What Is Cosmetology? Definition and Career Advice

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 18 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cosmetology is a fast-growing field that provides good financial rewards and career options in a variety of industries. Cosmetologists lend out their services to clients to help them look attractive and feel confident. You need to know a few things about this career path in order to successfully plan a career in cosmetology. In this article, we explain what cosmetology is and explore the duties of cosmetologists, skills required for the job and salary prospects.

What is cosmetology?

Cosmetology is a field of study that deals with the application of beauty treatments. This includes hairstyling, nail styling, cosmetics, skincare and non-permanent or permanent hair removal. Students of cosmetology will go through a range of subjects relating to beauty treatments and may specialise in a specific kind of practice within cosmetology.

Cosmetologists may practise as barbers, hair colour specialists, nail artists, skincare consultants and aestheticians. With the right educational background, a cosmetologist can even go into medical practice, often assisting dermatologists who treat skin diseases.

What does a cosmetologist do?

Cosmetologists do more than provide hair cuts and styling services. These professionals have a deep understanding of industry trends. They should know how to apply specific styling skills and how to interact and work with their clients and colleagues. Although your specific duties may vary depending on your work environment and industry, these are some basic duties of a cosmetologist:

  • Helping clients identify their skin and hair types

  • Working with clients to discuss customised styling options

  • Providing nail care, such as manicures and pedicures

  • Suggesting and applying cosmetic treatment to clients

  • Caring for and maintaining a client's skin and hair

  • Solving clients' skin, beauty and hair issues

Related: 50 Cosmetologist Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

Benefits of studying cosmetology

Cosmetology is a fulfilling career choice for anyone who derives happiness from helping others. As a cosmetologist, you get the opportunity to help people who suffer from chronic beauty issues like hyperpigmentation and acne. Such issues usually have a long-lasting impact on a person's self-confidence and mental health. Through your work as a cosmetologist, you can help people with some of these issues and improve their self-esteem and confidence. You are not just involved in how your clients look, but also in how they feel about themselves.

A career in cosmetology will require a fair amount of artistic engagement. If you are a creative person, this field provides several opportunities for you to put your creative abilities to real-world use. Successful make-up artists and stylists often build their reputation by improving on existing trends and innovating new ones for others to follow. Successful cosmetologists may even see their work in cinema, billboards, high-end fashion magazines and advertisements.

Is cosmetology a good career?

Cosmetology can be a rewarding career for the right person. Trained cosmetologists can find jobs in beauty parlours, salons, hotels and resorts. Television, film and fashion industries constantly require the services of make-up artists. As a cosmetologist, you can also focus your career on writing books, teaching students and creating content for fashion and beauty magazines. Professional degree holders in this field can also work with hospitals, therapy clinics and skin treatment clinics. These are some of the common job profiles for cosmetologists:

  • Hairstylist

  • Nail artist

  • Make-up artist

  • Fashion stylist

  • Cosmetology instructor

  • Magazine writer

  • Sales consultant for salons

  • Sales representative for manufacturers

  • Beauty care distributor

Besides this wide range of options, cosmetology also allows you to start your own independent business. Owning and operating your own business is challenging and often requires years of dedication and hard work. However, if you have the required starting capital and time, it can give you huge personal and financial rewards. Alternatively, you can also think of practising as a freelance cosmetologist, in which case you will source your own clients and set your own work schedule.

Related: Guide: How to Choose a Career

Skills required for cosmetology

You need a combination of specific hard skills for the job along with soft skills like communication and creativity to be successful in this career. Here are some skills you should develop to pursue a career in cosmetology:

Communication skills

Cosmetologists work with a diverse range of clients and other cosmetology professionals and should have exceptional communication skills. The ability to interact with and speak with clients, listen to their concerns and work with them to provide the services they request is highly important as a cosmetologist.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

Customer service

Cosmetologists are service industry professionals, so strong customer service skills are a must on the job. Greeting customers and making them feel welcome, attending to their needs and providing exceptional service are just several ways that your customer service skills will be beneficial as a cosmetologist.

Creative thinking

Styling techniques, unique looks and other applications in hair care require the ability to think creatively. Customers might walk into a salon looking for a unique style, or you may even encounter customers who are not sure about the style they want. In situations like this, your creativity will be important for providing your customers with satisfactory service.

Networking skills

Many cosmetologists are independent contractors and small business owners and often build professional networks that support their work. You can build a strong network by connecting with other cosmetologists, industry professionals and clientele so that if you ever decide to start your own business, you will have a solid network for support.

Time management

Cosmetologists set appointments according to their daily schedules and work efficiently to adhere to each appointment time. Strong time management skills are necessary for ensuring you have an appropriate amount of time for each customer.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Organisational skills

On the job, cosmetologists organise and maintain hair care and styling products, equipment and tools. In addition to this, you will also need to understand proper disinfecting procedures and how to properly care for and store your cosmetology tools. This is where your organisational skills can be extremely helpful to keep your styling area clean and ready to use.

Read more: Organisational Skills: Definition and Examples


Manual dexterity is another specific trait you need to develop as a cosmetologist. Working with scissors, razors, combs and other styling tools requires strong hand-eye coordination and the ability to work with your fingers and hands for long periods of time. However, you are likely to develop strong dexterity the more you practise throughout your training and on the job.

Physical stamina

Cosmetologists are usually standing and moving during their day-to-day activities, so you will want to prepare yourself for long days on your feet. Physical stamina is not all you will need, either. Communicating and interacting with customers, applying business skills and performing effectively in your job will also require strong mental stamina.

Industry knowledge

As a cosmetologist. You will want to stay updated on the latest hair and make-up styles, techniques and new industry trends. This will help you offer a range of different services to your customers. Additionally, you must also stay updated on industry regulations and any changes within the cosmetology field that apply to your job.

Product knowledge

As you enter your career, you will likely develop your knowledge and expertise with various styling and beauty care products. Successful cosmetology professionals have a deep knowledge of the different products they use and the services they provide to customers.

Qualifications and certifications required

Non-medical cosmetologists do not require a professional degree to work. Many cosmetologists start their careers through apprenticeships under an experienced practitioner and choose to learn cosmetology on the job. However, most employers will want to see some verifiable proof of your skills and expertise. These are some courses you can pursue:

  • Diploma courses: These courses usually take anywhere between 6 months and one year to complete. Some examples of popular courses include Diploma in Fashion Media Make-up, Diploma in Cosmetology, Diploma in Hair Dressing and Diploma in Make-up.

  • Certificate courses: Certificate courses usually have short durations, ranging from 3 to 6 months. Some popular specialisations are herbal beauty and therapy, massage therapy and beauty culture.

  • Masters courses: A postgraduate diploma in cosmetology (PGDC) takes one year to complete. To be eligible to apply for a PGDC, you will need to have completed MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery), BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) or BHMS (Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery).

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

How much does a cosmetologist make?

Cosmetology is a career field that provides lucrative job opportunities and good earnings. Your earning potential as a cosmetologist will depend on your reputation in the field and your experience. The average base salary for a cosmetologist is ₹2,86,736 per year.

Explore more articles