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Online Cosmetology School Guide

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Enroll in an online cosmetology school to begin or advance your beauty career. These programs typically allow you to learn at your own speed and adapt your education to fit your schedule, making them ideal for newcomers and seasoned beauty professionals.

Online beauty school programs typically cover essential areas like hairstyling, makeup artistry, esthetics (skincare), and nail technology.

Whether you want to launch a new career or elevate your current skills, online beauty schools can provide the tools and knowledge needed. Join us as we delve into how an online cosmetology school can help you achieve your goals in the thriving beauty industry.

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  • Cosmetology

What You Can Learn at an Online Cosmetology School

The courses you take through an online beauty school will depend on the institution's approach to teaching and the depth of training it offers. You will likely need some hands-on training in addition to your online classes if you are new to professional cosmetology and want to become licensed.

At many beauty schools, online courses only cover theory and conceptual knowledge. However, some schools have found ways to help students learn and practice various hands-on skills from home.

Elegant bridal hairstyle with braids and white floral accessories viewed from behind in a mirror reflection.Depending on your cosmetology program, you may get to learn about subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the scalp and skin
  • Common disorders of skin and nails
  • Infection control and safety regulations
  • State licensing laws
  • Beauty-related chemistry
  • Color theory
  • Hair design and shaping concepts
  • Care and treatments for hair, skin, and nails
  • Haircutting, styling, coloring, and texturing
  • Hair removal (waxing, laser hair removal, sugaring)
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Gel and acrylic nails
  • Spa massage
  • Facial treatments
  • Makeup application
  • Portfolio development
  • Communication and professionalism
  • Marketing and self-promotion
  • Beauty product sales
  • Business management

How Do Online Cosmetology Classes Work?

Online cosmetology and esthetician courses are typically part of a hybrid program. That means a portion of your training happens remotely (i.e., at home and over the Internet), and the rest takes place in person at your school's student salon or through an internship at a professional salon. Many beauty schools have adopted new technologies and teaching methods that allow students to practice certain hands-on techniques at home.

While learning remotely, you may have access to things like:

  • Interactive e-books
  • On-demand video lectures and tutorials
  • Live-streamed video demonstrations
  • One-on-one chats and full class discussions over video
  • Digital flashcards
  • Online discussion boards
  • Private Facebook groups
  • Digital portfolio software

Your instructors may issue a wide variety of reading and writing assignments, quizzes, and practical exercises. For hands-on practice, you might get to use mannequin heads and hands that allow you to perform hair, makeup, and nail techniques. Alternatively, you may be asked to find friends or family members who are willing to have you practice on them. Your teachers will likely evaluate and provide feedback on each completed exercise by having you take and upload photos or videos of what you've done.

Key Benefits of Learning Cosmetology Online

  1. No commute: You can save money on gas or other transportation costs while having more time to focus on your beauty training or other areas of your life.
  2. Extra flexibility: Online cosmetology schools often allow you to choose a study schedule that fits your other responsibilities well. And you may get to learn at the pace of your choosing, one that's comfortable for you.
  3. Potential for lower training costs: Some beauty schools charge less for online courses than in-person classes.

How Long is Cosmetology School?

Because of state licensing requirements, hybrid or online cosmetology programs typically take the same amount of time to complete as in-person programs. But this may depend on your school and the state you are training in. Most cosmetology programs take seven to 18 months to complete.*

Licensing & Certification

Cosmetologist giving a facial treatment to a client in a spa settingPeople who are new to this trade cannot get a cosmetology license online. You need to meet your state's board of cosmetology requirements, which necessitates completing a minimum number of training hours. In many states, a certain number of those hours must be completed in a hands-on setting. You'll also need to pass a supervised written exam. Several states require applicants to pass an on-site verbal or practical skills exam.

That's why, before choosing an online hair school or cosmetology program, you should learn what the exact licensing requirements are in your state. Your online training hours may not be enough. You may need to accumulate hands-on hours through experience in a school's on-site salon or an internship or apprenticeship.

Also, make sure that the cosmetology board approves any program you consider in your state. Approved programs are often accredited by at least one of the following organizations:

During the public health crisis caused by COVID-19, some states and accrediting agencies have permitted approved cosmetology schools to temporarily change their in-person programs to distance learning. As long as they properly track students' training hours and keep their student-to-teacher ratios below a certain threshold, the remote instruction they offer will count toward state licensing requirements.

Online Continuing Education for Beauty Professionals

Once you are a state-licensed cosmetologist, you can usually renew your license online. You may need to complete a certain amount of continuing education over a period of time to qualify for license renewal. But that kind of education is often available through online or distance learning, including voluntary certification courses in a wide range of beauty-related areas.

State-required continuing education courses are typically related to health, sanitation, safety and environmental laws, regulations, and guidelines.

Many cosmetologists choose to complete additional online beauty courses periodically. Continued training allows them to better serve their clientele and keep their expertise current. For example, many existing professionals take short courses related to the latest hairstyles, new skin or facial treatments, trendy nail art, new marketing strategies, and more.

You Can Learn Beauty Skills Through an Online Cosmetology School

The world of online cosmetology education is rich with opportunities to grow and refine your skills in a way that suits your life. From comprehensive theory to practical, hands-on training, these programs are designed to prepare you for a vibrant career in the beauty industry. Don't let geography or a busy schedule hold you back from pursuing your passion. Use our school search tool now to find the online cosmetology school that's right for you and take the first step towards a career that's as colorful and creative as you are. Your future in beauty begins today!

* Length of training information is based on information from the U.S. Department of Education and a sampling of relevant program lengths from a mix of about 20 public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions' websites (visited April 29, 2024).