How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Cosmetology?

Giving a haircut.

How long does it take to get a degree in cosmetology? The answer is different depending on the program you choose, how you split up your coursework, whether you complete an internship, and many other factors.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Cosmetology?

Most cosmetology programs offer associate degrees, which typically take two years to earn. However, some institutions offer an accelerated path of study or an abbreviated curriculum that you can complete in as little as nine months. Other cosmetology programs won't award students their degrees until they complete a certain number of practice hours, sometimes as many as 1,500.

Study and Licensing Specifics

Two years may not sound like a very long time to earn a degree, but the amount of work and study involved in a cosmetology program is intense. Cosmetologists can specialize in one career area, but their programs typically encompass training in skin care, hairstyling, nail care, makeup, and other aesthetic arts. Since many graduating students land jobs in salons and spas, degree programs also offer customer service training as well as some marketing and financial instruction.

Even after a cosmetology student earns a degree, there's more work involved. Students are rarely hired for full-time, professional-level work after graduating; instead, they need to complete an internship or apprenticeship under the tutelage of more experienced cosmetologists. That process can take another year or two, so it could easily be four to five years or more from the time a prospective cosmetologist begins his studies until the time he becomes a staff member at a full-service salon.

Cosmetologists also need licensure to practice their trade. Although licensing requirements vary by state, most dictate that an employee must have an associate degree as well as a passing grade on a licensing exam.

Degree Options

Most students complete their cosmetology degrees at on-site programs, since visual study and hands-on exercise are such huge parts of the curriculum. The majority of on-site programs require two full years to complete because they equally distribute classes and training to make an effort to avoid overloading students with too much material in any one semester. However, a selection of schools, such as Globe University, offer accelerated nine-month programs that pair cosmetology study with business or administration instruction.

How long does it take to get a degree in cosmetology if you want to study online? That depends. Online cosmetology programs tend to be more flexible in terms of time requirements. Since most don't have set class sessions, students can learn at their own pace and speed up or slow down the typical two-year duration as much as they want.

Training Time

Remember that during your course of study and even after you earn your degree, you'll have to put in a certain number of hours in training. You can complete your training hours in a variety of ways. Some cosmetology schools are open to clients who pay a reduced rate in return for student services, while others encourage students to apply for paid or unpaid internships on site at local salons or beauty institutions. Regardless of how you put in your hours, they're necessary to get top cosmetology jobs, so be aware that the total time investment may be greater than you first expect.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Cosmetology?