How to Become a

Hair Stylist

The complete career guide to be a Hair Stylist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $28,770
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 9.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Hair stylists—also known as hairdressers—wash hair, cut hair into requested styles, and apply hair coloring, straightening treatments, and permanents. They cut hair for both men and women, and they teach customers how to care for their hair at home using recommended products sold in the salon.

Recommended Schools

What is a Hair Stylist?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in hair stylist roles:

  • Discuss hairstyles with clients and cut hair into desired styles
  • Apply hair coloring, highlighting, straightening treatments, and permanents
  • Make clients feel comfortable by engaging in small talk, encouraging both tips and repeat visits
  • Schedule appointments, recruit new clients, and take payments for services
  • Wash, dry, and style hair after cuts or for special occasions

A Day in the Life

Hair stylists are cosmetologists who specialize in cutting, altering, and styling hair. They work in salons where they wash, cut, and style hair for clients, often performing these services alongside more time-consuming treatments like hair coloring, highlighting, straightening, and permanents. Hair stylists may work in one of three situations: they may be employed full-time by a salon owner, they may rent a booth in a salon, or they may own their own salon. Those who rent booths or own their own shops must recruit new clientele, while those who work for established shops may have more walk-in clients.

When clients arrive for appointments, hair stylists consult with clients as to what type of hairstyle they’re looking for. This may be as simple as a trim, or it may require flipping through pages of books or images on the internet to find the client’s preferred cut. Then, the hair stylist washes and cuts the client’s hair to match the selected style. The hair stylist may also perform coloring, straightening, or permanent treatments, and they usually dry and style clients’ hair after all alterations are completed.

Hair stylists may also be in charge of scheduling client appointments and taking payments for services. One important role of the hairdresser is to make the client feel comfortable; the more comfortable the client feels, the more likely the hair stylist will be to earn a tip, and the more likely the client will be to return. Talented, charismatic hair stylists have the potential to earn above-average hourly wages from service fees and tips, and satisfied clients are likely to return to the same stylist for years in the future.

Typical Work Schedule

Hair stylists generally work hours during first and second shifts, and they commonly work on weekends when people are off work. Hairdressers who own their own shops are able to set their own schedules and work whenever they want. Both part-time and full-time schedules are common in this profession.

Projected Job Growth

In recent years, interest in hair coloring, highlighting, and straightening has increased in popularity, which is expected to increase demand for hair stylists in the coming decade.

Typical Employers

Most hair stylists work for salons and hair-cutting businesses. Many are also self-employed and operate their own hair salons, or rent booth space in a salon or hair-cutting business owned by someone else.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a Hair Stylist

All states require hair stylists to be licensed to work in their field. To become a licensed hair stylist, you must attend cosmetology school after graduating from high school. Cosmetology schools are vocational institutions that teach students how to cut, color, and style hair, and how to identify appropriate hair styles for different facial structures. After graduating from cosmetology school, you’ll be able to become a licensed hair stylist and begin working as a hairdresser in your state of residence.

Many hair stylists begin their careers working as an employee of a chain hair-cutting establishment, such as Sport Clips, Supercuts, or Great Clips. These stores tend to be more willing to hire inexperienced hairdressers, and while you’re there, you can begin building a portfolio of your work as well as a client base. This will be important as you move into self-employment, renting a booth at a more expensive salon or opening your own salon or hair cutting business.

As a self-employed hair stylist, you’ll do a lot of work to attract and retain clientele, which requires savvy marketing and business skills. For this reason, many hair stylists find it beneficial to take coursework in business and marketing—either at the college-level or through adult education courses offered by a local organization. This coursework teaches aspiring self-employed hairdressers how to market their services, manage their business finances, and maintain business paperwork for tax and legal purposes.

Hair Stylist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Hair Stylist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Hair Stylist's can make an average annual salary of $28,770, or $14 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $19,150 or $9 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #720 Nationally for All Careers

Highest Education Among Hair Stylists

  • 0.3%   Doctorate
  • 0.6%   Masters
  • 5.2%   Bachelors
  • 10.1%   Associates
  • 31.5%   College
  • 45.5%   High School
  • 6.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Hair Stylist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 58,400 jobs for a total of 655,600 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 9.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #207 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Hair Stylists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Personal care services 314,700 33,500 34%
Self-employed workers 253,600 25,600 26%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 1,100 100 0%

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