In order to receive a cosmetology license, a candidate must meet specific requirements and conditions set by their states’ Board of Cosmetology, who is led by the states Secretary of State. Every state is different, with different licensing requirements and conditions, as well as differences in continuing education requirements.
Requirements and conditions required by each state to receive your license are developed by each states Board of Cosmetology. Those Board members are usually appointed by the Governor or Secretary of State of each state, and are responsible for not only deciding what candidates must accomplish to receive their license, but also what continuing education requirements must be met in order to renew their licenses. Additionally, they are responsible for drafting their states laws, policies, and rules, as well as policing their licensees through random inspections of salons to ensure they are adhering to those laws.
The reason so many requirements and conditions must be met are simple: it is very easy to injure a member of the public without in-depth knowledge of sanitation, safety, and responsibility for the care of your client. A cosmetologist must also have a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and what to do should an emergency arise in the salon. Without this knowledge, it would be very easy to give a client a chemical or heat burn, injure their scalp, skin or nails, or even cause permanent injury.
Most cosmetologists learn all of this by attending an accredited school that meets the states standards of education, as governed by the Board of Education. Schools award their credits to their students based on how many hours of education is required by the state. The curriculum is designed to teach the student everything they will need to know to safely work with the public without injuring them. Students are taught both in the classroom as well as on the clinic floor, where they work with paying clients under the direct supervision of educators.
Other cosmetologists learn through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is a time-honored tradition of learning where the student studies directly with a master, in their workplace, on real clients. Most states require the student to study under a cosmetologist with a minimum of 5 years as a licensed cosmetologist, to ensure that adequate education is passed on. The hours of study require through apprenticeship are typically more than through a school, due to the fact that this sort of work/study program takes longer to impart the knowledge required to work safely with the public. The requirements and conditions to sit for your license exam are the same, no matter which route you choose. The knowledge of what is required to pass the exam is the same, the only difference is the setting in which you learn, and the time it takes to learn it.
With all this taken into consideration, it’s easy to see why licensing is so important. The body of knowledge required to safely work with the public is large, and so accordingly, the exam to receive your license is quite difficult. It involves a written and practical test, so that the examiners can ensure the publics safety is never jeopardized. Given this, it’s also easy to see why continuing education is also an important part of the process.
As with any other industry that is governed by a Board who requires licensing, it’s vital to ensure that it’s members continue to receive updated information on how to keep the public safe. In the beauty industry, it’s common for new products and techniques to be developed, as well as existing products and techniques to evolve rapidly. The Board of Cosmetology also relies on other state agencies for guidance with updated safety concerns, and it would be impossible for a licensee to be abreast of this continually evolving body of knowledge without ongoing continuing education. It’s my opinion that any industry that requires a license in the first place, has a responsibility to ensure those licensees always stay up to date with the most current knowledge.
Most cosmetologist accomplish their continuing education requirements by attending certified educational events, such as hair shows or classes taught by qualified instructors. Many choose to receive this education online, which is a great way to ensure that you have the most current information with regards to safety and sanitation, but it doesn’t give the licensee an opportunity for any hands-on education under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor. This is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a cosmetologist…does your cosmetologist regularly attend classes to make sure you are safe in the salon?
There is an ongoing conversation happening about the possibility of a national license option. Due to the fact that each states requirements are slightly different, it’s difficult to ensure the same knowledge is possessed by all when they cross state lines. Many states that have the same or similar requirements will allow cosmetologist to receive a license by reciprocity with each other, but it’s not uncommon under the current scenario to be required to receive additional education in order to qualify for a certain states exam, if reciprocity is not granted between those states. A national license would definitely eliminate that issue, as all licensed cosmetologists would be required to meet the same standards across the entire country.