Hair Stylist

Job Description

Young man with buckled hair and hairdresser
••• Matthias Tunger / Digital Vision / Getty Images

A hair stylist, who is sometimes called a hairdresser or beautician, shampoos, cuts, colors, bleaches, and styles hair. He or she may also use chemicals to straighten or curl hair and apply extensions to lengthen hair. 

Before working on a client, a hair stylist analyzes her hair, recommends a style or treatment, and may even provide instructions and sell products that will let the customer get the same look at home.


Quick Facts About Hair Stylists

  • Hair stylists earn a median annual salary of $24,850 and median hourly wages were $11.95 (2017).
  • 617,300 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • They typically have jobs in free-standing hair salons, but some are employed in spas and hotels.
  • Employment is expected to increase by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is an excellent job outlook, with growth that is faster than the average for all occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies it as a "Bright Outlook" occupation because it is expected to have 80,100 job openings.

A Day in the Life of a Hair Stylist

These are hair stylists' typical job duties, according to job announcements on

  • "Provide cut & blow-dry, keratin smoothing, up style, and any other services you are trained for"
  • "Braid and weave hair"
  • "Bleach, dye, or tint hair, using applicator or brush"
  • "Demonstrate and sell hair care products and cosmetics"
  • "Proactively develop new customers"
  • "Consistently increase guest retention by building relationships and pre-booking"

How to Get Started in This Career

  • To become a hair stylist, attend a state-approved barber or cosmetology program. Programs are usually at least nine months long, and may result in earning an associate degree upon completion.
  • A high school or equivalency diploma may be needed for admission to a program.
  • license from the state in which you want to work is also required. In addition to providing proof of training, you may also have to take a practical exam to demonstrate your skills.
  • See the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop to learn about the licensing requirements in the state in which you want to work.

What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed as a Hair Stylist?

  • Active Listening: It is essential to be able to understand your clients' wants, needs, and concerns.
  • Customer Service: Your customers should be satisfied when they walk out the door. That will be due not only on the service you provide but on how they feel you treated them.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Providing excellent customer service requires the ability to listen to your clients and understand their body language.
  • Critical Thinking: Your clients will want help making decisions about their hair styles. You will need strong critical thinking skills that allow you to weigh alternative solutions in order to choose the one that will work out best.
  • Time Management: Managing your time well is essential since your clients don't want to be kept waiting.

    The Downside of Working As a Hair Stylist

    • Expect to spend a lot of time on your feet.
    • The chemicals and dyes may damage your skin and clothing.
    • Since many clients work during the day, hair salons are open evenings and weekends.
    • Many jobs are only part-time.
    • Some salons pay a commission rather than a straight salary. You won't earn enough money if you aren't busy.
    • In some salons, stylists must pay rent to the salon owner.
    • Many salons require having a substantial following.

    Common Misconceptions

    • You won't have to do anything except cut, style, and color hair all day: In addition to putting your skills to use, there are other tasks that will require your attention. They include cleaning your work area and tools, taking and confirming appointments, keeping records of services provided to clients, processing payments, and ordering supplies.
    • Every client will love you and your work: There will be times your customers won't be pleased with they way their turned out. You may have to redo a style or fix a client's color.
    • You can show off your beautiful clothes: Dyes and various chemicals can damage your clothes. It will be necessary to protect them by wearing a smock.
    • Once you graduate from cosmetology school, you won't have to enter a classroom again: Some states require continuing education for license renewal. Even if yours doesn't, you will want to attend workshops and trade shows to keep up with hair styling trends.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements:

    • "Strong professional presentation, technical ability, and relationship building"
    • "Excellent customer service skills and strong work ethic"
    • "Commitment to providing outstanding client service"
    • "Willingness to grow and continue education to maintain knowledge of the current trends"
    • "Flexibility regarding work hours; ability to work nights, weekends, and some holidays"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    When an occupation is a good fit for your interestspersonality typework-related values, and aptitude, it is more likely to be satisfying. Do a self-assessment to learn about your traits and consider becoming a hairstylist if you have the following ones:

      Related Occupations

       DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2017)Required Education/Training
      EstheticianTreats people's skin to enhance its appearance$30,080State-approved esthetician program
      Funeral DirectorIn addition to making funeral arrangements, also prepares bodies for burial$51,850Associate degree in mortuary science
      Manicurist and PedicuristGrooms fingernails and toenails; applies polish and nail extensions$23,230State-approved nail technician or cosmetology program; state license
      Makeup Artist (Theatrical and Performance)Uses makeup to alter actors' appearances$59,300School of cosmetology

      Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited January 21, 2018).