Some of our commenters recently took offense at the suggestion in this story about postsecondary training that a certificate in cosmetology is maybe not the best idea.
We reported that although postsecondary certificates can be a great alternative to college for many people, cosmetology, one of the most popular programs, also has one of the most dismal earnings potentials.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cosmetologist makes $10.82 per hour, with an average annual income of $22,500.
One reader in particular, “Brenda,” had this to say:
I would like to comment regarding the “dismal” earning of a Cosmetologist. This is completely inaccurate. The challenge in the Cosmetology Industry is since this is primarily a “cash business” with nearly 40% of their income being in “tips”, rarely does a Cosmetologist report their true earnings. Somehow whether this be the Federal Government or States responsibility- a system must be created for Salon Professionals which requires true earning reports. Look at the car your hairstylist drives and the home they live in. The BLS indicates on average the earnings are $10 PH, in reality earnings are more like 65-80K per year.
Wow, $65,000-$80,000 annually is really impressive. It’s also unrealistic, says Jim Cox, executive director of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools.
Cox admits that it’s hard to get a good idea of just how much the average cosmetologist makes.
“It’s kind of a moving target,” he says, because many hairdressers underreport or fail to report their tips.
Plus, many hairdressers work independently, renting booths at local salons and charging their own prices (and collecting their own tips).
How much a cosmetologist can charge also depends greatly on where they are. Someone in New York City can charge significantly more than someone in a small midwestern town, and the income for a hairdresser at a Great Clips, where haircuts can sometimes be snagged for as little as $5, won’t be the same as a hairdresser at Orlo where a haircut can cost you $800.
Factor in that many hairdressers and makeup artists work part time, or irregular hours, and the picture gets even more abstract.
But Cox says our commenter is right in that the BLS’s numbers are too low. He estimates a typical hairdresser at a Super Cuts after one year of work can make about $25-$35,000 annually before tips. At an upscale salon, he thinks those numbers can range from $30-$50,000, not counting tips.
Cox says, as someone who advocates for cosmetology schools, he really wishes more hairdressers would start accurately reporting their tips. He says it can be hard to convince people to become cosmetologists when the reported earnings are so dismal, even if the truth is generally rosier.
If Cox hasn’t persuaded you, but you’re still interested in a postsecondary certificate, the BLS reports that HVAC mechanics make an average of $42,530 annually while Industrial Engineering Technicians make an average of $48,210 a year. Fair warning, though; don’t expect tips to inflate those earnings too much.