Hair Career: How to Become A Cosmetologist

Do you have an idea of what kind of salon you want to work at? Do you know the path that will guide you there? 

The process of becoming a cosmetologist begins with finding the right school. And while students from all schools have to pass the same state board exam to become licensed, style and technique are shaped by the culture within each institute, which is exemplified by its unique network of current students, alumni and instructors. 

How do you find the school that is right for you?  

Ask yourself where you want to work in five years and visualize yourself at that salon. Then, stalk the Instagram profiles of the businesses you like, and find out which schools their barbers or cosmetologists graduated from. (Don’t be afraid to send a DM if you don’t see it in their bios!) Let your hair career goals guide your decision.

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Once enrolled, keep your future vision and goals in mind. In addition to maintaining good attendance and grades, you must actively prepare for life after licensure while in school. Spend some time researching salons to understand what qualities they are looking for in employees and aim to land a job before graduation. 

The Institute of Beauty and Wellness regularly holds career fairs and other events to connect salons, spas and barbershops to students. Our career fairs are open to all students and alumni from both our Milwaukee and Madison campuses and are a great way to get your foot in the door of your dream salon. Students should treat career fairs like job interviews; research who will be there and be prepared to show your future employers why you should be hired. 

Career fairs are also a great place to learn and ask questions about what the job is like. Asking questions not only allows you to learn about the business, but it also shows the recruiters that you are curious. Employers often seek out students who aren’t afraid to ask questions and have a willingness to keep learning and growing. 

“We look for somebody who wants to work and actually learn, and can take constructive criticism without getting offended,” Jose Lazo of Showtime Barbershop said at The Institute of Beauty and Wellness January career fair. 

The ability to continually learn and grow was a common theme among recruiters. 

The Institute of Beauty and Wellness also provides students with externship opportunities with licensed salons or barbershops where they can receive real-life practical training with well-known professionals. This experience complements the instruction received in school and on the clinic floor, giving students the confidence to apply for jobs after graduation. 


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