What Does a Hair Stylist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a hair stylist: Provide cut and blow-dry, Braid and weave hair, Bleach, dye, or tint hair, Demonstrate and sell hair care products and cosmetics, Proactively develop new customers

The Balance / Maddy Price

Hair stylists, who are sometimes called hairdressers or beauticians, shampoo, cut, color, bleach, and style hair. They may also use chemicals to straighten or curl hair and apply extensions to lengthen hair.

Before working on a client, a hair stylist analyzes her hair, recommends a style or treatment, and may also provide instructions and sell products that will let the customer get the same look at home.

Hair Stylist Duties & Responsibilities

This job requires candidates to be able to perform duties that include the following:

  • Provide hair cut and blow-dry services, keratin smoothing, formal styles for events, and any other services you are trained for
  • Braid and weave hair
  • Provide bleach, dye, and hair tinting services
  • Demonstrate and sell hair care products and cosmetics
  • Proactively develop new customers
  • Consistently increase guest retention by building relationships and pre-booking appointments
  • Develop a strong professional presentation, technical ability, and relationship building skills
  • Provide excellent customer service skills and strong work ethic
  • Demonstrate a commitment to providing outstanding client service
  • Show willingness to grow and continue education to maintain knowledge of the current trends
  • Have flexibility regarding work hours; ability to work nights, weekends, and some holidays

Hair Stylist Salary

A hair stylist's salary varies based on the level and type of expertise, amount of experience, education, certifications, and other factors such as geographic location.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Education, Training & Certification

In every state, you must be at least 16 years old to work as a hair stylist, and a high school or equivalency diploma may be needed for admission to a state-approved cosmetology program.

  • Education: To become a hair stylist, attend a state-approved barber or cosmetology program. Programs are usually at least nine months long and may result in earning an associate degree upon completion.
  • Licensing: A license from the state in which you want to work is also required. In addition to providing proof of training, you may also have to take a practical exam to demonstrate your skills. You can check the licensed occupations tool from CareerOneStop to learn about the licensing requirements in the state in which you want to work.

Hair Stylist Skills & Competencies

Certain soft skills will help you succeed in a career as a hair stylist, including the following:

  • Active Listening: It is essential to be able to understand your clients' wants, needs, and concerns.
  • Customer Service: Your customers should be satisfied when they walk out the door. That will be due not only on the service you provide but on how they feel you treated them.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Providing excellent customer service requires the ability to listen to your clients and understand their body language.
  • Critical Thinking: Your clients will want help making decisions about their hairstyles. You will need strong critical thinking skills that allow you to weigh alternative solutions in order to choose the one that will work out best.
  • Time Management: Managing your time well is essential since your clients don't want to be kept waiting.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for hair stylists over the next decade relative to other occupations and industries is fairly strong, driven by an increasing population in need of hair services.

Employment is expected to grow by about 13 percent over the next ten years, which is faster growth than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. Growth for other personal appearance workers is projected to grow at the same rate of 13 percent over the next ten years.

These growth rates compare to the projected 7 percent growth for all occupations. Hair stylists who have taken advanced styling or cutting courses to keep on top of trends will find they have an advantage when searching for jobs.

Work Environment

Hair stylists typically have jobs in free-standing hair salons, but some are employed in spas and hotels. Some stylists lease a chair or booth from a salon owner, and later in their careers manage a shop or open up their own shop.

Surroundings are typically pleasant, although hair stylists spend most of their shift on their feet. They're also exposed to various chemicals and dyes, which often makes wearing aprons and disposable gloves a necessity.

Work Schedule

Many hair stylists work a full-time schedule, although a good number of stylists work part-time hours. Stylists who run their own salon put in long hours. A stylist's schedule often includes weeknights and weekends, and these are typically the busiest times. Salon owners usually set their own work schedules.

How to Get the Job


Look for hair stylist jobs using job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also search online to locate cosmetologist job fairs. If you have a special interest or expertise, such as skill with wigs and theatrical makeup, check less-traditional options such as Walt Disney's career opportunities, which has positions to maintain wigs for characters and apply and teach makeup application to performers.

You can also search for jobs through your local cosmetology school, apply directly at local spas and salons, and network at events such as skincare trade shows, hair fashion shows, or presentations from local beauty schools.


Look for an opportunity to work as a volunteer hair stylist through online sites such as VolunteerMatch.org. You can also contact various non-profit organizations directly and volunteer your hair stylist services.


Learn and get guidance by working in a salon environment. You can find hair stylist internships through the career center at your cosmetology school and through online job search sites.

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