What should I know about going to beauty school/being a hair dresser?
September 14, 2010 8:44 AM   Subscribe

What should I know about going to beauty school/being a hair dresser?

I am looking to change career paths and beauty school is appealing to me. What should I know about beauty schools and being a hair dresser in general. I have a family friend who I intend on talking to about this- but I'd like information from a larger group of people.
posted by ridiculous to Education (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's very hard on your body. I gave up after a week when I realised my arthritic self couldn't handle eight hours of standing and all the work with the shears.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:59 AM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: elsietheeel- I have waitressed in the past, would the physical toll be similar in your opinion?
posted by ridiculous at 9:01 AM on September 14, 2010

Accoding to my hairdresser (who has had skin problems on his hands) you can eventually develop respiratory illnesses due to the fumes. He cannot undertake hobbies or activities with his wife and kids that put his hands and arms at risk (skiing, etc.).
posted by jgirl at 10:07 AM on September 14, 2010

One con: I am in school to be an audiologist, and do hours at a sliding scale clinic. I have seen a surprising number of hair dressers with mild to moderate hearing loss. It's because of the hair driers, which is something that hadn't really occured to me.

On the other hand! I have a close friend in the cosmetology field. She started out as a jack-of-all-trades, and has mentioned how surprisingly physically taxing she found the work, especially holding the clippers all day. She has since moved almost exclusively to coloring hair, which she finds easier, more fun, and more challenging.

In general, she loves the work. She makes good money, and it lets her have a flexible schedule. She's a smart, creative person, and the field lets her use these skills. She comes from this upper middle-class family, and I think when she originally decided to go to cosmetology school, there was a lot of snobbery from her family about her going into this field, but they've since come around. They see how happy it makes her.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:39 AM on September 14, 2010

Disclaimer: I am not in the business, but I have many close friends who recently went through school and work in the industry.

Cosmetology school: It's not cheap, and you will make little money back while going (tips). Expect tuition for a cosmetology program to be between $8-20K. Most programs are 40 hours/week and last around a year.

The work: You will likely have hours that are not "optimal" in most people's eyes to start with. Expect working weekends, nights, etc. Pay out of school is usually hourly and not too high. In the Portland bubble it is around $10-12/hour for the first year out of school. Many salons will have continuing education for when you are done with cosmetology school. After the first year or so most people go on commission or work towards their own salon. Commission can be anywhere from 30-60% of the cost of your services. Expect 30-40% initially for commission. Schedules also loosen up greatly once you are on commission.

Pain and sufferring: Seconding the standing and hearing issues. Expect your arms and shoulders to be sore as well, especially if you are of a shorter stature. Some of it can be mitigated if you get high quality pads to stand on and think ergonomically. The respiratory issues depend greatly on what products and services you are doing. I've had friends who nearly passed out doing nails from the fumes. Most of the waxes, sprays, etc. have had many of the nasties removed.

All of my friends who went through it love the work and do well for themselves. It's definitely one of those careers you need to have passion for.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:54 AM on September 14, 2010

You'll be at an advantage to get a job if you have a "following." You should recruit your friends / family / neighbors to be your go-to person for hair so that you have a following when applying to jobs (but not too hard - the hairdresser / loyal client relationship is very special!)
posted by WeekendJen at 11:54 AM on September 14, 2010

these answers california (and me) specific. ymmv:

1. i was able to attend through a community college vocational program, so actually my tuition was rather cheap, i think $750 for the whole 10 months. since school was 45hrs/wk, and, after 6 weeks of classroom only, 'school' consisted of working on the floor full-time, i did not work part-time while i attended which accounted for most of expenses.

2. the curriculum in cali is focussed on having you pass the board exam. it does not seem to have been updated for the last 50 years. you may spend lots of time perfecting crazy, obscure techniques like finger-waves (very popular in 1926), with possibly very little practical instruction on stuff you will need to actually start working, like blow-drying hair or doing a decent men's clipper cut. expect to fill in the blanks yourself after you are licensed, or seek out extra-curricular education that will help you feel comfortable professionally.

3. if you are older, which it sounds like you may be, be prepared to spend the better part of the next year in a room full of 19-year-olds.

4. investigate the working conditions in the area you plan to work in. in my area, there are next-to-no wage shops; everyone 'rents' chairs (meaning you are self-employed, & thus liable for your own tax and city licensing [& now, health insurance!]) & with the amount of established stylists in the area it is hard for a newbie to get a toe-hold on a decent living.

5. the subjective/aesthetic aspect of the craft is difficult. people are very weird about their hair. they will come in with next-to-no verbalization on their desires (or a misleading description of what they want, due to horribly innaccurate beauty journalism) & will think you did not do a good job if you were not able to read their mind. you don't get a second chance. it takes a sturdy personality that does not take a cranky, petulant customer personally, & lots of tact and exploratory questioning to get a good result.

that said, you have alot of control over your day and your results, and the succesful clients who glow because they have a new 'do' that uplifts them is very, very rewarding!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2010

3. if you are older, which it sounds like you may be, be prepared to spend the better part of the next year in a room full of 19-year-olds.

This just bore repeating because it's something I remember well. I went when I was 29 and I was definitely the oldest person in the room by 10 years. And it felt really weird.

And I've never waitressed, so I couldn't compare. Sorry!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:49 AM on September 15, 2010

« Older What in the heck was that mechanical calculator?   |   Where to buy a 2nd hand PS3 from for £100-£200? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.