5 things I wish I knew before cosmetology school
Hair Education

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Cosmetology School

My Investment in Cosmetology School

If there were one thing I could take back, it would be the $12,000 I spent at Cosmetology school. Yes, some years ago I went to cosmetology school and let just say, it wasn’t all cracked up as it was made out to be.

There was so much that I learned after I graduated that made no sense! I couldn’t believe the amount of new information I learned compared to what the school told me. But don’t get me wrong, the whole experience wasn’t tragic, just most of it.

One thing in life I have learned is the importance of sharing information. Once you gain knowledge, you just can’t keep it to yourself. You must spread it to the world. So, I decided to share the information I have on the things I wish I knew before going to Cosmetology school. Hopefully, this will help someone save money or at least give more insight before they make a decision.

Continue reading to find out more about what I wish I knew before Cosmetology school.

salon hair

Apprenticeship

Like I mentioned earlier, I had to pay to go to school. Of course, it wasn’t free. However, there is another option! Did you get that? I said there is another way that you can get your license that does not involve school!

If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would say, “do more research girl.” But we can’t go back in the past. It’s already done so let me give you the scoop.

A lot of salons offer an apprenticeship program. That’s a program that trains under a licensed hairstylist at an actual salon instead of school. Think of it as a one on one session. When you’re in school, you have a room full of other students and instructors who have to go by the book.

The apprenticeship offers real-life situations along with training that matches it. It’s a great program if you find one in your area. Honestly, I don’t even know if it was available back when I was in school but trust me, if I knew about it, I would have been right there!

Although this is a great option, like everything in life, there are pros and cons!

hair school salon

Apprenticeship vs. Cosmetology School

The biggest difference between the apprenticeship and schooling is the time it takes to finish.

In school, to graduate and take your state boards exam you must have 1500 hours under your belt. That normally takes about nine months to a year depending on which school you attend. However, the apprenticeship program is typically a three-year program, and you need 3000 hours before you can take your state boards exam.

Now, yes that is a huge time difference. However, the most important thing to remember is the fact that the apprenticeship program is free. The only thing you pay for is your salon tools and your state boards test, which happens at the end.

And as far as the tools, depending on how nice the people are who work in the shop, they may give you their old tools! You could also find other people who still have their toolkit and no longer practicing hair.

When deciding which to do, just figure out what your priorities are. You may not want to wait three years, or you may learn better in a classroom setting. Or you may not have the money to attend school but still have dreams of being a stylist so the apprenticeship would be great for you.

Just remember to do your homework; unlike I did, so you can make the right decision and save you a lot of headache down the line.

hair school salon

No Need For License For Specific Skills

Now, although this one doesn’t apply to me, it still would have been some great information to pass along to someone else.

Depending on what state you live in, you do not need a cosmetology license if you want to braid hair. This logic stems from the fact that braiding hair doesn’t require, heat, scissors or chemicals.

Therefore it would be no point in going to hair school because you wouldn’t need that information. Right now, there are about 16 states that don’t require a license. But other states do, and also some states only require you to complete certain classes.

I’m sure there are people in the world who don’t want to go to hair school because all they want to do is braid. Therefore, they miss out on their dreams for false information. Hopefully, this can clear up any doubt and help someone make the right step towards his or her future.

Remember, whenever you want to do something, always do as much research as you can.

sewing wig

Must be People Person

Now, I’m not sure if this was supposed to be common sense or maybe I just missed it during my young years. But when you are a hairstylist, you are also a therapist. That’s right!

When I went to cosmetology school, all I knew was that I wanted to do hair. I did like people as well but I’m also human, and someone times I didn’t want to talk. So when it came time for me to start styling clients hair, I quickly learned I was a therapist! People would sit in that black chair and pour their hearts out to me. I knew about everybody’s secret and who didn’t like whom, in their town.

Honestly, sometimes it was too much. While other times I didn’t know what to say and other times I wondered if I said the right thing.

There is a thing called “silent stylist” which means the hairstylist works better when they aren’t talking. That’s great and all but it’s also extremely important to talk to your customers so you can build a rapport.

Customer service trumps everything in this business and any business! So if you don’t like people or having random conversations, this might not be the right field for you.

In time I did learn how to manage my feelings and become a better listener and learn how to engage with my customers, and then I loved it. It just would have been nice to get a heads up first in certain situations I may have encountered.

healthy hair

Be Honest

Along with being a “therapist,” I had to learn to be honest with my customers.

For instance, if a customer comes in and they are very emotional, most times they want to do a drastic hair change. They come in wanting you to cut all their hair off or bleach their hair to some crazy color.

In my early years, I did whatever the customer wanted me to do because all I cared about were those coins, okay! However, as I grew a love for my clients, I realized I needed to be honest with them. At that moment all they needed was a friend and not a razor cut.

I had to learn that money wasn’t more important than the respect I had for those people. I learned how to comfort them and tell them not to make a hair decision while you’re emotional.

The purpose of hair school was just to prepare you for your state boards but getting some reality check stories would have been great too.

Work at a Salon Right Away

Society tells us to go to school and then find a job when in reality that’s just something somebody said and the whole world believed it.

When I was in Cosmetology school, I couldn’t wait to graduate and start working at a salon to apply all that I knew. But boy was I wrong. I wish someone had encouraged me to start working at a hair salon the first week I started hair school.

It wasn’t until I was about two months in when I found out I was just going to be learning just enough to take my state boards. I thought in my year of school; I would be learning every little thing there was about hair. At that point, it was too late for me to quit and ask for my refund.

The major problem that this brings is the fact that when I started at my first salon, I realized I knew nothing at all! That’s right! The school never lied when they said I was going to be learning the basics. But what they could have said was I would be testing for my state boards so that I could learn at a hair salon; because that’s what happened!

I started at a hair salon and was shocked to know I wasn’t going to begin styling hair. I was at a lost for words. My first job title was “shampoo girl.” I couldn’t believe it. I just paid so much money in school just to start out as a shampoo girl.

The problem was that to become an actual hair stylist at a salon I needed a portfolio of the work I did, and I only had a couple. I only took a few pictures of my client’s hair back in school. But that was nothing but a wash and set and a blow out style, mostly. I was completely devastated.

hair cut trim

Starting Over

I say I had to start over because essentially I did.

I had to style the client’s hair for free, every day until I proved myself and had a big enough portfolio. That new journey took about six to nine months. After that, I was on my way to the top.

If I had started working at a hair salon back when I was in school, I would have been able to apply my knowledge in the real world. I would have been able to ask my instructors more questions.

Another reason why I had to start over was that in school, teachers taught me. They are strictly following the book and what their bosses said. Half of the instructors never even worked in a hair salon before.

So all these students paying hard earned money aren’t even being taught the proper way. The proper way would be to have an actual hair stylist teach. That way students received real life, hands-on lessons.

Ethnic Hair Training

The most surprising thing that I did not learn at Cosmetology school was ethnic hair textures.

I am a black woman, and I use to love doing hair when I was younger, but that didn’t mean I knew everything about my people’s hair type. There wasn’t an ounce of education on it, and I never understood why.

Not learning about different hair types puts people at an automatic disadvantage. Students were already limited to do one type of hair and had to look elsewhere for additional training if they wanted to learn more.

Learning about different hair textures, I think is crucial. I remember being in class learning how to do finger waves. They were super easy to do on soft thinned hair texture, but I wondered if it would be hard on courser hair.

There are a lot of different hair textures, and I’m not saying we needed to learn every single one, but learning about more than one would have helped a lot of people in their hair career including myself.

mom and daughter natural hair

Moving Forward

There was a lot of information that would have been great to learn in hair school.

I think the way cosmetology school goes about recruiting students is all wrong. If they were upfront and honest about the main purpose of the school, then there wouldn’t be so many people feeling let down.

The most important thing to remember here is that even if you don’t learn something in one place, it doesn’t mean you will never learn it. Those additional months that I had to re-learn everything set me up for success. I don’t ever look at it as wasted time, anymore.

I use to be mad at the hair school for what they didn’t do, but honestly, they did what they were supposed to do. The purpose of me going to hair school was to obtain my license. What it took to get there I guess didn’t matter. I still walked away from a professional hair stylist.

Are you thinking about getting your Cosmetology license? Did this information help you make a decision? Let me know in the comment section below!

About Brit Tea

Brit Tea is an American Author. She has written two books so far and isa copy/content writer as well. She believes words can change the world.

6 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Cosmetology School

  1. Courtney Allen says:

    The one thing I truly regret is no finishing hair school it was truly a passion of mine but arthritis developed in my hands and I was don’t. Couldn’t do it anymore.

  2. Marquisha General says:

    I completely agree with this blog! I enrolled in Beauty school thinking I would learn everything there is about Hair and different styling techniques. Sadly mistaken, I only learned what the state wanted us to know which is sanitation and basic styling such as a perm rod set for chemical services. I wish I could take the 12,500 back and just do apprenticeship! You definitely have to be s people person and have the dedication to succeed in this business.

  3. Riah McGraw says:

    “I had to learn that money wasn’t more important than the respect I had for those people. I learned how to comfort them and tell them not to make a hair decision while you’re emotional.”

    I love the honesty. It’s more than just a dollar, it’s the respect.

    Also, I truly know what you mean about how much money you spend in a school when you get an apprenticeship you can be finished quicker and ready to work!

  4. Jasminn Segovia says:

    I really feel like this blog was meant for me. I’ve always wanted to go to cosmetology school and get my license. It’s been hard trying to find the right school and also financial aid is getting a little difficult and confusing. This blog was so informative to me because now I really know what my options are. I would never have known about apprenticeship if it wasn’t for this post and I honestly feel like that would be a great route because you an get one-on-one training. It can be hard learning things in a group and I know that can be really helpful with just one-on-one help. I know I would really appreciate that. I also forgot how much of a people person you have to be when being a hair stylist. I’m an introvert and sometimes I have a hard time with talking to people cause I can be really standoffish but I think going into this type of career could really be helpful for me and help improve that weakness I have. I love your blog posts. Always gives me the information I’m seeking.

  5. Princess says:

    This blog was awesome. I’ve been doing research because I truly do not want to go to cosmetology school not only because I already have a ton of student loan debt but I ONLY want to do sew-ins. I was told I didn’t need a license for that but I wonder if I’m breaking rules by actually applying heat to the leave out or apply glue to frontals. Your blog was honest and informative.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I’m commenting as a Cosmetology Instructor (who is also a Salon Owner/Stylist) I whole-heartedly agree with you that the recruiting practices of many schools paint a dazzling, and sadly unrealistic picture of both their programs and salon reality. I also agree that, in most schools, training to perform services on all types of hair is either limited or virtually nonexistent. Sadly, some states do not allow Apprenticeship programs, and not enough information is shared in the states that do. Apprenticeship is such a great idea, provided the Mentor Stylist is well educated and they follow the guidelines of instruction. Feedback like yours is incredibly valuable. Schools need to be realistic and honest with students, and salon owners need to be fair to new stylists (many are not). Thank you for publishing this, and I wish you continued success!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *