To get started as a hair stylist, look into cosmetology or hair-design schools near you. A quick Google search turns up many options in the Philadelphia area, and asking your own stylist how he or she started is never a bad idea. Though for-profit schools abound, vocational schools or community colleges typically offer accredited programs at much more reasonable costs. Cosmetology school programs usually take nine months or more to complete and include basic classes such as coloring, perming and braiding.

 

After school, you may wish to work as an apprentice in a hair salon to learn more tricks of the trade — and possibly even land a permanent gig.

 

First, though, you’ll have to get licensed. State regulations differ, but the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology requires 1,250 hours of experience.

 

Many graduates work for an established business initially, but then end up opening their own place of business. About 44 percent of “personal appearance workers” are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can mean owning your own salon or leasing space from an established salon owner — a practice that’s growing in popularity.


One thing to keep in mind: While the beauty trade doesn’t require four years of classes, it’s by no means a cakewalk. Even after finishing school, a good hair stylist has to keep up with the latest trends; many take supplemental classes to stay current.