How much does a cosmetologist make?

Looking and feeling beautiful is important to anyone who cares about their body and outward appearance. Today, that happens to be almost everyone, which is why people around the globe are willing to pay top dollar for beauty services.

The popularity of the beauty industry is on display almost everywhere in the United States. Hair and nail salons, spas and other health and beauty establishments are seemingly everywhere with no signs of slowing down. And of course, film, television and other forms of media are constantly impressing on us their vision of what beauty and attractiveness should look like.

If entering the health and beauty profession has been on your mind, you’ve probably wondered, “How much does a cosmetologist make?” These professionals work in all kinds of establishments, from high-dollar studios in hip areas in the city to mom-and-pop owned barbershops in small towns. What exactly can you expect to earn in this field where so many different options are available to consumers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for workers in the cosmotology field – such as a hair stylist, cosmotologist or beautician – is about $26,000. But there is a broad gap here between the $16,000 some cosmetologists earn on the lower end and the nearly $42,000 the top end earns.

Four factors that influence how much you make as a cosmetologist

So, if you pursue this career path, what can you do to ensure you make a high-paying salary? Here are five factors that can influence how much you make as a cosmetologist:


  • Gaining experience – Obviously the more experience you gain in the cosmetology field, the more money you can expect to be paid. From the outset, you won’t have the background to demand a higher salary. But over time as you hone your skills and expand your client base, you’ll become more sought after because you’ll be able to offer better services to more people.
  • Going into business for yourself – Many cosmetologists start up their own businesses once they’ve graduate cosmetology school and established their own client base. Opening your own shop will involve some expense, including rent if you choose to have a storefront operation or renovation costs if you set up shop at home. But for the most part, you’ll be able to set your own salary, earning back monetarily what you put into your job in terms of time and effort.
  • Choosing your own cosmetology path – The salary range for cosmetologists can be directly impacted by how you use your degree. For example, you could choose to enter the health care, personal care, major motion pictures or fashion industries, all of which will affect what you can expect to be paid. While the jobs are limited, your clients in the motion picture or fashion industry would pay more for services that customers in other fields.
  • Where you work – The majority of cosmetologists pursue jobs in the areas in or near where they live, but others realize higher salaries can be made in other locations. For example, the top three locations where cosmetologists earn the highest salaries are the District of Columbia, Hawaii and Washington. You could also choose to find work on a cruise ship or resort sites where you can charge more for services.

A beautiful career

Once you graduate from beauty school, how much you earn will eventually be up to how hard you are willing to work. Your education background will afford you the flexibility to essentially be your own boss. Or you could be hired on a regular employee at a spa or salon where you work independently but earn a salary that is based on the clientele you acquire.