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April 25, 2022

4 Steps on How to Become a Hairstylist in California

Let’s say you’re pretty good at doing hair. You whip that mop into shape and your over-the-sink, store-bought coloring jobs look about, or as good as going to the salon. You’re probably the first one your friends call when they’re looking to try a brand new look or hairstyle.  

Or, maybe you’ve got almost no experience at all, but still like the idea of becoming a stylist.  Cosmetology is definitely a growing career, has a lot of flexibility, and rewards passion and creativity. Either way, if you’re exploring how to become a hairstylist in California, you came to the right place.


Some people dream. Some people go get it.


The first step is to make sure you are a high school graduate, or have the equivalent education of a high school grad! Cosmetology schools in California require proof of high school completion through a diploma, transcript, GED or other options. Any accredited cosmetology program, especially those who accept state & federal financial aid, require you to have your diploma or GED. We highly recommend referring to the school’s admission requirements, to best prepare for your application process. 


Option 1: Enroll In A Cosmetology Program

Yeah, we know – we’re a cosmetology school and that probably sounds like we’re just plugging our program. While we’d love you to come to check us out, the bottom line is  the State of California requires a minimum of 1000-hours of education credits in order to take the State Board of Cosmetology Licensing Exam.

Outside of the mandated hours, there’s simply a LOT to learn. Obviously, a lot of that is the actual cutting and coloring techniques, but a huge piece of the curriculum includes everything else you need to know to have a long, successful career in the industry. Our cosmetology program can teach you how to manage clients, self-market, build a portfolio, and so much more. Of course, it’s also making sure you have a firm grasp of the health/safety requirements and other processes you’ll need to know, in order to sit for the exam. It’s not a simple exam that you can just show up for and pass. 

Option 2: Take An Apprenticeship As An Alternative To A Cosmetology Program

For someone who’s never been a licensed stylist before, the only alternative to an approved cosmetology program in California would be an official apprenticeship. In a nutshell, an apprenticeship requires 3200 hours of training over a 2-year period, plus an additional 220 hours of classroom time. And of course, you also need to find someone qualified to have you apprentice under them, and you still need to pass that licensing exam.


Yep – that licensing exam we’ve mentioned earlier. It’s a written exam that will test your knowledge of what you’ve learned while attending beauty school. This is an opportunity to demonstrate what you know about cosmetology and that you have a firm grasp of the health & safety measures that must be followed. If you’re exploring your school options, know that every school is required to list their students’ performance on this test on their website (look for BPPE Report). This might help give you an idea if a school is a good fit for you and if you might feel prepared after attending their school to sit for the exam. 

Part of the reason we’ve seen such great success with our own students is that they participate in mockups of the state licensing exam once a month. We create stations meant to very closely mimic the actual testing site and then work with our students on the areas they need help with. By the time our students take the actual exam, they’ve effectively taken it 10+ times before and have had a mentor personally help them through any areas they may have struggled with. It’s a really good recipe that works.


Now you’ve got your license in hand, it’s time to get out there and put it to use. There are so many different options to explore in the beauty and salon industry, and it’s up to you to decide which path to take! Here are a few career options for you to look into as a licensed cosmetologist in California:

  • Salon owner
  • Hair stylist
  • Hair colorist
  • Nail technician
  • And more!

For other graduates, taking a stylist assistant role at a higher-end salon might be the right path. In a stylist assistant role, you’ll be working under someone who’s established a client base that’s larger than they can handle on their own. While that can typically pay less in the short term, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door at a higher-end salon and continue to learn the nuances of the beauty industry from someone who’s clearly good at what they do. Typically, you’d be in this type of role for a year or two before taking your own chair – often with a selection of clients you’ve built during your time as an assistant.


If you’re interested in a career as a hairstylist in California, now is the time to start your journey. From our convenient class schedules to *financial aid assistance, we’ll do everything we can to help you! 

If you’d like to learn more, call our admissions team. Currently in the San Francisco East Bay area? Schedule a tour with us! We’ll show you around our Danville, California school and introduce you to some of our incredible educators and students. We’ll show off some of the *amazing work our East Bay students are putting out and we’ll answer ANY questions you might have about what it’s going to take to start your beauty school journey in California. 

*Financial Aid is available to those who qualify.

*All services provided by students under the supervision of licensed professionals.


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