A successful beautician combines interpersonal skills with a technical facility and artistry in working with the hair, nails and skin of clients. All states require licensing of beauticians to ensure their competence and maintain health standards. The path to a license generally includes successful completion of state-approved training and written and practical examinations. Once licensed, a beautician's pay varies on her location, type of employer and hours worked, in addition to her experience and reputation.
Beauticians frequently earn less than full-time pay because many work only part time or lease a chair in salon, while others are self-employed and must find their own clientele. The average hourly wage for a beautician or cosmetologist was $12.72 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS. This is the equivalent of $26,460 for a year of full-time work. Eighty percent of the 357,030 beauticians in the survey earned from $8.04 to $19.95 per hour. The BLS wage reports include both regular pay and tips.
Pay by Location:
Beauticians in some regions can earn higher than average pay, especially in places with a high cost of living. According to the 2011 report, the District of Columbia had the highest hourly rate for a beautician at $23.43 on average, or the equivalent of $48,720 for a year of 40-hour weeks. Hawaii and Washington states both had average wages of more than $16 per hour, while average pay exceeded $14 per hour in South Carolina and Maryland. Among cities with more than 1,000 beauticians, the San Francisco metropolitan area had the highest hourly pay, at $19.73 per hour.
Pay by Employer:
The type of employer is also a major factor in wages for beauticians. Most work in personal care services or salons, where more than 317,000 beauticians reported an average earning of $12.76 per hour, in 2011. The next largest employer were department stores, that had 23,500 beauticians earning an average of $11 per hour, according to the BLS. However, the highest-paying jobs were in the movie and video industry, where only 400 beauticians averaged $33.55 per hour. This is equivalent to $69,780 per year for a full-time position.
Outlook and Advancement:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts good overall prospects for hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists, with an expected 16 percent growth in jobs between 2010 and 2020. The most experienced beauticians have the best chance of finding work at the better-paying, prestige salons. Those with experience can also eventually advance to salon managers or open their own businesses. Beauticians who want to open their own salons need business know-how along with sales and marketing skills.