Cosmetologist Salary: 
What to Expect When You Hit the Salon Floor

We are going to take an honest look at a cosmetologist salary. But to be really honest, it is all very relative.

Relative to where you live, relative to your skill level, relative to your specialty and passion, relative to your specific clientele, relative to your marketing skill and client building abilities, relative to your retail abilities, etc.

Do you see what I mean?  I will give you the range of a cosmetologist salary provided by the United States Department of Labor and Statistics but there is more to it.

Let me first show you, then I will explain.

Cosmetologist Salary: Dept. of Labor & Statistics

I will give you the highlights here so you don't have to understand charts.

The statistics for 2013 for a "cosmetologist" says that the mean average of the hourly wage is $13.24 and the yearly cosmetologist salary is $27,530

That means they took all the information provided by W-2's, added them all up and took the average.

Now I'm saying there is more to consider.  The only information they are going by is what was on a hairstylist's W-2.

How does a cosmetologist make her money?                                                  Paycheck plus tips.

I'm going to be very general here as practices are different all over the country.  If a tip is charged on a credit card there is a paper trail and will have to be claimed as income. However, cash tips can not be proven.  They are exchanged from client to stylist with no record.  So what happens?  A little creative accounting.  This would be true of any industry where tips are given, not just hairdressers.

How much more does the average stylist make than is on paper?  I have no way of answering that. I've been in a salons where tipping was not allowed (the stylist's were miserable, btw). But you know people are getting cash tips.  I will say, though, that these days the majority of people use plastic. Cash isn't what it used to be.

So when I see that the mean average cosmetologist salary is $27,530  I say, ummmm, not really. But it is definitely a good place to start.

Just to give you a little more info with the numbers the range for hourly was between $8.18 - $21.96 and for annually it was between $17,010 - $44,220.

Now, that being said, remember how I said it was all relative?  Let's look at some examples.

(If you want to check out the bar charts help yourself at  Just read the rest of this page first so you have a clearer perspective.)

An Hourly Cosmetologist
in a Franchise Salon

Once again, where you live determines a lot with pay.  In a larger metropolitan area, the hourly wage will be higher than it is in a small town. But let's do some general math for a franchise salon employee.

Sally Stylist works at a franchise salon making $9 an hour.  She works 35 hours a week and services an average of 10 clients a day.  She sells $100 in retail a week and makes 20% commission on her product sales.  Her average ticket is $25 and we will say her average tip is $4.

$9 X 35 hours = $315 a week

$100 retail sales X 20% commission = $20

50 clients X $4 tips = $200

$315 hourly wage + $20 retail commission + $200 tips = $535 a week

$535 / 35 hours = $15.29 an hour

$535 X 52 weeks = $27,820 a year

This is Gross Income, the same as reported by the Dept. of Labor and Statistics.

I didn't do any of the figures on purpose to match the Labor and Statistics average. It just came out that way, I swear!  Funny, though.

This is very realistic.  Some pay lower, some pay higher. Depending on your speed, you could do more clients than that. Or if you are in a slow salon you could do less than that.  See, it all depends on many variables.

Let's Take a Look
at a Commission Stylist

Working in a private salon generally means you will be working on commission on your services.  The split depends on your salon.  It could go up as your clientele builds and you are bringing more money into the salon.

Splits range from salon to salon.  I've seen 30/70 to 60/40.  That means you could get a 30% commission to a 60% commission.  That number will hugely affect your income!

But for simplicity let's do an example of a 50/50 split.

Steve works in a hometown salon.  He is on a 50/50 split with the salon.  This means he makes 50% of all services he performs.  His average client ticket is very important, as 50% of $100 is a whole lot better than 50% of $25.  So how important is upselling in this environment?!  Every service Steve can add to the ticket means he makes more on his paycheck.  Steve sees an average of 8 clients a day.  He does cuts, color, shampoos, blowouts, etc.  But his average service ticket is $50. His average tip on this ticket is $8.  He sells $150 a week in retail and receives 15% commission on retail sales.  The hours he works don't matter because he is on commission.

$50 average ticket X 50% commission = $25 per client

40 clients per week X $25 commission = $1000 a week

$150 retail X 15% = $22.50 a week

$8 tip X 40 clients = $320

$1000 commission + $22.50 retail commission + $320 tips = $1342.50 a week

$1324.50 / 40 hours = $33.56 an hour´╗┐

$1342.50 X 52 weeks = $69,810

Gross Income.  Now that is some good money!  Steve has a decent clientele though, and he is awesome at upselling.

If he was on a 40/60 split his weekly would be $1142.50.

If he was on a 60/40 split his weekly would be $1542.50!!!

So as you can clearly see, a cosmetologist salary is very relative. And BTW, can be negotiated as your value to the salon increases.

Being a professional hair stylist is one of the few occupations where you can control your income.

You have the ability to increase your paycheck every payday!  Need more money?

Upsell, retail, build clientele!

How Much Will Your Cosmetologist Salary Be?

I can't tell you exactly.  But I can tell you that you will probably be a lot better off than you are right now. Am I right?

Not to mention you are entering an industry with unlimited potential and future growth.

 My personal income has ranged from $20,000 to $62,000.  It all depends on several factors. And your personal perspective.  It may be that $20,000 a year would seem like a mountain of money to you.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to pay your rent without sweating it or pay your credit card bill without being late?

However, the sky is really the limit.  I know an owner/stylist that banks about $250,000 a year in a relatively small town.  He is good, very good.  He has smart business sense.  Not a lot of stylist are blessed with a keen business mind.  But for those that are, there is a lot of money to be made.  I even know some stylists who are commanding $600 for one haircut.

So young ones, be extremely hopeful and dream big.  Your own cosmetologist salary is totally within your control.  If you want to make the big bucks you can.

  You can if you plan!!!

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