Cosmetology students must complete a required number of training hours.

Students graduate from cosmetology school with in-depth knowledge of the beauty industry. Most aspects of the training in beauty schools are hands-on, though students do start with book work. One key aspect of the training is preparation to pass the State Board Exam for cosmetology, which includes both a written and practical exam.

Pre-Requisites and Hours

Both pre-requisites and licensing requirements vary by state. Most states require potential students to hold a high school diploma or GED; some states, like Illinois, require instead extra classes for non-graduates. Most schools also call for students to be at least 16 years old. The state's licensing board determines how many beauty training hours students must attend. A full cosmetology curriculum requires between 1,500 to 2,100 training hours, though New York state only requires 1,000. Students can choose to attend a nail technology program, which runs 300 to 600 training hours.


Cosmetology students start out with a basic kit that generally includes haircutting and styling tools, books and practice mannequins. Instruction starts out in the classroom. Students learn state regulations and basic skills such as holding shears, color formulation and identifying common problems such as lice infestation and scalp issues. Mannequins, fellow students and genial family and friends sit as students' first "clients." Instructors work closely with students at this stage, supervising their every move. Later, as they acquire more skills, students learn the finer aspects of cosmetology such as business tactics and practical chemistry and geometry, as required by the State Board.

Skin, Hair and Nail Care

Cosmetology does not revolve exclusively around hair. Though hair cutting, coloring and styling take up a large percentage of the instruction, students also learn about nail and skin services in most programs. They generally take classes on make-up theory and skin care as well as basic anatomy and diseases affecting nails. During the practicum aspect of training, students usually have a requisite number of hours they need to complete for skin and nail services. The exact hours for skin, hair and nail care required by the school comes from the State Board.

Salon Training

Cosmetology schools normally have a student salon attached where a majority of the requisite training hours occur. In this salon, students work on real clients, people who agree to allow students to work on them in exchange for cheaper services. In this setting, the students act as full cosmetologists. They cut, color and style hair. They also give facials, apply make-up, give manicures and pedicures, and apply artificial nails. Programs generally require students to complete a certain number of each service. Instructors watch newbies at every step, but seniors about to graduate often simply get a service checked at its completion.