucial because of the nature of web based courses in cosmetology — you may be learning cosmetology skills from an online program in California, but you want to work in Florida. While many beauty schools online are equipped to certify you in your home state’s requirements, some art not. That’s why you need to find out what your state’s requirements are to begin with. For example, in my home state of Texas, (the original land of the big hair), the requirements for receiving your certification as a cosmetologist are as follows:
- Cosmetology: 1500 hours
- Aesthetics: 750 hours
- Nail Technology: 600 hours
- Hair Braiding: 35 hours
- Hair Weaving: 300 hours
- Instructor: 750 hours
Those numbers next to the various courses of study? They refer to classroom work as well as practical experience. Texas has rather stringent requirements in this area — 300 hours experience to be certified in hair weaving seems a bit much — but more and more states are going the way of the Lone Star state. Longer requirements in terms of hours means more training and less hassle for the state government. A better trained cosmetologist is less likely to have complaints made against them and more likely to follow the rules of beauty work.
If you’re having difficult pulling the trigger and choosing a cosmetology school on the Internet, you could try this method — make a long list of questions that must be answered before you can make a decision and plunk down your money for web based beauty training. Making an informed decision at the outset of your training is crucial to your potential for success in this field. To be sure, different people are looking for different things in an online beauty college. Maybe you want smaller class sizes (though online instruction may not put a premium on a low student to teacher ratio like a brick and mortar beauty school would) or maybe you need the lowest price possible. Whatever your requirements, put them in writing and make sure the school you trust with you hard earned cash fulfills them.
Questions to Help You Pick an Internet Based Beauty School
- Will I have access to an on site salon to get hands-on practice?
- Will you teach me to practice my beauty skills on mannequin heads or real models?
- What financial aid is available? (such as scholarships, grants, loans and even payment installment plans)
- Does your school offer flexible class schedules as well as part-time or full-time education?
To come up with a few more questions, visit a local salon or spa and talk to one of the employees, other students currently enrolled in cosmetology courses, or even the salon’s owner or manager. Their experience and recommendations are worth their weight in AquaNet. Be sure to ask them which beauty schools seem to produce the most “hirable” new cosmetologists or beauticians. If you have the luxury of talking to a manager, they see hundreds of applications from cosmetologists and beauticians a year — so don’t be afraid to ask them if there are schools to stay away from, or programs that produce bad employees. As a last ditch, you may contact an online beauty school that you like and ask them for a list of references from their recent graduates. Not every school will take so kindly to this question, but you can use that as a ‘weed out’ method as well. If a school isn’t proud of their graduates or doesn’t trust them to provide positive feedback, you may not want to get certified from them.
Examples of Basic Online Cosmetology Courses
If you’re completely bewildered by the idea of taking beauty classes on the Internet, take a look at these example courses offered at online cosmetology certification courses nationwide. Many of these courses are offered by a boatload of different schools, but the course description is the same. While you conduct your search for the top cosmetology schools online, keep these classes in mind. If these don’t get you excited, a career in cosmetology (and a lot of money spent on web based cosmetology classes) may not be the road you want to choose.
- Texas Cosmetology Continuing Education (12 credit hours) – This state-specific course offers students instruction in establishing a client base and building your cosmetology career. You will also learn about the latest in state HIV and sanitation training, becoming successful in the crowded beauty industry, and new methods in beautification methods like “hair coloring made simple”.
- Georgia Cosmetology Continuing Education (5 hours) – Much like the Texas course, this class will cover new procedures in HIV and AIDS prevention, the spreading of disease through the cosmetology industry, modern methods of sterilization, the differences between antiseptics and disinfectants, and how to sanitize hands and tools. Unlike the Texas version, there’s very little offered in the way of advancing your business, hence the much shorter hour requirement.
- Ohio Cosmetology Continuing Education (8 hours) – For another example of “continuing education” in the field of cosmetology, the state of Ohio comes in just between the extensive career and sanitation training of Texas and the “bare bones” stuff you’d learn in Georgia. 8 hours of instruction in Ohio will get you info on blood borne pathogens, an hour or so on building your career, an identical “hair coloring made simple” course to the kind you’d find in Texas, and an extra unit on marketing your business on the Internet.
- Electric Nail File Certification (4 hours) — This is a short course in the use of the electric nail file. Just four hours will get you certified to use this sanitary, precise, and time saving piece of equipment that is now a part of any good cosmetologist’s tool kit.
- Pedicure Essentials (4 hours) — Another short course, this time without the promise of certification. This is a required course for every state’s licensing board in America, so no matter where you plan on practicing cosmetology, you’ll need this four hour course in toes and toenails.
- Pedicures from a Podiatrist Perspective (2 hours) — When a beauty school on the Internet uses words like “from a ___ perspective” it generally means the instructor will be someone in that field. In this instance, a podiatrist will be called on to provide a medical opinion of beauty procedures like pedicures and other things you’ll do with your client’s feet. It is reassuring to know that you aren’t hurting your clients, and when they have medical questions you’ll have some kind of perspective from which to answer them.
- Skin Care Essentials (2 hours)
- Texas Cosmetology Laws & Rules (2 hours)
- Texas: Sanitation For Cosmetology (2 hours) — Courses in sanitation will most certainly be a part of your online beauty school curriculum. Poor sanitation is the enemy of the beauty salon, whether you’re a hair stylist, massage professional, or cosmetologist. A large chunk of your daily routine will be taken up with procedures for keeping your workspace clean, so don’t be surprised if you take several courses in sanitation or if sanitation is a constant hot topic. Each state has different rules for sanitation, so taking a course specific for the state in which you want to work in beauty is essential.
- Beauty Salon Management — Any online cosmetology training worth paying for should offer some career training, and class titles like “beauty salon management” are good indicators that a particular course is meant to help you succeed as a beautician. Depending on the quality of the Internet based beauty classes you take, these can be extremely helpful in the long term, or blow off classes that exist just to entice students to join a program. Again, asking former students about a particular online beauty school will give you an idea of the nature of these classes.
- Beauty Therapist — Have you ever been down in the dumps and sought treatment for the blues under the capable hands of a cosmetologist or other beauty professional? One of the newest areas that beauty schools are looking into is the therapeutic value of beauty treatment. As a cosmetology professional, the skills you learn from an online beauty school could be the difference between a bad day and a great one for your clients. Look for a program in beauty that offers some kind of class in this vein.
- Manicure and Pedicure
- Nail Technician
- Holistic Beauty Therapist
- Teenage Beauty Make-Over Specialist — Think back to your teenage years — your beauty needs were far different then. For one thing, there is modesty to consider. Especially in areas of the country where teen aged modesty is important (think Bible belt, small towns, rural areas, etc) special training in beautifying young people is required. Age-specific beauty training is important. You wouldn’t give your grandmother the same beauty treatments you’d give to a 16 year old. Any beauty school that doesn’t offer training for the different stages of your client’s lives is extremely limiting your ability to please customers.
- Booking Patterns and Consultations — This is a popular course title for accredited web cosmetology training. How good would your education in dye and manicures be if you didn’t know how to make appointments and keep them? Training in giving consultations is crucial as well. There’s more to being a cosmetologist than being highly skilled at your job — you also have to be an expert in marketing and customer relations if you want to retire before you croak.
- Color Enhancement on Textured Hair
- Applying Highlights
- Chunky Front Pieces
- Balayage Technique for Subtle Highlights — I know what you’re thinking — WHAT kind of technique? “Subtle highlights” you understand — but your online beauty academy will likely teach you all sorts of techniques you’ve never heard of or considered before signing up. If the Internet cosmetology college you’re looking into doesn’t provide courses in subjects like Balayage technique, move on to a different beauty school. There’s so many to choose from, picking a lesser school is just not necessary.
How to Prepare For Your Cosmetology Certification Exam
One of the downsides to an online education in cosmetology is that many programs simply don’t prepare you for your certification exam the way you need. Rather than be nervous about your certification, be confident that this is an exam just like any you ever took in school.
On the bright side, if you’ve chosen to attend a quality web based beauty program, you’ll receive plenty of certification exam prep. However, even some top notch schools skimp on the exam prep in favor of more courses in sanitation, marketing, or technique. In this case, or if you feel unprepared to take the exam, the burden of passing the certification exam falls to you. What good is your fancy new diploma without a license from your state board? There’s just no way to escape the reality of licensure. If you practice beauty techniques for money in America without a license, you could face penalties and will most certainly be shut down before you can make any money anyway. Here’s how to prepare to pass your state’s certification exam.
Though your state will have specific guidelines for issuing your credentials, the certification exam is given the same way to every student in America. This means studying for your beauty certification exam is a little easier — study guides are available in specialty bookstores and online. The test is called “The National Cosmetology Written Examination and Cosmetology Licensing Examination”. These tests are a basic objective assessment of your beauty school foundation, both in the area of knowledge and beauty skills.
Your cosmetology test scores are then used by the National / Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (better known as the NIC) and your state licensing board as an across the board standard of beautician qualification. Your entire future as a cosmetologist depends on the score you get on this certification exam.
In order to get the cosmetology test score you need to be successful, you’ll have to find out what study methods work in your case. We have known for some time now that individual learners respond to different test prep methods differently. Some people just don’t benefit from more traditional test preparation methods — if “cramming” wasn’t your style in high school it isn’t magically going to become your style now. High intelligence is not necessarily an indicator of your success with certification testing, either, so don’t depend on your freakish math skills or extensive memorized lists of sanitation procedures either. The truth is, good test prep (especially for a certification exam such as this one) is easy and the ditziest airhead in your cosmetology school could earn the highest test score.
Practice tests and example questions are good to give you an idea of the kind of test you’re facing, but most of these methods rely on teaching the test — not a good idea. This test changes from session to session, so simply learning how to answer a handful of sample questions from past tests may actually be detrimental to your score. Suppose you memorize one hundred questions from last year’s test only to find that not a single one is on this year’s version? You wasted your time. Rather than teaching yourself the test, concentrate on teaching yourself the material on the test. The application of knowledge is as important as the knowledge itself. Your work as a beauty professional won’t look anything like a certification exam — you’ll have to know how to apply what you’ve learned to a live human being.
How do you know what will be on the test? You’ve been training at an online beauty school for hundreds of hours. Here’s a tip — you already know what will be on the test.
Here’s some certification exam tips.
- Read the question carefully. It is often the case that the question itself can help you eliminate some possible answers. So many people rush through the question, looking for “key words” and hoping to slam down the correct answer and move on. Take your time and read the question.
- Know when, why, and how to simply “guess” at an answer. Even if you study twenty-four hours a day for a month, you are going to run into a couple of situations where taking a guess is to your advantage. Don’t be afraid of a guess here and there. It will save you time and stress.
- Procrastination can kill your chance of success on the certification exam. Don’t put studying or test taking off to the last minute. If you do, your elevated blood pressure and heavy sweating will throw your chances of being certified right out the window.
- Know when you’ve studied as much as you need to. Too much studying is as dangerous as too little.
- Make a checklist of things you feel unprepared to answer questions about and run through that checklist several times. Eventually, your list will get shorter and shorter until one day you find you have no list at all.
- If you insist on taking a “sample” test, use your time wisely. Take note of any way you can “predict” what the right answer will look like before you even see the possible answer choices. Knowing how to trust your first instinct is crucial to keeping those wrong answers from clouding your judgement. The test makers know your brain will want to question itself, and sometimes build in “test traps” designed to make you question yourself.
- Avoid panicking in the face of a difficult question. Being knowledgeable will help you stay calm — taking deep breaths and pacing yourself is another great way of avoiding the certification Heebie Jeebies. If you run into a particularly hard question that you just can’t imagine answering, make the best educated guess. A potentially correct guess is better than a question left blank.
- Practice grouping your different answer possibilities into “answer families”. This will help you narrow down the possible correct answers into just one or two. When three answers fit neatly together and the fourth answer sticks out, you can be pretty sure that the stand alone answer is the correct one. This is not just a score improving tactic, but a time saving one. Even if it only helps you eliminate two or three answer choices, it is worth your time.
Careers in Beauty
There’s no such thing as a “beauty professional”, not really. You can’t get a general degree in the subject of beauty, you’ll have to target your schooling at one of dozens of specific fields. Not sure which field you want to work in? Here’s examples of jobs you can get in the field of beautification.
Cosmetologist — A cosmetologist is a particular type of beauty professional that is educated in treating people’s entire body, from hair and skin to finger and toe nails. A cosmetologist provides direct beauty care for their clients, but is also a consultant, talking to clients about their beauty potential and providing suggestions in the areas of hairstyles, skincare, and things like hair and nails colors. A cosmetologist is also highly skilled in the application of different cosmetics. This is often the most study-intensive field at an online beauty college, requiring as many as 2000 hours of classes and experience. Cosmetologists can also be trained in advanced skills like massages and other therapeutic treatments. A good cosmetologist is also an expert in hygiene.
Depending on the state law where you live, you may be required to be at least sixteen years old or older before starting your cosmetology training, and a diploma from a state and nationally approved cosmetology school or apprenticeship is a must. In order to be licensed as a cosmetologist, you’ll have to pass a licensing exam and perform a specific number of “field hours”. In most states, a high school diploma or equivalency degree is also required.
Hair stylist — A hair stylist, or hair dresser, is the most recognizable and well known member of the beauty family. The definition is straightforward — a hair stylist is a person who cuts and styles hair. He or she usually gets trained in other services to increase their bottom line — a hair stylist can be a colorist, massage therapist, hair weaver, etc. Work in the field of hair styling is varied enough to be difficult to describe — some hair stylists work 60 hour weeks and take home checks like medical doctors. Still other people only use their licensing from time to time, supporting their income from other work. Don’t confuse a hair stylist with a barber — the term “barber” has a specific definition and job-specific certification requirements entirely different from a hair stylist.
Hair braider / hair weaver — As the title suggests, people who specialize in braiding or weaving hair get certified in that field. This title requires the least amount of certification time, usually much less than 100 hours. If you’re in the market for a “fast track” to a beauty career, certifying in hair braiding or hair weaving is a good road to pursue. Many times, a certification in this field doesn’t require a high school degree or equivalency, Check with your state’s certification board for the whole story.
Massage therapist — Massage therapy is the most common form of therapy in the United States. Using comforting strokes and concentration on various muscle groups, massage therapists provide stress relief and general health care to the public. Massage therapy is the most obviously “therapeutic” version of beauty treatments. Courses in massage therapy are longer than other beauty school courses, though not quite as long as a license in cosmetology. Massage therapists focus on treating the outer layers of muscle, sometimes using oils or lotions to assist in treatment. Massage therapy even improves circulation — a good massage helps to oxygenate your body’s various tissues. Massage treatment relieves muscle tension and pain, and has been shown to increase a body’s flexibility and mobility. People get massage therapy for relaxation or for a variety of health conditions: back pain, stress relief, headache treatment, and
even certain repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel can be treated with massage.
Nail tech — When you get a pedicure or manicure, you’re using the services of a nail technician or “nail tech”. Nail technicians (sometimes simply called “manicurists”) cut, shape, polish, and prepare both men and women’s nails to look their best. If you want to pursue a career in beauty, a job as a nail technician means attending a specialized training program (admittedly a shorter one) and passing certain licensing tests that are state and country-specific. Be prepared to do anywhere from 300 to 500 hours of classroom work and practical experience. One benefit of a licensure in nail tech is that there are plenty of jobs in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 30% increase in employment and job availability for manicurists and pedicurists (or nail techs) by the year 2016.
Barber — A true barber is a rarity these days. Far from being a basic “hair cutter”, a barber gives proper shaves and trim beards according to a national standard. In fact, the word “barber” itself comes from the Latin word for bear. In the past, barbers took the place of dentists and surgeons, which could account for the strict requirements placed on licensure. Though most barbers today specialise in the simple act of cutting men’s hair, facial hair treatments are popular and require licensure. The stereotype about barbers is that they don’t prepare “fancy” hair styles, and this is generally true. Licensure as a barber is almost as complex as that for a cosmetologist.
Electrolysist — An electrolysist performs laser hair removal. A relatively new field, having electrolysis means no longer having to shave, wax, or pluck hair from sensitive or hard to reach parts of the body. Some men even have electrolysis to ease the routine of shaving. Training in electrolysis is lengthy, and practical work in the field is hard to come by. Expensive equipment and overhead is a fact of life for the electrolysist, though their services are expensive and the person licensed in the practice of electrolysis can earn tons of money in their career. For more information on programs in electrolysis, contact your local beauty school or look into online beauty school classes.
As more and more people turn to online courses for their initial schooling and continued education, taking web based courses in subjects like cosmetology and beauty training also becomes more mainstream. There are some instances in which hands on training at a more traditional beauty school — if you can afford it and you think you need the practical training of a traditional course in beauty, there are certainly plenty of places to learn. If, on the other hand, you need to keep making money while getting your training or there’s not an accredited or appropriate cosmetology school in your area, taking web courses in beauty is more than a viable alternative, it is becoming something of a norm. With more and more cosmetology schools online every year, your choice of teachers and courses is basically unlimited.