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Cosmetology more than hair and nails in Texas
Hair-raising Growth

Texas is home to many with big hair, and that hair helped blow more than $1.8 billion into the state's economy in 2002, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas had 4,660 hair, nail and skin service establishments and 890 cosmetics, beauty supplies and perfume stores in 2002, according to the 2002 Economic Census.

The cosmetology industry includes hair salons, nail salons, barber shops and all-purpose beauty salons that can offer services ranging from manicures and pedicures to hair styling services and facials.

Special degree
Becoming a cosmetologist may seem easy, but there's a lot more to it than just cutting hair, said Patrick Shaughnessy, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

TDLR began regulating the industry in 2005 with the abolishment of the Texas Cosmetology Commission.

"We regulate the operators, who are the hair cutters; we regulate the salons, nail salons, hair braiders, hair weavers; [and] we also regulate barbers, who are not cosmetologists," Shaughnessy said.

Cosmetologists in Texas must be licensed, and to get a license, they must take a state licensing exam. To take the exam, a would-be cosmetologist has two options: complete a 1,500-hour course through an accredited beauty college or a two-year, 1,000-hour course through a public high school.

TDLR offers licenses for overall cosmetologists, who can give pedicures, manicures, facials and haircuts; facialists; manicurists; hair weavers or braiding specialists; wig specialists; and shampoo and conditioning specialists, Shaughnessy said.

TDLR also regulates all cosmetology schools and offers licenses for overall instructors, facial instructors and manicure instructors.

"We have to approve the coursework and the program," Shaughnessy said. "We review the courses to make sure they're teaching the material."

Popular program
Texas has nearly 200 beauty colleges to help students complete the coursework. To help defray the cost of beauty college, students are eligible for federal loans covered under the federal Perkins Loan and Pell Grants, said Esther Camacho, director for trade and industrial education with the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

In addition, nearly 130 Texas high schools have a cosmetology program, Camacho said.

"As of 2002, [cosmetology] is the third-largest program in high schools under the trade and industrial program, behind criminal justice and automotive and building trades," she said.

The cosmetology program is one of 168 occupational programs that TEA offers to give students an opportunity to learn a job while still enrolled in high school, Camacho said.

Students enrolled in the high school program receive 500 academic hours for graduating from high school, which accounts for the 500-hour discrepancy between the number of hours required from a beauty school, Camacho said.

The students are just as qualified as their cosmetology school counterparts and have to take the same exam to get their licenses, she added. The high school programs are a great idea to help teach students lifelong skills and save money, Camacho said.

"If you were to go out into the economy, you're looking at spending $4,000 [for classes], and they get this course for free," she said. "It gives them the same license to work and they get their education for free versus having a financial burden."

Cosmetology programs have been in Texas high schools since the 1970s and are increasingly popular, Camacho said.

"Schools are asking to open up classes," she said.

If a school district doesn't have a cosmetology program, they can contract with a local proprietary school that is approved by TDLR to offer the classes for free to students, Camacho said.

"The student does have to pay for their own permit and their own starter kit, which includes the supplies that they'll need," Camacho said. "So really, that's not a big expense."

Continuing education
Cosmetology is an attractive field due to its constant demand for workers, said Erin Colwell, the office manager of Vogue College of Cosmetology, an Austin-based school with six locations around Texas and one in New Mexico.

"There are nine job openings for every graduate, they get to work with the public, and it's a flexible job," Colwell said. "And it pays very well."

The average salary for Texas cosmetologists ranged between $30,000 and $50,000 in 2003, according to the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, a nationwide accrediting firm that represents about 1,000 cosmetology institutions and nearly 100,000 students.

Vogue has 600 students spread throughout its campuses, Colwell said.

For $8,000, Vogue students can complete a 10- or 14-month course that will allow them to take the state licensing exam to become a nail technician, a facialist, a cosmetologist or a student instructor, Colwell said.

Those classes are a great place to start, but the education shouldn't stop there, said Kelly Mulcahy, an Austin-based hair stylist and salon owner.

"I went to one of those schools that just focused on the essentials so you could pass the state boards," she said. "When I got out, I felt like I really had to make up for time and get out there and get as much education as possible so that I could really make some money and know what I'm doing."

With 17 years in the business, Mulcahy still takes continuing education courses to keep up with the changing technology.

"Education is so important because it's changing all the time; the technology changes all the time," Mulcahy said. "New colors come out, new formulas, new techniques, new tools, and you need to go and have somebody teach you, and then you can take that to the salon and practice and educate your staff."

Growing trend
From 1997 to 2002, the number of hair salons in the state dropped by nearly 300 shops, but the amount of money made by the 4,052 salons in the state in 2002 increased by more than $200 million, according to the economic census. In addition, an average of 30 new cosmetics, beauty supplies and perfume stores opened each year between 1997 and 2002, according to the economic census.

The industry is stronger overall due to people developing a better respect for it, Mulcahy said.

"It's just going to grow and grow and grow," she said. "There are shows like 'Blow Out' on [cable channel] Bravo that just promote the industry overall, and people see that, and they might get interested in learning cosmetology."

Cosmetology offers more flexibility that most other jobs, Mulcahy said.

"[Cosmetology] is something you can always do," she said. "You can move and always get a job. If I really want to work hard, I can book myself a lot of hours. If I need time off, I can cut back on my hours, so there's a lot of flexibility."

For more information on cosmetology programs, visit the TDLR Web site at www.license.state.tx.us/cosmet/cosmet.htm.

Ann Holdsworth