Throughout high school and middle school, I began thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.
I went back and forth between substance abuse rehabilitation nursing and cosmetology. I know, two very very different things. In my junior year of high school, everyone began applying for colleges and I panicked. I was still confused about what exactly I would like to do with my life. At the time my uncle who was my best friend was struggling very badly with substance abuse and I wanted nothing more than to help people similar to him. I went to go hang out with him one day and he asked the question every high school junior hates to hear … "So, What are you going to do with your life? Do you plan on going to college?". I told him about my dilemma. He looked me in the eyes and said "You have to do what you love and not care what anyone thinks about it. If you want to do hair and makeup you better do that because you love it and you will always love it and you will always be helping people". That comment always stuck with me. Sadly a few months after our chat he passed away.
When my uncle passed I was sure that substance abuse nursing was for me. I wanted to help people with their addictions and be part of the reason they overcame their demons and got clean. Now fast forward to my senior year, it was crunch time. Everyone was getting accepted into Michigan State and U of M. I still had not applied anywhere. Right as it was time for me to apply to community college to begin the prerequisites I decided not to.
What my uncle said came back to me. Nursing would have been so rewarding and meant so much to me but… I had to do what I loved. I also realized how I would still be helping people. Now I was faced with what cosmetology school I should go to. Right before my senior spring break, I went to get my hair done at K Bella Hair Studio and Spa, which is the salon Kristan Sayers the president of the MABP owns. It was my first time getting my hair done in a real salon and I was so excited. The stylist who was doing my hair asked me the question that I felt like I had heard 200+ times now. "Where are you going to college?". I proceeded to tell her about looking into cosmetology schools in the area and asking her about her education. She led me to the ever so amazing Kristan Sayers. Kristan teaches apprentices and had a spot opening up in November. It was fate. I decided on a cosmetology apprenticeship over going to a school and I have not looked back since.
So are you a high school graduate lost about whether you want to go to cosmetology school or an apprenticeship? I am going to tell you about the differences between the two and how to decide which one is for you. When you are in an apprenticeship your teacher typically only has 1-2 students working under them. If you learn better one-on-one or more from watching and then doing, I am telling you right now an apprenticeship is the one for you. Apprenticeships have the freedom for a more customized personal learning experience. That is why I chose an apprenticeship over school because of the way I learn. Neither is better than one or the other; it is totally up to how you learn best.
An apprenticeship lasts 2 years and requires 1,920 hours of education. When you are apprenticing you are also assisting, remember that. After you reach 350 hours in the salon you are then allowed to touch clients. This means shampoos and blow-drys will be your new expertise. Apprenticeships are very fast-paced and are easy to fall behind in. You must have a lot of self-discipline to be an apprentice. You will not be constantly reminded of homework or told what to do every second of every day. With freedom comes responsibility. Each month you must submit your hours to the state. You must have no more than 40 hours a week in education hours a week and no more than 7 hours a day.
A common misconception people have is that with an apprenticeship it is all hands-on and you won't have time to do any book work or computer work. That is not true. You must purchase a MiLady standard cosmetology book and study the heck out of it. This is the book that your state boards get all of the questions from for your big test day. The state board test is the same whether you did an apprenticeship or went through cosmetology school. You will still do a lot of bookwork and homework. It is not less work than cosmetology school which I know most people think. Apprenticeships are hard. You are technically assisting those days at the salon so you will not just be there to help your teacher, you will be there to help the whole salon. You will learn so much from these other stylists and everyone is there to help you - always remember that. Each one of those stylists was a student once and I guarantee they have the answer to any questions you may have if your teacher is not around at that moment. I love the education I am getting and would not trade it for the world. I am a year and a half in and I could not even begin to tell you everything I have learned in that short amount of time. An apprenticeship is not for everybody but it was the right choice for me.
Cosmetology school is for you if you like a more structured learning experience. To graduate from cosmetology school you must complete 1,500 hours of training in the State of Michigan. All schools do it a little bit differently but ultimately have the same curriculum. I had the pleasure of chatting with a friend of mine who is a former Douglas J. Aveda student and a current Douglas J. Aveda instructor. Every school is the same in the aspect that you begin with bookwork and then transition into hands-on. Aveda has a 5 step program. Beginning with the first two steps which are bookwork and learning all the basics. Step 3 is taking clients part-time and being in the classroom part-time. Step 4 is part-time classroom and part-time working on clients with a different curriculum then step 3. Step 5 you constantly take clients and are on the floor 100% of the time. Every school differs in how they execute the process of schooling but the majority have a very structured learning plan similar to a college curriculum. Cosmetology school typically takes one year. Most schools offer morning and night classes giving their students the freedom to choose and the flexibility to still have a job. In order to work in 99% of salons, you must assist after completing cosmetology school. Assisting will put you in a real salon setting and expose you to the fast-paced salon business. Typically, graduates assist for a year to two years before being able to work in a salon. If you have the time to finish school in one year, enjoy learning in a classroom setting with others, and prefer a more structured learning experience, then cosmetology school is the one for you!
With all that being said I just wanted to remind you that one education is no better than the other. It is totally up to what works best for you and how you learn best. I love my apprenticeship and everyone who I have talked to has loved their school experience. It is all about preference. The world of cosmetology has so many subcategories and so much you can do with it. Either path you choose for schooling you will gain so much knowledge and the freedom to choose what you want to do with your license. Will you do hair? Makeup? Nails? The possibilities are endless. The industry is ever-changing and in need of new, fresh minds to make it even better. So in conclusion, whether you go to school or do a two-year apprenticeship you will get an amazing education and will be set up for success.
Alyssa began her apprenticing journey at K Bella Hair Studio & Spa in November 2018. She enjoys all things beauty. Growing up, she always had an interest in fashion and cosmetology. Her biggest goal is to one day open up her own salon in Nashville, Tennessee. Alyssa loves to do extensions, blinding, balayage, and vivid colors! The main reason she decided to enter this field is that she wants to help both men and women look and feel their best. Alyssa is always excited to explore the world of cosmetology and learn all she can about the business.More About The Author