5 Best Cosmetology School Online: Detailed Reviews (2023 Updated)

Cosmetologist work in the beauty field. Their job is to make clients look their best. This includes hair styling, hair coloring, facial hair treatment, pedicures, manicures, and makeup. You can find cosmetologist in beauty salon, spas, and resorts.

Beauty isn’t just a matter of looking good. It’s also about feeling better about yourself. Our self-image matters a lot to us, and cosmetologists help with improving it.

Cosmetology is a mix of science and art. You need science to know what products work best in your clients’ case. But it’s also an art, because every person is different, and thus needs different solutions.

Online learning has become a tremendous opportunity for anyone willing to advance their education. You aren’t shackled to physical limitations anymore. If you don’t have time to go to classes because you have a job or other obligations, you can study the materials online.

Unfortunately, online learning doesn’t suit cosmetology and other fields. You need a lot of hands-on experience to become a successful cosmetologist. Even the federal states realize it—they all have laws in place that prevent schools from offering certifications for fully online courses. Each state establishes how many hours of the program online, and how many have to be completed in presence.

Want to become a cosmetologist? You are in the right place.

In this article, we are going to dive deep into the world of online cosmetology schools. What differentiates them from their physical counterparts? How long does it take to get a certificate from them? What about the practice hours necessary to get licensed?

Keep reading to find out the answer to these questions.

Editor’s note: when we talk about cosmetologists in this article, we are not only referring to cosmetics experts. We are also talking about barbers, hair colorist, hairstylists, and any other related job.

How to Become a Cosmetologist

How to Become a Cosmetologist
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The road to becoming a cosmetologist is paved with lots of practice.

To become a licensed cosmetologist, you must follow these steps:

  1. Enroll in a state-licensed cosmetology school, or in a school that is internationally recognized and accredited.
  2. Complete a certain number of hours of training. These vary by the state. You could have to do as little as 1.000, up to 2.300 hours of training. Roughly, these mean anywhere between 6 months and 1 years and a half of full-time employment.
  3. Take the state exam and pass it.

Congratulations, you are now a licensed cosmetologist. You can work anywhere you wish, or start up your own beauty salon.

Editor’s note: the path is the same, regardless of the field of specialization you have picked. It doesn’t matter if you want to become a hair stylist, a makeup artist, or a manicure-pedicure professional. You’ll have to follow these steps.

Why Cosmetology?

Cosmetology is an ever-growing field. To put things in perspective, the global cosmetics industry generated $380.2 billions in revenue in 2019, and is expected to reach $463.5 billions by 2027. There are enormous opportunities in it right now, not only in the job market, but even for entrepreneurial ventures.

For example, you could use your job experience as a makeup specialist to create a product that is natural and doesn’t release toxic chemicals in the environment. That’s just a random example of the opportunities that are in the space. The green revolution is coming, and you can become an actor.

If you don’t care about innovating, you can still stand out from the crowd by paying attention to all the new evolution in the industry, and picking products your clients will love. If you are a hair stylist, you can easily research new popular hair styles.

For example, you could check the hair styles of popular influencers in various industries, and suggest it to clients they’d look good on.

There are plenty of opportunities in cosmetology, and they are yours for the taking.

But there are also downsides to picking this career path. The job market is expected to shrink by the end of 2029, so there will be fewer employment opportunities in the future. It’s also not as lucrative as other trades.

Getting into cosmetology has to be a choice you make because you love the field, and the feel of helping people with their self-image. Seeing clients smiling and feeling like they could take on the world thanks to their newfound looks is extremely satisfying.

The Best Cosmetology Schools Online

There are many cosmetology schools that you can pick from. It’s better to pick a school that is close to you, because most cosmetology schools have contacts in the industry and could help you find an internship in your state.

But that shouldn’t be the only criteria to consider. You are spending money and time to get the job of your dreams, so picking the right institute is paramount.

How did we make a list of the best?

First, we checked who runs the school. Some cosmetology schools are run by beauty experts, and have real-world professionals as professors. Those are always a better choice than an average school with teachers who haven’t operated a pair of scissors in 25 years.

Second, we checked the flexibility of the program. Does it offer on-demand videos? Or do you have to follow live classes? How much of the program can the program be completed entirely online?

For this list, we focused on programs that are 100% online.

1. International Career Institute’s Programs

The International Career Institute (ICI) is an internationally recognized institution in Los Angeles. ICI offers two distinct online cosmetology programs. One in Beauty Therapy & Makeup, and another one in Hairdressing. Both courses are internationally recognized and are 100% online.

Both programs are there to let anyone get quickly started with their journey as a cosmetologist. These programs last 24 and 31 weeks respectively, and—thanks to being completely online—they offer unmatched flexibility.

These programs are taught by professionals in the respective fields, and both give you access to your personal tutor. They are also affordable, costing around $1.000 each. There are no prerequisites to enroll in either of them.

Both courses are recognized and accredited by the International Association of Private Career Colleges (IAPCC), and their certification is internationally recognized.

The fundamental difference between these two courses is that the hairdresser one is considered more advanced, which is also why it lasts a little longer. But neither has any special requirement, so you should enroll in the one that interests you the most.

The strength of these programs is what you get out of them. You don’t just get your certification like with most other online courses. You also get full transcripts showing what units you completed and a letter of recommendation for your current and future employers.

2. Online Makeup Academy

Despite the name, OMA isn’t only focused on makeup. The university offers programs in both makeup and hairdressing, though the focus is on makeup. The instructors are New York-based makeup artists who worked with celebrities, magazines, and regular people alike.

The most interesting program they offer is the “Elite Career Path”, an all-inclusive course teaching both how to be a great makeup artist, and how to market yourself and become a successful one.

There are also less intensive courses with a more specific focus. There is a master makeup program, an advanced makeup course, and the aforementioned hairstylist one.

OMA is an excellent choice for those looking to become their own bosses. The Elite Career Path program gets anyone from zero to mastery of the craft, and then into building a business around it.

Prices are overall good for these courses. You are getting good value out of them. You’ll be able to regain your investment within a couple of months of working. Definitely a good idea for aspiring cosmetologists.

3. The Academy of Nail Design’s Complete Nails Program

The Academy of Nails Design offers a comprehensive online program for nail care. If you are interested in looking into the nail care branch of cosmetology, this is the perfect course for you. And yes, I know, the school itself is in Canada, but its online certification is officially recognized by most of the states, and even in some European countries, as well as China and Australia.

You can check the licensing requirements, and if you need to do anything in particular to get licensed on the school’s page dedicated to the topic.

The program has a very affordable price of $850, and you can even get an extra discount if you sign up for TAOND’s newsletter.

The course is divided into 11 modules, and it’s fully flexible. You can complete it at your own pace, there are no time constraints. Can you only study during nights, because you work during the day? No problem, this course fits your needs. Do you have lots of free time, and want to get quickly certified? This course has it all.

4. QC Makeup Academy’s Makeup Artist Program

This is a unique opportunity for students looking for an online school. The QC Makeup Academy focuses on makeup, so if that’s what you want to study, you’re in the right place. Enrolling gives you full access to the video course, and the school will also send you a Master Makeup Kit for you to practice with. The kit includes everything you need to get started practicing with makeup.

Other benefits of enrolling with QC Makeup Academy is the possibility to purchase beauty products at a discounted price. The school’s certifications are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Getting your certificate from this academy won’t take long. Most students graduate within 4 to 6 months from enrollment.

The school claims there is a way to complete the entire program in 1 month, but I don’t recommend it. Time is necessary to cement your learning, so take things a little slower. It’s not like 6 months is a long time anyway.

There are many courses, both basic and advanced, that will turn you into an absolute makeup beast. There is also a course about hair styling, but we don’t recommend it, since the school is focused on makeup.

The program is flexible, and the average completion time of a program is between 4 and 6 months. The tuition costs aren’t that high either, with courses costing about $1.500 at most.

The school itself is in Ottawa, Ontario.

5. Delta College’s Spa Manager Program

This is a unique program compared to the others on this list. Being a spa manager is still strictly related to cosmetology, because that’s what spas are for. But you’ll be more concerned about the client’s well-being instead of focusing on one task.

You must still know all about the various treatments, and figure out which ones would benefit your clients the most. This program gives you a solid foundation on the various branches of cosmetology, while also preparing you as a salon/spa owner.

Being an owner is hard. You are selecting candidates, so you must know if they are any good at their job. This school doesn’t prepare you to practice as a cosmetology, it gives you the tools to select what people will be good at it.

This course is an excellent choice for people who are more interested in the theoretical side of cosmetology, and who want to manage their own spa or beauty salon in the future.


There are many great online cosmetology schools you can pick from. COVID might have almost killed the industry, but now that we are slowly reopening things, you’ll notice that it’s going to grow back better and stronger.

It might seem a little surprising to see so many elite schools ignore physical classes. Hands-on experience is much more important than theory in cosmetology. Luckily, these schools make it easy to set up a simple way to practice by yourself.

You’ll have plenty of practice in the required training hours leading to your state license exam.

Plus, the ability to have your own tutor is invaluable. You can just email them or setup a zoom call with them and ask questions.

What are you waiting for? Enroll in cosmetology school today and prepare for a long and successful career.

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