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How To Get A Makeup Artistry License In 10 Easy Steps

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Skye Rhodes

Makeup artist (MUA) is one of the most popular professions worldwide these days, that’s why we’ve created this tutorial on how to get a makeup artistry license.

We can often see on social media, television, or magazines skillful makeup video tutorials, editorial looks, and various tips & tricks videos.

This profession gives plenty of creative options to work within the makeup industry – from traditional jobs at beauty salons to TV/film, bridal, theatre, fashion shows, freelancing jobs, etc.

But what is differentiating a professional from an amateur makeup artist?

As in every career, makeup artists as well have a transition period from hobbies to full-time jobs followed by numerous hours of education and hard work.

Therefore, before choosing an educational program that will influence your career path, make sure you have all of the necessary information.

How To Get A Makeup Artistry License In 10 Easy Steps

In this article, you will find out 10 easy steps that will show you how to get a makeup artistry license.

1. License vs Certification

We all know education is the first step to entering a new market as a professional.

The question that stands right above your head before starting a career in the makeup industry is – do you even need a license?

Answers may vary depending on the state that you live in and your chosen career.

To become a licensed makeup artist, you must attend makeup artistry school licensed by the State Board of Cosmetology in your area.

Attending makeup artistry school is followed by completing the assigned number of study hours and passing a national licensing exam.

It gives you in-depth knowledge not just on makeup application but also teaches you cosmetology, safety, and even skin, nail, and hair treatment.

After completion, it makes you legal to work choosing between a wide range of career paths in your area.

Also, a license makes you qualified for better high-paid career opportunities.

The disadvantage of the artistry school is that there are rare schools specialized only in makeup application, so after finishing the program you might need additional knowledge upgrade provided by makeup certification programs.

On the other side, getting a makeup certification requires less time and there are many great certification programs but it specializes in you only in professional makeup applications creating more limited job opportunities.

There are numerous options of online as well as offline educational programs that can help you in reaching the level of Certified Makeup Artist.

As you might notice – both options have their advantages and disadvantages, so before starting your journey, make sure you weigh them and start according to your unique professional development plan.

2. Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Makeup Artist – What Is The Difference?

Before jumping to explanations, let’s first take a sneak peek at why are we even making this difference?

To work legally in some countries, makeup artists have to obtain a license (which is, as we saw previously, different from certification) even while working as freelancers.

Very few states offer licensing programs that are specifically structured for makeup artists, therefore, many makeup artists are taking cosmetologist or esthetician formal classes which allows them not only to be familiar with makeup application but to gain wider knowledge in providing their clients full specter of beauty services.

Cosmetologists are specialized not only in makeup applications but also in hair treatment providing services such as cutting, coloring, and styling.

Besides hair, they take care of nails providing services such as pedicures or manicures.

Also, they are professionally educated in taking care of the skin providing appropriate care and treatment.

Estheticians are more specialized when it comes to the appearance, treatment, and maintenance of skincare.

They can provide skincare processes in salons (such as facials or microdermabrasion).

While both cosmetologists and estheticians have the necessary knowledge in makeup application, they might need additional education on new techniques and products to stay up to date and a wide range of certification programs might be helpful with it.

3. Know Your State Regulations

Getting your Makeup Artist, Cosmetologist, or Esthetician license may vary from state to state.

Today, a makeup artist license is required in forty-one states of which only Louisiana and Nevada issue a specific license intended only for makeup artists.

In other states, a makeup license is a part of the other licenses administered by Cosmetology Boards such as Esthetician or Cosmetologist.

To gain a state-certified license, makeup artists must complete on average 134 days of education and pass two exams.

In preparation for gaining a valid license, first, you have to make sure that your program is supported by the State Board of Cosmetology and that you are finishing your exam at its approved testing provider.

You can find all of the relevant information such as state and jurisdiction-specific theory and practical Candidate Information Bulletins (CIB’s) on the National Interstate Council of Boards of Cosmetology website.

NIC is a regulatory organ with the mission to “promote the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the professional workforce by actively pursuing excellence in cosmetology and related fields”.

In case you wish to live and work in a different state than the one your license was issued at, first check if it is valid for the specific area as each state has its own set of regulations.

4. Think Of Job Opportunities

Today, makeup artists are faced with infinite choices when it comes to job opportunities.

Market needs have grown so much that makeup artists are having a hard time following up on different trends and techniques.

Explore different options and job opportunities so you can find your specific niche.

You can choose from traditional salons to specializing in certain makeup design categories such as print modeling or editorial makeup, headshot, film/TV, on-camera, theater, or even special effects makeup (FX).

Depending on the specialization, experience, and reputation, your salary range as a makeup artist might vary significantly on an annual basis.

According to the US Bureau of Labor, the average annual wage on the national level for makeup artists is $81,600.

When it comes to industries with the highest level of employment lately, the first one on the list is the Motion pictures and Video industry.

If you wish to know the details on the occupational employment statistics, you can find more information on the average earning in specific categories and states on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website (last time updated in March 2021).

5. How Much Time And Money Will It Takes?

Unlikely certification, getting a makeup artist license takes much more time since it is connected to a wider range of in-depth knowledge on cosmetology or esthetics.

The amount of time spent may vary depending on the factors included in the equation.

As already mentioned above, each state has a set of its own regulatory rules including the state’s hour requirement.

Besides that, each program has its duration and it also depends on your preferred enrollment which could be part-time or full-time.

Taking into account the time spent in earning the license, the national average is between 1,400 to 1,600 hours even though each state licensing board assigns their required number of hours.

Choosing an option to enroll in a full-time student program can help you finish a complete cosmetology program in less than two years.

Speaking about the costs, they vary on two major factors: location and chosen educational facility.

So, prices for a full cosmetology program have the range from $10,000 to $6,500 depending on those two factors only.

These fixed prices don’t include student kits and supplies as additional expenses you should take into account.

6. Required Exams

Taking national exams is a crucial step in earning professional credentials and becoming a licensed makeup artist.

It requires passing successfully NIC (The National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology) common exam.

Versions of this test may vary slightly from state to state, but it is essentially similar for each state because guidelines to all of the states are written by the NIC.

The licensing test consists of two parts – theory and practice.

The theory test is a written test assessing the knowledge, while the practical exam is focused on hands-on experience and skills assessment.

To help candidates prepare for the upcoming licensing tests, NIC has developed a set of CIB (Candidate Information Bulletins) with all of the necessary information on Theory and Practical examinations including content outline and sample Q&A as well as references.

Let’s help you navigate through all this information.

Each NIC examination has two separate documents for every CIB:

  • examination instructions and content – information regarding the volume of content covered in the theory test, and instructions related to administration of the theory exam
  • references – the list of references that are used for creating the content covered for both Theory and Practical examinations

In case you need information on the NIC Practical Test, Candidate Information Bulletins (CIB) contains information on content, administration, and additional sections.

In this part you will find multiple documents separated into three sections:

  • examination core domain content and instructions – information regarding the volume of content covered in the practical test, and instructions related to administration of the practical test
  • additional services – some of the states require additional services as a part of the practical exam
  • references – the list of references that are used for creating the content covered for both Theory and Practical tests

Before applying make sure to verify with your State Regulatory Agency which exam you are taking so you can select the correct CIB(s).

On this website, you can locate the State Regulatory Agency in your area.

When it comes to administration details, you can find all of the necessary information in the Test Administration Manual.

You can take these national tests in four available languages: English, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

7. Apprenticeship

In the service industry, you are working with people who require real-world experience.

Some states don’t consider education complete without an apprenticeship or commonly called internship.

Having the experience of working in a professional environment such as a salon or a spa will help in making your first steps on the market and gaining the required experience.

In some states, apprenticeship is usually separated from the practical part of the training program while in the other apprenticeship might be calculated as training hours in simulation facilities.

In the second case, changing internships for training hours may require having additional hours of working (in some states even double of training hours).

Many of these programs are accompanied by mentorship as it helps the faster transfer of knowledge and experience by learning through feedback.

The good thing about an apprenticeship is that you can even earn while learning – not the full salary as in normal working conditions but just enough to help you cover some scholarship costs.

8. Apply For Licensure

After the successful completion of exams and internship programs, you are now ready to apply for your license.

But be careful, in some states applying for licensure comes before taking examinations, so make sure to check your state’s requirements to maintain the right for this application.

Let’s also check up on eligibility requirements.

By national regulations, all of the candidates need to be at least 16 years old and have a minimum of 10th-grade education or a high school diploma.

Applicants must complete 1,200 school hours in a cosmetology training program.

HIV or AIDS course completion certificate has to be issued by the school.

With your application, you will be required to submit a graduate certification form and pay the fee provided with the application form.

The fee may vary significantly depending on location and school from $20 to $100.

You can also submit your application online.

9. Maintaining a License

Having a license is a great start, but it requires constant maintenance.

To keep high professional standards and provide the best possible service to your clients you will need to retake the exam every year or in some states every second year.

This recurrent not only keeps your knowledge at the professional level but also helps you in keeping track of the newest updates in the industry.

This license renewal is required throughout your MUA career.

10. You Are Ready (But Leave Space For Improvement)

After all those hours of education, you are finally ready to provide an unforgettable makeup experience to your customers.

Time spent on gaining practical experience in training and internship programs will help you in creating a great resume and portfolio to show your professional-level skills in various categories and attract new clients and collaborators easily.

Besides technical knowledge, make sure to show both your creativity and unique style.

In makeup artistry practice makes perfect.

So there would be no shortcuts, but to constantly learn more about new products, techniques and applying them to people with different skin types.

There are plenty of areas for improvement, you might also research what your colleagues are doing or want to get to know more about lightning which does influence your final product as well.

Don’t forget that being ready for the market with so many rapidly changing trends requires constant work and education. Leaving the space for improvement will help you grow faster and earn more.

Certifications may not give you the same kind of license as formal educational programs but they are great in building up knowledge on the latest techniques and trends in the industry.

Even some of the leading companies in the industry such as Bobby Brown Cosmetics, Urban Decay, MAC, or Make Up Forever have their certification courses where you can perfect your knowledge and engage in both online and offline activities.

In makeup artistry, there is no useful knowledge.

Is COVID-19 Changing The Beauty Industry?

Safety measures are important in every business in times of COVID-19, especially when it comes to providing services in direct contact with customers.

Lockdown measures have affected all of the people working in the beauty industry around the world and it’s not as easy for new joiners to start on a good foot.

So, what does it mean to adjust to the “new now” for makeup artists?

Remember, it’s your responsibility to provide high-sanitation standards and make your clients feel like they are in a safe place when coming to you.

Working with face masks and gloves might not be the most convenient way of working, but protecting yourself and others around you will be a great way to build your reputation on the market.

Wash and sanitize your hands often and don’t forget to sanitize the workstation as well.

Keep tools in your kit clean and hygienic and separate brushes between clients. COVID-19 or not, you should provide a 5-star service to your customers and hygiene plays a big role in that.

Make sure to schedule one customer at a time so you would have enough time to organize, sanitize, and prepare.

Provide masks, gloves, and sanitizers to customers.

In case you are having in-store testers be careful about their use as they might develop microbial transmission.

Communicate regularly with tester providers and their safety staff about how to maintain and use the testers safely.

One of the options in preventing the disease spread in times of COVID-19 might be the usage of disposable applicators when applying testers.

A global pandemic is dictating the way businesses are functioning nowadays and since the beauty industry isn’t quite socially distancing friendly there most certainly will be times when working from home isn’t possible.

What should you do then?

Use those times to learn and progress – engage with your customers and take insights from their feedback, check out new trends in the industry from your colleagues, and try to finish additional courses so you will be ready for the “new now”.

In times of global pandemic, crisis resilience is important and it doesn’t happen as a one-way street by only learning and implementing.

There is a new formula for business resilience nowadays: improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Final Thoughts

The question every future makeup artist wants to know the answer for is the following – do I need a license to be legal to work?

The answer to this question is – not necessary.

Since it’s a complex answer, let’s try to make it simple.

It depends on various factors such as in which category of makeup industry will you be working or in which state you live in as each state has its own set of regulations.

So, before starting on your education be familiar with the process on how to get a makeup artistry license and these 3 things: what services you want to provide as a makeup artist, in which state you will be working, and what are the regulations for that particular area.

One thing is definite – with or without a makeup license, education alone is never enough for a professional makeup artist.

Loving what you do, constantly practicing, learning, and improving your skills are essential for success in such a fast-paced creative industry.

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