Considering a career in the beauty industry either as a cosmetologist, barber, nail specialist, facial specialist, or full specialist?
No other industry has such a constant demand for creative, helpful, and well-trained graduates. Maybe you dream of owning your own spa, having a small salon in your home, doing nails in a cute boutique, or apply the perfect make-up for brides on their wedding days.
There are so many different opportunities. Maybe you think it is time to find a cosmetology school.
Not just yet.
Do You Have What it Takes?
There are a few of you I want to save some time before you choose the best cosmetology school in Florida. Not everyone is suited for the beauty industry. Can you answer “yes” to all of the below?
- Do you enjoy helping others?
- Are you creative?
- Do you understand the physical demands of a job in this field?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you have good time-management skills?
- Are you prepared to continuously learn and follow trends, even after you complete school?
Over the years I have seen many people not give this career choice the attention and discernment it deserves. I am sure you know of someone that has spent all of their time and money on school, graduated, began their first job, and then quit within the first few months or years.
The truth is, this career is challenging and some go into the field with unrealistic expectations. This is one of the reasons there is always a demand for more graduates. But if you are ready to meet these challenges, the beauty field can be a very rewarding, exciting, and profitable career!
Are you ready? Let’s look at one more thing before we talk about schools.
Pick A Profession (or Two)
Many schools offer multiple program options. Maybe you already know exactly what you want to do. If you don’t, let’s try to figure that out now.
Here are the licensing options under the Board of Cosmetology in Florida:
- Facial Specialist
- Nail Specialist
- Full Specialist
The differences between these are important to explain so you don’t end up choosing the wrong professional direction. Each profession has what is called a “scope”, or services they can legally perform in the state of Florida. So here are the licenses and registrations available in Florida.
Florida Cosmetologist License
A cosmetologist in Florida can do all hair, facial, waxing, and nail services. If you want to do a little bit of everything, this may be the path for you. A licensed cosmetologist cannot perform any shaving of the face with a straight blade. You may not think this important, but lots of cosmetologists go back to school to attend “crossover programs” to obtain both cosmetology and barbering licenses just to provide this service.
Hours Requirement: 1200
Florida Barber License
Barbers and cosmetologists, while similar, are not the same (barber vs cosmetologist). A licensed barber can perform all hair services, including color and permanent waving. They can also perform facials, but not waxing or nail services.
Hours Requirement: 1200
Facial Specialist or Esthetician License
Facial specialists, better known as skincare professionals or estheticians, are experts in skincare. They can perform a wide variety of services, including facials, waxing, and make-up artistry. You can learn more about a facial specialist career here.
Hours Requirement: 260
Nail Specialist or Nail Technician
Nail specialists, nail technicians, focuses on fingernails and toenails, giving clients manicures and pedicures. This includes foot soaks, scrubs, nail extensions, and nail art.
Hours Requirement: 240
This license is a combination of a nail specialist and facial specialist registrations.
Hours Requirement: 500 (Facial and Nail Combo/ 260 + 240 = 500 Hours)
There are other closely related professions that are not under the cosmetology board in Florida. Some schools may allow you to train for multiple professional licenses. Examples include: massage therapist, electrologist (laser hair removal, or tattoo artist (microblading/permanent makeup).
Start the Search (Finally!)
Now that you have a better idea of what you want to focus on as a career, it is time to find a school that is going to help you make that dream happen. This step requires planning.
Make a List
Make a list of all the schools in your area or in a radius from where you live, can commute, or willing to relocate. There are lots of cosmetology schools to choose from in the Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee areas.
Ask the Experts
Most are more than willing to offer their experience and suggestions. Ask them if they would recommend the school they went to. If not, which school would they recommend?
Also, try to talk to people that are doing as close to what you want to do as possible. If makeup is your passion, talk to as many makeup artists as possible for advice.
Investigate the Choices
Look at the school’s website or Facebook page. You can get a lot of answers to your questions (which I will list some you should ask below) from these sources. Instagram is great to have a little insight into what current students are currently learning.
Check to see if they offer the program you are interested in pursuing. Do they specialize in what you are interested in pursuing? There are programs that allow students to deeply focus facial specialty routes, Make-up artistry, or bridal party hair.
You can find the answers to a lot of your questions online, but not all of them. Websites can only tell and show so much. You need to talk to some people that are working in the field and you should visit the school.
Schedule A Visit
When you are ready for a visit, call or use the school’s website. Most have a place for prospective students to contact the school and schedule a visit or provide information about their next open house.
Visit and tour as many schools as possible before enrolling.
Ask A LOT of Questions
Don’t feel silly about asking questions. You deserve to have someone who will take the time to answer them if you are even considering spending money on tuition there.
At the very least, U.S. Education Department’s Gainful Employment regulations require disclosure of certain program information to students and prospective students. Here is an example of a Full Specialist gainful employment sheet from one school.
Check Accreditation and Reputation
Is the school accredited or approved in Florida?
An accrediting body overlooks a school’s curriculum to make sure they are properly educating their students.
The Florida Cosmetology Board does not approve schools. However, Florida Statutes does indicate where private schools should have a license issued from. The Florida State Department of Education (DOE) Commission for Independent Education is the stated agency.
477.023 Schools of cosmetology; licensure.—No private school of cosmetology shall be permitted to operate without a license issued by the Commission for Independent Education pursuant to chapter 1005. However, nothing herein shall be construed to prevent certification by the Department of Education of cosmetology training programs within the public school system or to prevent government operation of any other program of cosmetology in this state.
The DOE also offers some very good advice for looking for good schools and avoiding potential scams.
Other accreditations are available. Some examples to look for:
- National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- The Council on Occupational Education (COE)
How many years has the school been open?
This may say something about their reputation. I have heard some horror stories that have left students in a tough spot. And by tough spot, I mean showing up one day for class and there is a note on the door telling you the school is closed and to finish your training elsewhere.
Are there graduates to talk to about the program?
You can find testimonials on a few school websites, but talking to a former student can provide insight into the day to day operations at the school and how the former student now feels about their training.
What is the graduation rate?
Graduation rates often say a lot about the school, instructors, and overall reputation of the program. I have seen some rates in the 20-30% range. This indicates to me that something is not right at the school.
Find How Much Time You Will Be Investing
- Do they offer part-time or full-time programs?
- Is there a night school program?
- When does the next class start and expected to end?
Find How Much Time You Will Be Investing
What is included with the tuition price?
Make sure you find out if it includes supplies, tools, books, licensing fees, exam fees, or school uniforms (salon attire), These costs can add up and should be disclosed.
Does the school offer financial aid, scholarships, grants, or payment plans?
Not every school is able to accept financial aid. If they don’t, they may have grants, scholarships or payment plans for qualified students. If you qualify for Florida Bright Futures, be sure to ask about this scholarship.
Is the school privately owned or is it a technical college?
Private schools may cost more than a Technical college. Technical colleges may take longer to complete if the program follows the school calendar. Also, college students may have to take other classes depending on the requirements of the college.
Is there housing available?
It is very rare that a cosmetology school has housing available. However, most are aware of appropriate housing near the school that is appropriate for short term rentals.
Pay Attention to the Learning Environment
Is the school clean and feel professional?
Cleanliness and sanitation say a lot about a salon, the same holds true for a school. It should not be chaotic, messy, or unorganized. It should be training professionals.
Do students and staff look like they are happy there?
Look in the classrooms, break rooms, or student salon. If there is a working salon at the school where clients can get services performed by students, schedule an appointment. Not only can you experience a salon service from a student, but you can ask them questions about their current training.
Does the school provide extra learning opportunities such as bringing in guest artists, field trips, or job shadowing?
You can only learn so much in the classroom setting. Getting outside the school doors, especially somewhere you see yourself after graduation, can provide invaluable experiences.
Do They Offer Support After Graduation?
What is the Florida cosmetology exam pass rate for the school?
Cosmetologists are the only profession under the cosmetology board that must take the Florida Cosmetology Examination.
Does the school offer business courses?
Teaching you the perfect long bob is one thing, but a school should also help you prepare to market yourself after you leave the program. Some programs only spend ten hours devoted to this subject, and that is really not enough time to teach people about business.
Is there help with job placement?
Many schools will post their job placement rate in their gainful employment information.
When You Think You Have Found the One
Last up, before making your final decision ask yourself these last three questions:
- Do I fit in here?
- Can I see myself here for the next four to eighteen months?
- Is this place going to help me reach my goals in the beauty industry?
If you have that feeling you have found the school and are set on your career choice, congratulations! Enjoy these next months of learning, growing, exploring, creating, and joining the exciting beauty industry!