06 February 2013

WBBE: What Is Cosmetology School Really Like?

 In the latest installment of my series based on the misfit nature of me and my profession, I thought I'd let my readers know what it's really like inside the doors of a beauty school. 

Should you go to cosmetology school? My short answer is no, but that's just me. I'll tell you a few of the good things and the bad things about cosmetology school so that you can make your own decision, or rejoice in the fact that your educational pathway didn't lead you through the doors of cos school.

 Bleaching my little brother's hair was definitely a highlight.

The Good:
- The Clients. If you've read this post, you already know that I get a kick out of listening  to the crazy thing my clients sometimes say. I've also had clients who speak Mandarin or Spanish, and I've gotten an opportunity to practice conversation with them.
- Tips. Not all schools allow students to accept tips, but mine does, and those can put a serious dent in the tuition. This is the first time I've worked in a profession where you get tipped--it's pretty fun!
- Education. There is a lot more that goes into the hair business than I would have thought, and I've learned quite a bit about haircuts, color, and perms in just a few months. The way cosmetology school is set up, you learn largely through the real life experience of practicing on real people who are paying for the service. That's quite a bit of pressure, but whenever a client asks you to do something you don't know how to do yet, your instructor will show you what you need to do in that real life situation. For this type of skill set, that's much better than book learning.

The Bad:
- Legalism. Rules, rules, rules. The letter of the law but not the spirit. State law requires that each student clock a certain number of hours in school--but how those hours are spent are up to each individual student on the days when we don't have many clients. At my school, we're only allowed to wear black and white--no black and white patterned or striped shirts allowed, they must be solid. And no white socks either--socks must either be black or nude. No doing hair for fellow students on Fridays or Saturdays--even if no clients come in on Fridays and Saturdays. Worst rule of all: If you miss a day, you are charged $5 for every hour that you miss above and beyond your 70 hours of allowed personal time--and it doesn't matter what the reason is. You could be hungover or going to your grandma's funeral, both situations are charged just the same.
- Things that are against the law. This may just be me, but I'm uncomfortable sitting among a group of minors making plans to get together and go out drinking in the evening after school. I don't enjoy it when the parking lot, and occasionally the school building itself, reek of marijuana. I know smoking cigarettes isn't against the law once you're 18--but I also don't appreciate being surrounded by the smell of stale cigarette smoke all day. I'm surprised clients don't complain about it.
- Working for free. When you think about it, that's really what cosmetology school is. Actually, it's paying to go to work. I pay for the privilege of working on clients 8 hours a day. Because the only way you can really learn how to do hair is by doing it, I understand why the system is set up that way, but it's especially annoying when we're also told to clean the bathrooms. I clean my bathroom at home, and if my job required cleaning bathrooms, I wouldn't mind that, but it feels odd when you're paying to be in school and during your hours there are told to clean the bathrooms. Most recently, students have been told to shovel the snow in front of the school. I would consider that more of an employee's job than the job of someone who is paying to go to hair school. However, for the most part, students are treated like unpaid employees of the school.
- Favoritism. Remember what I said about rules? Well, if you're a favorite of one of the top people in the school, you can wear whatever color socks you want, and they won't scold you for wearing a pink cami underneath your shirt.  They might even sign your time card so that you don't get docked 15 minutes if you clock in a minute or two late. My goal is to never be one of the favorites. I'm not sure that's necessarily a good goal, but oh well.


  1. I would never want to go to hair school, its just not something I'm interested in. Also, every time I go to get my hair cut, my hairdresser always recommends all these products to me. I don't put product in my hair, and I don't think its necessary. Are you required to promote products when cutting hair? I'm sure its fine for some, but I just don't want to put chemicals in my hair.

    Also, I hate how hair-dressing salons smell. I even hate going to get my hair cut, but I do go--about once or twice a year. Sometimes not at all. I would let you cut my hair, if you lived close to me :) I guess I'm picky.

  2. I'm actually really surprised that you're required to clean bathrooms and shovel snow! That seems really strange, like people who actually WORK for the school (janitors? hello!) should be doing those things. Sounds like once you're DONE you'll be (hopefully) glad you did it, but in the meantime it's kind of a crappy deal!

  3. Haha, very enlightening! But what I love is that when you are done, you can wear WHATEVER you want, AND be a huge blessing to so many people:) Have you ever heard of the Women of the Harvest conferences? They are retreats from women missionaries that need some extra loving and pampering. Anyway, they take volunteers like hair stylists, etc. to help bless these women. My close friend volunteered because she is a professional masseuse. Anyway, she said the conference was an amazing way to pray over these women and bless them! that is certainly should go on your GOOD list:) hehe

  4. working for free - not fun! that is how I felt student teaching! I was paying a full semester of tuition to do someone else's job! :)

  5. I have definitely heard those complaints from friends that go to cosmetology school! I love working for tips too :) I've just been doing it for years.

  6. Oh, how I wish you could be my hair person!! I just know you wouldn't look at me like I'm nuts when I ask for red highlights. Or assume I don't know what I'm talking about and make them so faint I can't see them. Sigh. Well, I hope you love what you do when you're done! That does sound a little awkward, school-wise...

  7. Wow I had no idea! I can't believe they charge you for the days you miss. That's kind of ridiculous considering you're already paying tuition.

  8. I totally felt like I was working for free doing my student teaching but there was no way I was cleaning a bathroom or shoveling snow.

  9. I bet you hear some fabulous stories. It seems like when I sit down to get my hair done I have diarrhea of the mouth. Love the blue in your hair.


  10. That's crazy that you're charged for missed days! My cosmetology school experience was different because I went to trade school during high school. The good thing is it didn't cost me any thing, the bad was that it was very rare to get a client outside of the school so we did a lot of practical work on one another or our own time.

  11. Cleaning bathrooms and shoveling snow?!?! That is NOT ok. It sounds shady!! And you know I already have a serious beef that they charge you for missing a day. I'm sure you're so excited to be done. I would be terrified to have to learn my skills WHILE cutting someone's hair. It probably wouldn't end well.

  12. This is a pretty fair assessment of the cosmetology school experience. It definitely needs to be something you're passionate about and want to do for the rest of your life. I'd say the part about favoritism and unlawfulness would totally depend on the class that happened to sign up at the same time as you, but young people in any line of work (not just cosmetology) tend to be... immature? I have never, ever heard of this cleaning bathrooms and shoveling snow thing - that's crazy!! (And I'm seriously questioning whether it's against the law.)

  13. My sister has always wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology. She's currently researching cosmetology schools in Wichita KS. I'll ask her to take a look at this blog post.

  14. My wife went to one of the beauty schools in Ontario when she was young. She used the job to work her way through college.

  15. I am considering going to beauty school to become an esthetician... anyone have any insight on this part of beauty school?

    1. The beauty school I went to had an esthetician program. That program is a significantly shorter time and money commitment than taking the full cosmetology program. Cosmetologists also learn a lot of the same information about skincare and makeup application, and cosmetologists are licensed to do many of the same procedures that estheticians do, but estheticians get a more in-depth education in skincare and makeup, waxing, and other skin-related services than cosmetologists do, because they are specializing in that one area of beauty services.