Choosing to continue your education is a big step, no matter what institution you attend or what you study. The following eight factors are critical to successful training in several career fields, but they’re especially important in the beauty and cosmetology industry.
- Qualified staff with Real Experience
Some cosmetology schools, like Cameo Beauty Academy in Oak Lawn, IL, have their faculty’s names and qualifications listed on their website, front and center. This is a great sign. A steady roster of faculty members with multiple certifications indicates two very important things 1) high institutional regard among qualified teachers in the industry (more on that later), and 2) low turnover, which means teachers who enjoy where they work and who have a passion for teaching class after graduating class.
- Small class sizes
This one's pretty obvious: An over-crowded classroom means less one-on-one attention from your teacher and less hands-on time with the equipment. The beauty and cosmetology industry is one where you definitely learn by doing. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to become the best you can be.
- High Institutional Reputation and Proven Track-Record
The longer your institution of choice has had its doors open, the more of a good reputation it is likely to have earned behind those doors. Keep your eyes open for schools that have stayed in the same location for many years, with the same management and/or administrators. These are indicators of strong leadership , good business practices and financial stability, which are in turn signs of a consistently well-attended, well-respected school. Take time to read online testimonials and reviews, or better yet, talk to current students or graduates of that school. Do they feel prepared to take your state’s licensing exam? Have they had job offers? Have they gone on to achieve their career goals?
- Real-World, Hands-On Experiences
The idea of executing a complicated haircut or a lengthy color processing job on a flesh-and-blood client while you're still in training-especially a client who knows you're still a student - is understandably nerve-wracking. All the same, be on the lookout for a school that offers services to the public. There is no better way to work on your interaction skills, gain real-life experience, perfect your technique, grow your confidence and who knows? Maybe you’ll even gain a future devoted client!
- Affordable Cost & Assistance Programs
They say that you get what you pay for. However, as with any big purchase or investment in your life, you will want take the time to shop around and compare prices at different cosmetology schools in your area. If two schools appear to offer similar curriculum, but one’s tuition is significantly higher than the other, take the time to figure out why. You may be paying more to cover the cost of pricier, more up-to-date equipment or supplies, or more experienced staff that command higher salaries . . . or you could be getting price-gouged. Keep in mind that the cost of your cosmetology training will also depend on the area in which you’re going to school. However, many schools (like Cameo) will offer limited-time promotions or discounts on their registration or tuition costs in order to attract students during less-busy times of the year, such as early winter or summer semesters. And, just as with other technical schools or colleges, you may qualify for other higher-education financial aid, like Pell Grants or Federal Loans. Check and see if your school of choice has a Financial Aid section of their website, or stop by to take a tour and ask if you can book and appointment to consult with an administrator about your financial aid eligibility. Any school that truly values you as a student will take the time to talk to you about overcoming financial barriers.
- Accreditation and Certification by Multiple Agencies
Individual teacher's certifications and experience is one thing; the overall accreditation of your prospective school is something else. There are multiple state- and nation-wide accrediting agencies, plus many private professional organizations that also designate member salons and schools based on whether they annually meet certain criteria. A few to look out for: Your State’s Board of Cosmetology, the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, the Cosmetology Educators of America, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, and the National Cosmetology Association.
- The Programs that Most Interest You
Every school is different. Some might only offer instruction in hair and nails, while others specifically focus on esthetician training, i.e. skincare and hair removal. Barber schools lean more toward haircare, beard care and shaving services for men, while cosmetology academies cover a more wide range of styling skills for men and women. If you haven’t yet decided on what area of the industry you like most, you may want to choose a school that teaches all aspects of cosmetology – hair styling, skin care, waxing, makeup application, the works – like Cameo Beauty Academy.
- Real Networking Opportunities
Does the school you’re considering host student showcases, fashion shows or other opportunities for you to show your work to potential employers and future clients? Do the instructors invite guest speakers or host special workshops? Remember, showing up for class will only get you so far. If you’re truly motivated to make a strong entrance into this industry, make sure your school of choice can provide the stepping stones you need to sell your talents.