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How to Get a Hair Stylist License: Everything You Need to Know

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woman laughing as she gets her hair styled

So, you want to become a licensed hair stylist—great choice. Working as a licensed hair stylist is an exciting profession for those who like working with other people, are creative and love all-things hair and fashion! But before you get started, you need to get a hairdresser license.
Your hair stylist license equips you for the job. But how do you get one? This comprehensive guide provides the exact information and steps you need to take to get your hairdresser license and begin an exciting career today.

You must complete specific education and training, pass exams, and meet state-specific requirements to obtain a license. This comprehensive overview will guide you through the necessary steps and provide valuable insights to help you obtain your cosmetology license successfully.

Hair Stylist License: The What and Why

First, what is a hair stylist license?
A hair stylist license is your credentials or certification that demonstrate you have graduated from an approved hairdressing school or program. Hair stylists need to pass board exams, administered at the state level, to obtain their hairdresser license and practice in that state.
Many hair stylists will go to cosmetology school where they learn about skin care, nails, and makeup as well as hairdressing. Others will go to specific hairstyling schools or programs.
Getting your hair stylist license means you can legally work in your field and inspire confidence in your customers.

4 Steps to Get a Hair Stylist License

Becoming a licensed hair stylist requires some strategic planning. Here are the fours steps you should follow: 

1. Understand your state’s requirements

Because hairdresser licenses are administered at the state level, it’s important to first review what the requirements are in the state you plan on working in. You can find information on your state’s licensing requirements, looking specifically for information about the following things:
  • Whether you need a cosmetology license or if there is a license specific to hair dressing only.
  • How many hours you need to complete before becoming licensed.
  • How to apply for your license with the state.
man looking back at camera as he blow dries clients hair in salon

2. Find an accredited program

After you’ve looked at the specific requirements for your state, you can choose an accredited program that meets those needs. Because many hair stylists will take cosmetology programs, you can search for programs near you through databases like the AACS School Member Directory. There are also companies that offer hairdressing and cosmetology programs. For example, Aveda’s cosmetology program has an objective to prepare students for their licensing examinations through theory and hands-on training. As you are looking for an accredited program, make sure to look at the entrance requirements. Most require you to be at least 16 years old, though some are 18. Many also require a high school diploma or GED to be accepted into the program.

3. Complete your program and pass the licensing exam

Your accredited program will prepare you for a career as a licensed hair stylist. Your training will include both theory and hands-on practice. Programs vary in length, but the national average for a full cosmetology program is between 1,400-1,600 hours which might take between 12-18 months to complete. After completing your program, you will take your state’s hair stylist licensing exam. This typically includes both a written and practical exam to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in areas like cutting, coloring, perms, styling, and more.

4. Prepare to work as a hair stylist

Once you’ve passed your hair stylist licensing exam, you’re ready to get to work! This is an exciting time where you can consider working at a salon, or starting your own salon and spa business and working for yourself.

One thing to remember as you start working as a licensed hair stylist is to ensure you are protected. Hair stylists insurance protects you in the event of an accident on the job. Professional and general liability coverage gives you the confidence to do what you do best—making clients feel good about themselves!

Hair Stylist License FAQs

What is a hair stylist license?

A hair stylist license allows you to legally work in the field. You obtain your hair stylist license by attending and graduating from an accredited program and then passing state licensing exams.

Who needs a hair stylist license?

Anyone who wants to work as a hair stylist needs a license, as it’s a legal requirement in all states.

woman getting hair styled in salon

Do I need insurance to work as a licensed hair stylist?

Yes, licensed hair stylists need insurance to work in their field. This is a requirement to operate your own business or work as an employee at a salon. Beauty and Bodywork’s hair stylists insurance provides professional and general liability insurance to protect you against any accident or incident.

Do I need a hair stylist license to work in every state?

Yes, all states require a hair stylist license to work. States administer their own licenses, but the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology also offers standardized testing options.

How long does my hair stylist license last?

Licensed hair stylists need to renew their license, usually every one or two years. This is a simple process that typically requires paying a fee to the licensing body.

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