Costs of a Cosmetology License
Would you spend over $14,000 on extra schooling to make barely more than minimum wage? It sounds ridiculous, but that’s what the state requires to be a licensed cosmetologist in Missouri. The title of a recent report from the Institute for Justice is true: State cosmetology licensing fails aspiring beauty workers by making it too difficult and expensive to attain a license.
The Institute for Justice’s report examines the debt and dropout rate of cosmetology students across the country, and the numbers are pretty shocking. To receive a cosmetology license in Missouri, one must complete 1,500 educational hours from an accredited cosmetology program. From the 2011–12 school year to the 2016–17 school year, the average cosmetology program cost $14,629 and students took on an average of more than $7,700 in federal student loans.
That’s not pocket change, but it’s even worse when earnings are considered. In Missouri, the median annual wage of a licensed cosmetologist in 2019 was $23,760. That’s slightly lower than the national average of around $26,000 for licensed cosmetologists and slightly higher than yearly earnings from a full-time minimum wage job. (For reference, earning Missouri’s minimum wage of $10.30 for 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year equates to yearly earnings of $21,424.) And more than two thirds of students do not graduate on time, increasing their debt burden even more.
So much money is spent to fulfill a state educational requirement, but is that requirement even necessary? Occupational licensing is intended to protect the health and safety of consumers, but recent research indicates that only 25 percent of cosmetology training is health and safety training.
Occupational licensing increases costs to consumers, but the other side of that coin is often overlooked. Licensing requirements dramatically increase costs for the workers who must obtain that license to earn a living. This is especially true in cosmetology, where the costs are directly tied to licensing requirements, but this is also true no matter the cost or resulting wages. It’s time for legislators to reconsider these requirements, regulations, and boards that have burdened workers and consumers for too long. A sunset provision for occupational licenses would be a great step toward reducing burdens and costs for consumers and workers.