Working with clients in a salon is the ultimate goal for some. For others, it’s just the beginning of the dream. And that’s OK — the beauty profession offers so many ways to spread your wings and fly.
Here are 30 career possibilities or specialties open to licensed cosmetologists. Some are glamorous, some are deeply satisfying, some are fun and some are extremely lucrative. The choices are yours to make as you build your brand.
- Color Specialist: You’re creative but can also switch on the science side of your brain to grasp the concepts of chemistry. You flip through swatch books just for fun; you refer to blondes as “ecru,” “marshmallow” or “oyster.” If you dream in color, consider a hair-color specialty.
- Updo Specialist: You skipped your prom because you were too busy doing hair for all your friends. Stranded on a desert island, you’d wish for bobby pins, hairspray and a mannequin so you could practice your signature undone upstyles. If you love the architectural satisfaction of hairdressing, become an updo expert.
- Esthetics: A bit artistic and a bit medical in nature, skin care is the “white coat” arm of the beauty world. If you excel at subjects like anatomy and chemistry, and you like a quiet, private working environment, you’ll love using your knowledge to transform your clients’ complexions.
- Nails: You get to sit and hold hands with your clients — how great is that? Nail services are in hot demand, and nail techs love providing clients with the quick and profound boost that comes with a beautiful manicure and pedicure.
- Blowout Bar Stylist: Generally, there’s no cutting or chemical services in a blowout bar. You get the pleasure of transforming clients with your blow dryer and curling irons. This is a great gig as you’re just getting started and need more experience in customer service to feel comfortable about moving on to a full-service salon.
- Men’s Barber: Men’s barbering services are exploding as more and more guys are demanding sharp and trendy looks. If you love turning out precision shapes at a fast pace (men’s cuts are done quickly) and you’re a whiz with razors and shears, consider working in a modern barbershop or specializing in men’s cuts at a full-service salon.
- Senior Hair Care: Creativity might not be the top benefit of working with older clients (although more and more senior ladies are rocking fashion colors), but nothing is more gratifying than making a day special for a senior. Statistics show that older people might not receive as much human touch as when they were younger, so for them the contact of a hair service is truly special. You’ll be a day-maker and a life-changer!
- Kids Cuts: Obviously you have to adore little ones to specialize in kids’ cuts, and if you do, everyday will be filled with joy. It helps to be a bit of a “child whisperer” to keep nervous tykes calm, and like any profession that involves working with children, patience and good humor are musts!
- Lash or Brow Specialist: You understand that the lash and the arch are the two most important ways to enhance a face. Your artistic eye will give you the skills to craft the perfect brow shapes or configuration of lash extensions. Demand is growing for these profitable services.
- Extension Expert: This is a booming specialty as more and more clients are embracing extensions for length, volume and pops of high-fashion hair color. You’ll need brand-specific training and patience, but the investment is worth it
- Fashion Week Stylist: Work backstage at Fashion Week in New York, Paris, Milan and London? Yes, please! The pace is lightning fast on the fashion show scene — models race from show to show, and stylists often have just a few minutes to get them ready. You must also be a team-player and understand that you’re in a supporting role because at Fashion Week as it’s the hair team’s job to bring the fashion designer’s vision to life.
- Beauty Blogger/lnfluencer: Do you have charisma and flair in front of the camera? Social media stars with large followings are building lucrative careers by gaining sponsors who want to get in front of their audiences. Successful influencers warn that it’s not as easy as it looks — you must create compelling content on a regular basis in order to build and retain high levels of engagement.
- Hotel or Cruise Ship Stylist: If you love meeting new people. these jobs are new people on steroids! But don’t get attached — you’ll work on hotel guests or cruise ship passengers for the duration of their trip, then probably never see them again. The bonus for the cruise ship gig is traveling to amazing places — all for free!
- Editorial Hairstylist: Want to be part of a glam squad styling models and celebrities for photoshoots? You’ll need mad styling skills, a very cooperative and easy-going attitude, a willingness to work as part of a team and a deep understanding of fashion and beauty history and trends. It also helps to live in New York, L.A. or Miami because those are the places most photoshoots take place.
- Makeup Artist: Makeup is all about sculpting with color to enhance a person’s features. It’s also a field that allows you to be super creative! There are many opportunities to work as a makeup artist — you could have a career in a salon, as a celebrity makeup artist, for films or photo sessions or in television or the theater. The best part? Once the client washes her face, you get to create something brand new!
- Celebrity Hairstylist: How exciting would it be if Kourtney or Kylie had you on speed dial? As a celebrity stylist, you’re on call 24/7, but the rewards — home visits to the client’s estate, traveling on press tours in a private jet, attending red-carpet events — are huge. The compensation is excellent, too! Most celebrity stylists have top-level skills combined with the kind of low-key personalities that keep their star clients in the spotlight.
- Cosmetology School Instructor: For some people, teaching is a calling. They gain satisfaction from helping others learn and grow. If this sounds like you, consider becoming a cosmetology instructor. Not only will you enjoy your own career, you’ll launch hundreds of others’ careers as well.
- Trichologist: This field specializes in the scientific study of the hair and scalp. Every hairstylist should have a good foundation of trichology, and specialists work with clients with hair loss as well as other hair and scalp issues. If you lean more to the scientific side of the profession and you love helping people, consider trichology as your beauty path.
- Bridal Specialist: When it comes to styling, there are few days as significant as a client’s wedding day. Wedding stylists must be artistic, empathic and efficient. You must also be able to juggle many personalities and moods, from nervous brides to bossy bridesmaids to fidgety flower girls. But the payoffs are huge – your work will live on in family photos forever!
- Curly Hair Specialist: Curly hair requires a special touch. To satisfy curly girls, it’s important to understand the specific cutting and coloring techniques their texture requires, as well as the unique hair-care needs for curly hair. As a curly hair expert, you’ll build a loyal and lucrative clientele and carve out a niche for yourself in the salon world.
- Salon Manager: If you have a head for business and you love to motivate and lead other stylists, consider a career in salon management. Some managers continue to work with clients; others devote themselves to management full-time. Options range from working for a large corporation with many locations to management in a privately owned salon.
- Distributor Sales Consultant: Many distributors offer more than just a place to buy your hair color and developer — they also serve as educators and advisors for salon businesses. In this role, you would visit salons in your area to give them the scoop on the newest products and partner with them on strategies for their success.
- Creative Director: Do you love imagining the big picture and then working with a team to bring your vision to life? Creative directors for haircare companies come up with collections and put together ads and educational campaigns. You’ll work with models, photographers, makeup artists and wardrobe stylists in a fast-paced and varied career.
- Salon Owner: Do you like to be in charge and do things your way? Salon ownership allows you to be the captain of your own ship — from the decor to the products you work with, the staff you hire and the type of clients you service. Like any business, ownership also brings a degree of risk, but if you’re up for the challenge, this could be the road for you.
- Salon Education Director: Many salons offer robust training and advanced education programs — and someone has to run them. A salon education director prepares the curriculum, conducts the classes, oversees the education team and certifies the students. It’s a rewarding role if you want to share your knowledge with colleagues while maintaining your own clients in the salon.
- Brand Educator: If you’ve ever attended a hair show, you’ve seen these dynamic educators teaching hair techniques on a stage or in a classroom. If you love to travel and teach, working as a company educator will take you to places you never dreamed you would go. Consider specializing in color or cutting education to increase demand for your services.
- Film and TV Stylist: Imagine being responsible for the looks of the stars of a television or film production. You would work with the director to create the hairstyles for each character, and then be responsible for styling the hair on the set. Continuity is important — the hair must look the same from shot to shot. And you must also have the type of personality that works well with demanding actors.
- Theater Stylist: Nothing is more exciting than a live production, and you’ll be backstage every night getting the cast ready for the show. Many productions also require the actors to wear wigs or hairpieces, so it’s important to have a solid understanding of how to procure, cut and style these items if you do hair for live performances.
- Manufacturer/Product Inventor: There’s a reason products invented by hairstylists are so successful — who better to really understand what a hairdresser needs and what works best in a salon? Many of the industry’s top companies were started by hairdressers, and there’s always room for more. If you’re passionate about your ideas and persistent about bringing them to life, product development could be the right path for you.
- Test-Salon Stylist: Before any new hair product hits the market, it’s tested and retested until it’s exactly right. A test-salon stylist works with in-development formulas and tools, applying them to volunteers and carefully recording the results for the research team. You can be part of creating what could become the next big thing in beauty!
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