Find a Makeup School | Compare Cost, Courses, & Training Requirements

Makeup Artist School

Rachel Ferran

Featuring expert advice from Rachel Ferran

As a makeup artist, you'll enhance the face and bodies of your clients. You'll hide scars, conceal blemishes, and accentuate your clients' best features. For some makeup artistry jobs, such as in the movie industry, you may completely transform someone with skillful makeup techniques.

Before you get to work, however, you have to learn the trade. That means going to a standalone specialty makeup school or learning makeup artistry as one component of a broader esthetician program or cosmetology program.

If you're looking at makeup artistry as a career, you're probably already interested in makeup and good at applying it—so why do you need formal training?

For starters, you might have to be formally trained in order to practice.. Many states require you to obtain a license of some kind to work as a makeup artist, especially in places like salons. In these cases, completing training hours in a recognized program is one of the conditions for earning a license.

Skip to popular topics on this page:
What Does a Makeup Artist Do? |
Rachel Ferran Top Tips for Makeup Artists |
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Makeup School: What to Expect |
How to Choose a Makeup Program |
How to Become a Professional Makeup Artist |
Makeup Artist Schools by State |
Hot U.S. Cities for New Makeup Artists

In other states, you may not need a license to apply makeup, but clients and employers will almost always want to ensure that you've undergone specialized formal training and education before they'll hire you as a makeup artist.

What Does a Makeup Artist Do?

Makeup artists use cosmetics to transform and enhance people's skin and appearance.

You might work in a dermatologist's office or a salon, on movie sets, at fashion shows, or backstage at theater productions.

You might choose to be an independent contractor who takes your work on the road to weddings or photo shoots, or you might work in medical settings helping patients conceal scars after burns or surgeries. You could work in sales at a makeup store or counter, or you may earn your living as a consultant.

Your environment and work projects might change, but some elements of makeup artistry are universal no matter where you work.

While working as a makeup artist, you'll:

  • Talk to your clients, assess their wants and needs, make suggestions, and guide them through their options.
  • Ensure that you are meeting and exceeding safety, sanitization, and hygiene standards.
  • Apply or remove makeup, eyelashes, or even appearance-changing prosthetics.
  • Choose and maintain the right cosmetics, tools, and other supplies.
  • Make judgments about the appropriate makeup to use—both the type and color—depending on the client's skin, clothing or costume, the occasion, lighting, and other factors.
  • Collaborate with skin, nail, and hair experts who are working on the same client or clients.

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Rachel Ferran Top Tips for Makeup Artists

According to YouTube and makeup artist Rachel Ferran, it's essential to know what you're getting into and to educate yourself as much as possible. Here are some of her top tips to become a makeup artist.

  1. Do your research. Make sure this is the right career for you because it does have startup costs, including products and supplies if you are starting your own business.
  2. Learn the type of artist that you want to be: bridal, theater, etc. Then you can narrow down which school is best for you.
  3. Get a job at retail makeup counters to gain experience.
  4. Ask makeup artists in the industry lots of questions so you can learn more. Apply to assist artists on big jobs or run tasks for them to gain experience in the industry.
  5. Build your portfolio. This is more than a photo book—also build your following on social media. Ferran recommends taking courses in social media and photography to document your work properly. "An artist is more than doing the work. It's about business building," she explains.

Makeup School: What to Expect

Depending on where you live and your plans for your career, you'll need to figure out which type of makeup schooling to pursue.

Many states don't require training or a license to work as a professional makeup artist, while some say you can apply makeup without a license as long as you aren't working in a salon environment. Your state's requirements can help determine what kind of makeup school you need.

Types of Makeup Schools

You can pursue makeup training through different types of institutions, though the amount of time and expertise offered in makeup training will vary greatly depending on where you go to learn makeup artistry.

Standalone Makeup School

A standalone makeup school will provide you with the most comprehensive training to become a professional makeup artist. With in-depth programs that sometimes offer 800 or more hours (over months) of education focused solely on makeup application and related techniques, these schools may offer the best preparation for a career in makeup artistry.

A standalone makeup school is often the ideal option for training if you want to build your career on makeup techniques, including special effects makeup, body painting, and airbrush.

Makeup Training Within an Esthetician Program or School

Some states require you to complete an esthetics program and earn an esthetician license to work as a makeup artist. However, esthetics focuses on skin care and skin treatments, so there’s not much overlap between learning how to care for the skin and how to apply makeup.

As a result, esthetician programs usually don't offer many hours dedicated to makeup application. For instance, New York state only requires 70 hours of makeup technique instruction in its 600-hour esthetician curriculum. In a dedicated makeup school, this amount of instruction time might barely cover the basics of one type of look, such as bridal makeup, let alone more advanced topics such as FX or body paint.

New Hampshire, Alabama, and Oregon are a few of the states that require esthetician licenses for makeup artists. If you live in a state that requires you to be a licensed esthetician, additional makeup artist training at a standalone makeup school or supplementary training program can prepare you for the field.

Makeup Training Within a Cosmetology Program or School

Some states, like Oklahoma, require makeup artists to complete a full cosmetology program, which includes training in skin, hair, and nail care. Cosmetology provides a broad education base for students looking for an overall beauty education. As with esthetician programs, cosmetology programs typically do not offer enough makeup-specific hours to get you ready for a specialized makeup artistry career.

For states that require a cosmetologist license for makeup services, it's wise to find a cosmetology program with an extensive makeup artistry component and/or pursue additional makeup training after cosmetology school to make sure you have the skills you need to succeed as a professional makeup artist.

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Makeup School Program Costs

No matter your state's requirements or your own career goals, you will likely encounter a broad spectrum of prices when shopping around for makeup schools and programs. Standalone makeup schools can cost less than a cosmetology program, but others are in the same ballpark or more. Much depends on how many hours of instruction are offered in the makeup program, which can vary widely.

When researching makeup school program costs, be sure to scrutinize the courses offered carefully to make sure the intensity of the makeup coursework will prepare you for the jobs you are seeking.

The popular Ultimate Makeup Academy, which is offered predominantly through Paul Mitchell the School campuses, for example, costs between $2,000 and $2,500 in tuition. This program offers roughly 100 hours of instruction.

The Art of Makeup academy offers makeup training programs with prices ranging from $3,245 for a 104-hour program to $10,135 for a 384-hour program.

L Makeup Institute, which has campus locations in Nevada and Texas, has a comprehensive 8-month program of nearly 1,100 hours for around $22,500. Keep in mind that makeup programs will also require additional fees, such as for books and a student makeup kit, which may run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Also, shorter certificate or non-certificate makeup programs may be too short in hours to qualify for federal financial aid.

In comparison, esthetician programs generally cost between $3,000 and $10,000, according to the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS). Full cosmetology programs will likely cost between$6,500 and $10,000. These ranges depend on factors such as whether the program is at a community college or a private beauty school or whether the program is in an urban area with a high cost of living or a cheaper area.

What Do You Learn in a Makeup Program?

What you learn in a makeup program varies, but some courses, topics, treatments, concepts, and curriculum are consistent between makeup artistry programs.

Makeup School Curriculum

Every school has a different curriculum, and some programs are designed specifically to serve certain niches or career goals. No matter which program you choose, you'll likely encounter the following courses and concepts:

General Courses

  • Product knowledge
  • Chemistry of cosmetics
  • Facial anatomy
  • Tools, supplies, and workstations
  • Client consultation and planning
  • The effects of lighting on makeup applications
  • Safety, hygiene, sanitation, and HIV/AIDS
  • Color theory and the color wheel
  • Skin analysis and basic skin care
  • Skin types and ethnicity
  • Eye and lip anatomy and makeup
  • Toning, shading, and blending
  • Corrective makeup

Speciality Courses

  • Costume/Halloween/horror makeup
  • Bridal makeup
  • Glamour makeup
  • Stage and theater makeup
  • Cosmetics for television and film
  • Makeup in the fashion industry
  • Special effects makeup, including bruises, cuts, and scratches
  • Airbrushing
  • Tattoo concealment
  • Aging makeup
  • Prosthetics like bald caps and false eyelashes
  • Body and face painting
  • Genre/decade makeup
  • Makeup for photoshoots

Once you complete your makeup coursework and earn your certificate, you'll be qualified to remove and apply makeup, consult with clients, sell and market cosmetics, and recommend products. Your training and certification apply to all settings, including spas and salons; the fashion, film, TV, theater, and entertainment industries; the travel and leisure industry; and any other setting where your skills and services are in demand.

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

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sponsored content, school availability varies by location

Makeup Training Hour Requirements

Most states do not require specific training or licensure in makeup artistry, though some states place restrictions on the location or type of services that may be performed by individuals without cosmetology or esthetics licensure—for example, allowing makeup artistry at retail counters but not in salons.

To earn a cosmetology license or esthetician license in the states that require them, you'll have to complete the number of training hours for that license as mandated by the state board. Several states, such as Nevada, have a registration path for makeup artists that does not mandate makeup or other training.

Because makeup artistry doesn't require licensure in many states, the level of training you pursue in those states will depend on how prepared you want to be for the jobs you seek. Training hours reflect the amount of time you spend preparing, studying, and training to be a makeup artist during your program.

During your training hours, you'll receive instruction on techniques and procedures, which you'll also practice and perform throughout your program. This could involve anything from applying and removing makeup on live models or mannequins to sanitizing equipment and setting up your workstation. You might receive this training in a simulated environment or a real salon.

How to Choose a Makeup Program

You'll want to choose your program based on your career goals, where you live, and what you can afford. No matter your situation, make sure you weigh the following considerations when choosing a makeup school.

Your State's Requirements
As noted above, your choice of training program should be in line with your state's licensing standards, though many states do not regulate makeup artistry or do so in certain situations. If your state and career do mean you need specific licensure, be certain that the program you choose provides at least the minimum number of training hours your state requires.

Reputation
Check with the state education board or the Better Business Bureau to make sure that your school is legitimate and in good standing. Next, look up third-party reviews on places like Google or Yelp to see what students are saying about the program, its instructors, and the quality of training it provides, especially for the type of job you aspire to.

Local Connections
The best schools enjoy partnerships and relationships with businesses, salons, spas, and cosmetic companies in the area. You might work with one of these organizations for an internship, which could open the door for future employment.

Career Services
Make sure the program you choose provides its graduates with job placement and career services, including help with finding job openings, crafting resumes, and landing interviews. Ask about where alumni have landed and how the school assisted with their first jobs after graduation and beyond.

Accreditation
Unlike college programs, it's not necessary for makeup, esthetician, or cosmetology schools to be accredited, although schools need to be approved by the state’s board of education to provide postsecondary programs.

Some schools, however, choose to become accredited to demonstrate that they meet the educational standards set by the accrediting organization, such as NACCAS or ACCSC.

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How to Become a Professional Makeup Artist

The path to becoming a professional makeup artist is a different experience from one state to the next, depending on regulations. As mentioned above, some states require you to earn an esthetician license, and in other states you'll need a full cosmetology license, which costs more and takes longer.

For the states that don't require any licensure or particular training, you have more flexibility on your makeup artist career path. Follow the steps below to start your journey toward becoming a professional makeup artist.

  1. Determine if your state requires you to attend an esthetics or cosmetology program or if you can attend a standalone, specialized makeup school. You can verify this information through your state's cosmetology board, health department, or whatever the governing body happens to be.
  2. Research and compare makeup artistry schools, gathering detailed information about the makeup coursework, hours of training, and topics covered. If you are considering a broader cosmetology or esthetics program but intend to work as a full-time makeup artist, make sure both that the program satisfies state requirements for the cosmetology or esthetics license and that the makeup portion of your training is substantial.
  3. Enroll, fulfill your state's number of required training hours (if applicable), and complete the program.
  4. Apply for any applicable licensure.

Additional Makeup Certifications and Trainings

You might want to pursue additional training and certification to advance your makeup artistry career and pick up specialized skills. This kind of training can occur online or in person and typically costs anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on length of program.

For instance, New York Makeup Academy offers specialized courses in topics such as high fashion/runway makeup, retro/vintage glamour makeup, and Halloween creative looks. L Makeup Academy offers a variety of intensive continuing education and specialized courses, including a 7-week course on special effects makeup and a 5-week course on advanced prosthetics.

Continuing Education

In most states, cosmetologists and estheticians must renew their licenses periodically, most likely annually or every other year. If you are obtaining one of these licenses as part of your route to being a makeup artist, you may need to complete continuing education units every year or two.

If your line of work in your state is not regulated by licensure, continuing education will simply be a way for you to augment your services offered and stay up-to-date with new techniques.

Hot U.S. Cities for New Makeup Artists

No matter where you are, chances are people are trying to look their most beautiful. These popular cities for new makeup artists are no exceptions.

This salary data is self-reported. It may include everything from freelance makeup artists to those working in film and TV.

With its hit music scene and vibrant nightlife, Austin could be a great place to begin a makeup artist career. Check out some of their unique makeup services, like those offered by Kiss N' Makeup and LoLa Beauty ATX.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Austin is $50,777 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Austin beauty student's guide

Located near the nation's capital, Baltimore could be an exciting place to start your makeup artist career. A couple of their popular artists include those at Xquisite Xpression and Brushed Beauty.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Baltimore is $44,364 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Baltimore beauty student's guide

Beauty Asylum Hair & Makeup and The Divas Beauty Salon & Spa are only a couple of the makeup and beauty salons available in Charlotte. Named the number one most up-and-coming city by Yelp, this hip and historic town could be the perfect place to begin your makeup artist career.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Charlotte is $49,235 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

As the third-largest city in the U.S., Chicago is full of tourists and residents who often want to look their best, which means it may be a fabulous place to start your makeup artist journey. A couple of their highly-rated brands include goldplaited and City Lights Beauty.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Chicago is $45,764 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Chicago beauty student's guide

Hidden Gem Luxury and 6 Salon are just two of the many makeup service brands Detroit has to offer. If you want to become a makeup artist in Michigan, Detroit and its thriving and diverse music scene may be the ideal place to begin.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Detroit is $44,546 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Miami's Darsys Makeup & Hair and Ft. Lauderdale's Hello Beautiful Salon are just a couple of the wonderful makeup service locations offered in the area. If you want to work with people from all over, these cities could help your makeup artist career take off.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Miami / Fort Lauderdale is $36,000 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Miami beauty student's guide

Nashville's music scene isn't the only colorful aspect of the city. There are also many makeup studios and independent artists, making it an exciting place to start your work as a makeup artist. Artofficial Makeup and Photo Studio and Indigo Beauty Collective are just two of the many studios the city offers.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Nashville is $49,536 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Phoenix may be hot, but it's also a pretty cool city—especially for new makeup artists. As a top-rated spa destination, Phoenix has plenty of guests looking for makeup services. The Sparkle Bar and Bella Makeup are just a couple of the makeup studios the city has to offer.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Phoenix is $43,226 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

RedLips Review in Tampa and Corine Cosmetics in St. Petersburg barely scratch the surface of the many types of makeup studios based in these cities. The tourists and residents alike are always on the hunt for the best new makeup artists.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Tampa is $42,369 and in St. Petersburg is $35,432 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

Tampa beauty student's guide

Washington DC has a little bit of everything for makeup artists. From VM Photography & Makeup Studio to Own Your Wonder, where you get to help people learn to create their own makeup looks, chances are new makeup artists can find a great fit for their careers.

The mean salary for makeup artists in Washington, DC is $50,127 (ZipRecruiter, 2021).

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