Cosmetologists perform a variety of personal services, such as hairdressing, manicures and skin treatments. They learn their skills in state-approved programs in high schools or post-secondary institutions in preparation for state licensing examinations. As an alternative to general cosmetology and hairdressing, students can choose to prepare for specialized licenses in nail or skin care. The type of work, the industry and the location help determine the salary range of cosmetologists.
The largest group of licensed cosmetologists are the 357,030 general cosmetologists, hairstylists and hairdressers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 survey. Many general cosmetologists perform skin and nail services in addition to hair care. Their average wage nationwide was $12.72 per hour, or $26,460 a year, according to the BLS. Their annual wages ranged from $16,710 a year or less for the lowest-earning 10 percent to $41,490 a year or higher for the top 10 percent.
Most than 88 percent of licensed general cosmetologists work in personal care services, such as beauty shops, where their average annual full-time wage came to $26,550 a year in 2011, according to the bureau. Those who worked in department stores averaged $22,880 per year, the lowest wages for major industries. The movie and video industry paid cosmetologists an average of $69,780 per year, the highest for any industry.
Licensed general cosmetologists in the District of Columbia averaged $48,720 per year in 2011, according to the bureau, more than for any state. The highest-paying states were Hawaii and Washington, both with average pay exceeding $34,000 per year. The highest-paying metropolitan area was the greater New York City region, where 15,700 cosmetologists earned an average of $32,380 per year.
The 56,270 manicurists and pedicurists were the second-largest group of licensed cosmetologists in 2011, according to the bureau. Their annual wages ranged from $16,670 at the 10th percentile to $29,990 at the 90th percentile. Ninety-five percent worked in personal care shops, where they earned an average of $21,520 per year, or $10.35 per hour. The traveler accommodation industry was the highest-paying employer, paying average annual wages of $27,860. Arkansas was the highest-paying state, where full-time wages averaged $33,130 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveyed 31,450 licensed skincare specialists in 2011, including both estheticians and electrologists. They averaged $32,080 a year in full-time wages, or $15.42 per hour. Eighty percent of them made between $17,620 and $51,110 annual full-time pay. The highest-paying industry was doctor's offices, which paid an average of $38,680 per year. The $46,680 average annual wages in New Mexico were the highest of any state.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16 percent increase in jobs for hairdressers and general cosmetologists between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent for most occupations. The number of jobs for manicurists and pedicurists will grow by about 17 percent, and positions for skincare specialists will grow by 25 percent because of an increase in new salons and spas.