How Long is Cosmetology School?

As well as being able to work in an industry that’s fast-paced and demanding yet incredibly creative and rewarding, another big advantage of cosmetology school is how quickly you can get started in your career in comparison to other career paths.

Unlike traditional colleges where you’ll usually have to study for four years to earn your bachelor’s degree, you might be able to complete your cosmetology training in as little as eight months or as long as two years.

There are several factors affecting how long it will take – however, on average, most students will finish a full cosmetology program in 12 to 14 months.

What Factors Play a Role in How Long It Takes to Complete a Cosmetology Program?

How Long Will it Take To Complete Cosmetology School

State Licensing Requirements

Different states in the US have different licensing requirements for cosmetologists, meaning you’ll need to complete a certain number of hours of school if you want to practice in a particular state. This is one of the main factors that influence the length of cosmetology school.

The number of required hours can range considerably from state to state.

For example, New York and Florida ask for 1,000 hours and 1,200 hours respectively. This means you’ll need to complete 1,000 hours of cosmetology school if you want to practice in New York and 1,200 hours if you want to practice in Florida.

Colorado, Idaho and Iowa ask for some of the highest number of hours – 1,800, 2,000 and 2,100 hours respectively. Again, this means if you want to work as a licensed cosmetologist in any of these states, you’ll need to ensure you’ve completed at least those amount of hours in cosmetology programs.

The average across all states is 1,500 hours. You can check out the different licensing requirements for each state on the American Association of Cosmetology Schools’ (AACS) website.

Which Programs You Choose to Study

Cosmetology schools offer a variety of different programs. These include:

  • Barbering.
  • Esthetics and skin care.
  • Hair styling and coloring.
  • Makeup artistry.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Nail technician.

Each program can take a different length of time to complete. For example, a barbering program can take 1,500 hours to complete while an esthetician course can take between 600 and 1,000 hours. However, this can vary depending on the number of hours required on a state to state level.

So: specialized courses typically don’t take as long to complete as a full cosmetology program. Full cosmetology programs cover a range of different areas, which is why they usually take longer.

Whether You Choose to Study Full-Time or Part-Time

If you’re attending cosmetology school full-time, you’ll usually have to go to school six to eight hours a day – similar to working a full-time job. Generally, 750 hours of training can last around six months so 1,500 hours can last a year.

However, you might need more flexible hours – especially if you’re already working a day job or you have other commitments.

In these cases, part-time study at cosmetology school is a great alternative. Specialized programs in specific areas, such as nail tech and salon management, are usually shorter. For this reason, they’re usually the best option for those seeking part-time hours. 

However, if you choose to study a cosmetology course part-time, it can take you longer to get your license because of the hours being spread out. It’s difficult to say exactly how long a part-time cosmetology program might take you as it depends how many hours and days you’re at school per week.

Can I Complete a Cosmetology Apprenticeship Rather Than Go to Cosmetology School?

Can You Complete an Apprenticeship Instead of Going To Cosmetology School

It depends on the state. Not all states allow cosmetology students to complete apprenticeships in the place of a full cosmetology program.

As of writing, the following states allow apprenticeships in cosmetology:

  • Alabama.
  • Alaska.
  • California.
  • Delaware.
  • Colombia.
  • Georgia.
  • Hawaii.
  • Idaho.
  • Kentucky.
  • Maine.
  • Maryland.
  • Michigan.
  • Missouri.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Oklahoma.
  • Pennsylvania.
  • Utah.
  • Vermont.
  • Virginia.
  • Washington.
  • Wisconsin.

If your desired state isn’t on that list, then unfortunately, you won’t be able to complete an apprenticeship in cosmetology. If you want to be a cosmetologist, you’ll have to go to school and complete the required number of hours.

More states may be added to this list at any time, so be sure to check with your state board of cosmetology or a similar regulatory body.

Is a Cosmetology Apprenticeship Better Than Going to Cosmetology School?

It really just depends on what sort of experience you’re after! There are several differences to know:

  • How long it takes to become licensed.
  • How much you want to learn.
  • The amount of practical training.

How Long it Takes to Become Licensed

As we’ve discussed earlier in this blog, the average length of cosmetology school is 1,500 hours – at least. If you’re at school, you’ll be attending full time so it will take you at least a year to become licensed.

For apprenticeships, the hours are usually double. So, if you’d study for 1,500 hours at cosmetology school, you’d need to undertake an apprenticeship for 3,000 hours.

Why is this the requirement? The thinking here is that at school, you’ll get to focus on learning full time – which means all of the time. With apprenticeships, your learning (and any progress you make towards it) will depend on the number of customers who come to the salon you’re working at and what they ask for.

Another point is that apprentices might not attend to all of the customers. In fact, there’s a high chance that most customers won’t be willing to be attended to by an apprentice because they’d rather have someone more experienced. So, many apprentices find themselves running more errands than training.

At cosmetology school, this isn’t usually the case because you’ll be learning all the time, whether it’s with real customers or mannequins. You’d still get the chance to practice, even as a student.

How Much You Want to Learn

At cosmetology school, there’s specific curriculum that your instructors and teachers will follow. This curriculum ensures that you get the right kind and amount of guidance needed to become a qualified cosmetologist.

That’s why there are a particular number of hours attached to specific courses, such as hair styling, esthetics, nail tech and so on.

Apprenticeships, however, are much more practical and there’s no formal curriculum in place. There are no timetables, detailing precisely what skill you might learn on what day and in what setting.

What you learn is whatever is available during that day in the salon. It’s basically whatever requests customers might have.

This means you might reach the end of your apprenticeship without properly learning all you could learn, purely because there were no or few clients asking for that service. As a result, your skill sets after you become licensed might be more limited compared to that of a cosmetologist who went to school.

The Amount of Practical Training

One of the biggest differences between a cosmetology apprenticeship and going to school is the learning experience.

If you’d like a mixture of learning theory in a classroom and practical experience, cosmetology school is a good option. But if you’re more of a ‘hands-on’ kind of learner and want to pick up practical skills while on the job, an apprenticeship may be a better idea.

After all, apprenticeships are extremely practical in nature. You’ll likely learn a lot from trial and error which can be an advantage over cosmetology school students as they might not have been through as many ‘real-life’ experiences as you.

However, it’s not always about guessing and hoping for the best outcome. You’ll still need to know the theory behind cosmetology, such as how the products you’ll be using work. Only attending cosmetology school full time can properly teach you that. 

Ultimately, attending cosmetology school is more advantageous than an apprenticeship in most scenarios.

When it comes to future employers, they usually find it more attractive if an applicant has gone to cosmetology school. This means that they are trained with the standard curriculum and so, are more likely to know everything that they need to know for the industry.

You might receive more practical experience as an apprentice but it’s still important to know the proper theory behind it.

Cosmetology School: It’s Totally Worth Attending – Even if It Might Take a While to Complete

Cosmetology School Duration

To sum up, cosmetology school is an investment – particularly in terms of time. It can take an average of 1,500 hours to complete the standard curriculum and if you’re attending full-time, this usually takes at least a year.

How long the program actually takes depends on the specific school and the state requirements. Some states require fewer hours than others – for example, New York requires a minimum of 1,000 hours (just a little under a year) while Iowa, at the opposite end of the spectrum, asks for 2,100 hours (over a year).

Now that you know how long cosmetology school takes to complete, what’s holding you back? Go ahead and apply for school – it’s worth it to become licensed, trust us.