Beauty Career Profile: Hairsylist

Make the most of your creative flair and people skills.

Hairstylist Career Profile

A good hairstylist is one of the most trusted and valued people in any service industry, selling not just a haircut, but confidence and self-esteem.

A hairstylist cuts and styles hair for clients, discussing what they want, offering advice and styling tips and recommending hair care products. A stylist is also responsible for keeping their work area clean and tidy, and may manage client payments and order products. Other services offered by some hairstylists include coloring, scalp massage and treatments. In a small salon they may offer all these services, or they may specialize, concentrating on a certain type of hair, for example.

A professional hairstylist may work for a salon as an employee, or they may be self-employed, renting a chair in a large salon and maintaining their own client list, or opening their own salon. Work flexibility is generally good, with many hairstylists choosing to work part time.

hairstylist career

Job Outlook

Hairstylist jobs are predicted to grow by 14% by 2020, with nearly 101,000 new jobs due to open up.

The salon and spa industry generally does better than average in times of recession, with consumers still willing to pay for key beauty services they can’t perform themselves, such as hair cutting.

Make it Happen


You’ll need a cosmetology license to become a hairstylist, which will mean getting a qualification in Cosmetology from a certified cosmetology school.

Even after you graduate and begin working, give yourself an edge and add new skills to your portfolio by taking extra courses and learning new techniques.


All hairstylists must be licensed to practice in the United States. To be licensed, you’ll need a qualification from a state-approved cosmetology program. Some states also require you to have a high school diploma or equivalent.


On-the-job experience is important for a hairstylist. Ogle Schools offers practical training in its on-campus salons, and once you graduate you might start out as a trainee at a salon. You’ll need to be comfortable working with the latest salon techniques, products and equipment too.

hair stylist scissors

If you’re dreaming of a job in a great salon, you’ll need more than a CV and a smile. Building up a portfolio of your work is essential, and you want it to look professional. Blurry snaps taken with your phone camera won’t cut it! If you can get professional shots taken, that’s great, but otherwise make sure shots are in focus, well-lit and show off your work. You’ll need to demonstrate your creativity, originality and skill with a range of styles and techniques.


You are likely to want to invest in your own basic kit when you start working as a stylist, choosing several pairs of high quality scissors to suit different techniques. If you are working for a salon, they are likely to provide equipment such as straighteners, hair dryers and clippers, but if you are renting space in a salon you will need to invest in your own equipment, taking into account all the types of cuts and treatments you will be offering.

Skills & Attributes


A good hairstylist needs to be able to handle scissors and other equipment deftly and skilfully. This takes practice, even for naturally talented stylists, and you should take every opportunity to try out your skills.


From designing the looks in your portfolio to turning a customer request into a stunning style, you’ll need vision and imagination to be a great hairstylist. A passion for the latest trends is a must, and you are likely to be interested in fashion generally, reading magazines and keeping an eye on catwalk shows

hairstylist color selection

People Skills

You want to attract loyal clients, so building trust is crucial. You’ll need to be a great listener to interpret what a client wants – you may have to read between the lines, or help them find inspiration. You might even find you need to dissuade them from one idea and sell them a look you think will suit them better. You’ll need to be chatty and personable while you’re working too – a salon is a social environment with the stylist at its center. You’ll also need the skills to deal with difficult or unhappy customers if the need arises.


Time-management skills are important for professional hairstylists. You’ll need to schedule your time so that customers aren’t left waiting, but you’re not left twiddling your thumbs and losing money, and this means being able to estimate how long a cut or procedure will take. Clients hate waiting, and they’re more likely to use you again if you’re efficient.

Sales Skills

Professional hair product sales are a crucial part of a salon business, and you’ll be responsible for making these sales. You’ll need to keep up with the latest products on the market so that you can offer up-to-date information, and really know and love the products you’re selling – customers can see through a sales pitch, but they appreciate honest and useful advice.


Working as a hairstylist is physically demanding – you will be standing for long periods, putting strain on legs, back and arms. There is a real risk of conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and you will need to be aware of the dangers. You will need to be physically fit with good stamina.

professional hairstylists

Salary Potential

Salaries vary depending on the salon you work for. A high-end salon is likely to pay more than a chain or neighborhood salon, but there may be more competition for jobs. Working for yourself may offer the opportunity for a better return, but there is also the risk of irregular work.

You can expect to receive regular tips from satisfied clients, although they are likely to fluctuate depending on how busy the salon is.

Trends & Tips

A hairstylist should be able to talk to their client about the latest celebrity styles and catwalk trends, and advise on the next big thing.

3 Hot Trends for 2014!

1. Blinging it up! Accessorizing styles with headbands, colorful hair chalk or hair jewels will be big in 2014.

2. Extreme color – from white blonde to raven black, stunning color changes will be as big as ever in the coming season.

3. Striking side-partings for spring, accentuating eyebrows and face shapes.

Whenever possible, head to local trade shows and conferences to check out the latest looks. Keep up to date with fashion magazines and websites for easy access to what’s hot.

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About the Author

Jeff Chiarelli
Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.