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How Much do Cosmetologists Make?

One of the first things people want to know about a job is how much it pays. A cosmetology salary can vary quite a bit, and we’ll dive into that on this page.

In general, a career as a cosmetologist can be very rewarding. Not only does it provide the opportunity to help people feel their best, but it can also be a very creative field. Cosmetologists use their skills to create unique looks for their clients, whether it be a new hairstyle, make-up application, or manicure. In addition, cosmetologists have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including salons, spas, and even cruise ships.

So if you’re looking for a career that is both creative and financially rewarding, then a career as a cosmetologist may be right for you. Let’s take a look at what it’s like to work as a cosmetologist and learn more about the factors that dictate a cosmetologist’s salary.

How to become a cosmetologist

To become a cosmetologist, you will need to complete a training program at a cosmetology school or do an apprenticeship under the guidance of a licensed professional.

During your training, you will learn about the different aspects of cosmetology, including hair styling, makeup application, and nail care. You will also have the opportunity to practice your skills with real clients. Once you have completed your training, you will need to pass licensure exams – usually a theory exam and a practical exam –  in order to work as a cosmetologist.

In most states, cosmetologists are required to renew their licenses at least every two years, though it does vary from state to state. This usually requires filling out a form and paying the state’s renewal fee. Also, to maintain your license in some states you will also need to complete continuing education courses. Even if your state doesn’t require it, it’s often a good idea to take the occasional continuing ed course to keep your skills sharp and stay up to date on the latest health and safety regulations.

Learn more about how to become a cosmetologist.

How do cosmetologists get paid?

Pay for cosmetologists can vary based on their experience, location, and the type of establishment they work in. Many cosmetologists are paid an hourly wage plus tips, while others may receive a commission on the products they sell. Some salons also offer bonuses or other incentives for meeting certain goals. In general, cosmetologists earn a competitive wage and often have the opportunity to increase their income with experience.

Average hourly salary for a cosmetologist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists into one group when they report their data, so please keep that in mind. With this group the most recently reported average hourly wage is $17.30.

Average annual salary of a cosmetologist

The average annual salary for a cosmetologist according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $35,990. The median (seen at the 50% mark below) is lower than the statistical average, at $14.26.

Interestingly, the top-earning cosmetologists in the United States do substantially better than those further down the pay scale. Check out the percentiles in the table below to see just how well the top 10% of cosmetologists get paid.

Percentile 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Hourly Wage $ 10.03 $ 11.52 $ 14.26 $ 18.65 $ 28.40
Annual Wage $ 20,860 $ 23,960 $ 29,670 $ 38,790 $ 59,070


Average cosmetologist pay by state

StateHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Alabama$16.04 $33,370
Alaska$13.87 $28,860
Arizona$19.55 $40,660
Arkansas$14.94 $31,080
California$18.65 $38,790
Colorado$17.88 $37,190
Connecticut$16.91 $35,180
Delaware$17.62 $36,650
District of Columbia$34.87 $72,530
Florida$16.19 $33,680
Georgia$17.99 $37,420
Guam$10.18 $21,170
Hawaii$20.85 $43,370
Idaho$14.18 $29,500
Illinois$20.51 $42,660
Indiana$15.06 $31,320
Iowa$15.79 $32,850
Kansas$15.93 $33,130
Kentucky$12.40 $25,790
Louisiana$13.35 $27,760
Maine$16.27 $33,850
Maryland$18.96 $39,440
Massachusetts$21.27 $44,240
Michigan$21.19 $44,070
Minnesota$17.47 $36,340
Mississippi$13.96 $29,040
Missouri$17.51 $36,420
Montana$14.61 $30,380
Nebraska$18.22 $37,890
Nevada$12.78 $26,580
New Hampshire$16.42 $34,140
New Jersey$18.93 $39,370
New Mexico$12.63 $26,280
New York$19.39 $40,330
North Carolina$16.77 $34,880
North Dakota$17.13 $35,630
Ohio$15.26 $31,750
Oklahoma$13.28 $27,630
Oregon$15.81 $32,880
Pennsylvania$16.54 $34,400
Puerto Rico$11.23 $23,370
Rhode Island$15.71 $32,680
South Carolina$14.21 $29,570
South Dakota$16.28 $33,870
Tennessee$16.60 $34,540
Texas$14.27 $29,680
Utah$13.91 $28,920
Vermont$13.59 $28,270
Virginia$17.98 $37,400
Washington$20.96 $43,590
West Virginia$14.66 $30,500
Wisconsin$15.37 $31,970
Wyoming$13.36 $27,790

Top-paying metro areas for cosmetologists

The top 50 paying metro areas for cosmetologists are listed below.

Area NameHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Kalamazoo-Portage, MI$25.78 $53,630
Lansing-East Lansing, MI$25.71 $53,470
Barnstable Town, MA$25.30 $52,630
Muskegon, MI$23.80 $49,500
Upper Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area$22.67 $47,150
Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area$22.48 $46,750
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI$22.25 $46,290
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI$22.15 $46,070
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$21.83 $45,400
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$21.62 $44,960
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA$21.38 $44,460
Worcester, MA-CT$21.33 $44,370
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA$21.29 $44,290
New Bedford, MA$21.20 $44,090
Western Washington nonmetropolitan area$21.13 $43,950
Urban Honolulu, HI$21.03 $43,730
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH$20.90 $43,480
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI$20.79 $43,250
Olympia-Tumwater, WA$20.77 $43,210
Springfield, IL$20.67 $43,000
Boulder, CO$20.61 $42,870
Trenton, NJ$20.58 $42,800
Pittsfield, MA$20.57 $42,780
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI$20.39 $42,400
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA$20.33 $42,290
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$20.20 $42,010
Tucson, AZ$20.03 $41,660
Yakima, WA$19.90 $41,380
Kennewick-Richland, WA$19.73 $41,050
Bellingham, WA$19.73 $41,030
Longview, WA$19.68 $40,930
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA$19.67 $40,920
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ$19.51 $40,590
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL$19.36 $40,260
Prescott, AZ$19.29 $40,130
Yuma, AZ$19.22 $39,970
Kankakee, IL$19.17 $39,880
Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ$19.14 $39,820
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$19.10 $39,740
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA$19.08 $39,690
Santa Rosa, CA$19.08 $39,680
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA$19.05 $39,620
Arizona nonmetropolitan area$19.00 $39,520
Ann Arbor, MI$18.88 $39,270
Springfield, MA-CT$18.86 $39,230
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$18.85 $39,220
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY$18.84 $39,190
North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area$18.74 $38,990
Fort Collins, CO$18.64 $38,780
California-Lexington Park, MD$18.64 $38,770

How to increase your earning potential

There are a number of ways that a cosmetologist can increase their earning potential. One way is to offer additional services such as manicures and pedicures. Another way to increase earnings is to specialize in a certain area, such as hair coloring or skin care.

Cosmetologists can also increase their income by working in a salon that caters to a high-end clientele. In addition, cosmetologists can earn more money by working in a city or region with a higher cost of living.

Always be on the lookout for new trends and techniques that you can offer to your clients. Keeping up with the latest trends will show that you are an expert in your field, and it may even lead to additional opportunities such as working with fashion shows or photo shoots.

Finally, don’t be afraid to network with other professionals in the industry. Attend trade shows and events, and make sure to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. By taking these steps, you can significantly increase your earnings as a cosmetologist.

Job outlook for cosmetologists

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 11% growth for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists from 2021 through 2031. Why?

  1. Increased demand for general hair care services across the country
  2. Growing population
  3. Projected growth for more advanced hair care specialties like hair coloring and straightening

With an increased emphasis on personal appearance services, cosmetologists are positioned well for job stability in the coming years.

More questions?

There’s more to being a cosmetologist than the pay. If you have more questions about this career path, check out our cosmetologist FAQ page to learn more.