Choosing a career in cosmetology makes financial sense. While every state has different licensing requirements for cosmetologists, most programs average about 18 months. Compared to an Associate’s degree, that’s 6 months less schooling. But you can’t build a future based on a 6-month difference, so let’s look at some other factors.

The nationwide range of cosmetology school tuition rates is $5,000-$10,000 but some can cost as much as $25,000.  Keep in mind that represents only the tuition rate. Consumable supplies like your student kit will cost more, but rarely over $500.

An associate’s degree, by contrast, costs anywhere from $25,000-$50,000. So college is losing big time in this comparison. An associates degree will cost a student at least $20,000 more than a cosmetology certificate, not to mention the opportunity cost built into the extra 6 months of schooling it takes to get an associates degree.

Cosmetology is winning so far, with a cheaper overall price and less time spent in school. But what about the salary?  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for cosmetologists is $41,490 whereas the average salary for workers with an Associate’s degree is $40,820.

When it comes to time and money, cosmetology school beats an associate’s degree hands down.  But the experience of cosmetology school and college are very different.  Cosmetology school does present learning challenges, but the environment is often lighthearted. The results of your work are seen almost instantly, and it’s gratifying to watch your skills grow with every procedure.

The college environment is different. College degrees require students to take general education courses outside of their field of study. In cosmetology school, all you learn is your trade.  Some students enjoy the wider range of topics but others feel that it’s a waste of time. Cosmetology school won’t have you up all night studying for finals or midterms. In fact, the only major test a cosmetology student takes is their licensing exam.

Like college, Cosmetology school can be funded with Pell Grants. For students who are weighing the decision between a cosmetology license and a 4-year bachelor’s degree, the earnings potential for college is a little better, averaging $53,000 per year.  That’s a lot of tuition and books. Some students do both. A cosmetology license gives them the earning boost they need to avoid taking out student loans for college.