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Cosmetology graduates wait to test for licenses in some states with backlogs

Cosmetology grad backup
Posted at 7:14 AM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 10:14:46-05

Your hairdresser, makeup artist and aesthetician are just some of the people who need licenses through your state to do their job.

“Cosmetology is one of a handful of professions that's licensed in all 50 states, and I think that's important during this pandemic because one of the main reasons for licensure is the protection of public health,” Brian Newman, State Relations Advisor with the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, said.

Depending on the state, getting that license can be tough for new cosmetology school graduate right now.

“California probably has some of the stricter lockdowns so with the current stay-at-home orders, state test sites are not doing testing right now,” said Kyle Balsdon, Director at the Designs School of Cosmetology in Paso Robles, California. “Before, students would generally graduate and test about two to at most six weeks after they would graduate. Now we’re seeing delays as much as six months on top of that.”

With those delays come backlogs.

“There's got to be at least 5,000 to 10,000. I know that’s kind of a broad range but it's hard to tell with the current situation. But definitely in the high thousands of students being affected by this,” Balsdon said about the state’s recent cosmetology graduates.

Balsdon said a lot of schools are seeing similar enrollment to previous years, so the number of grads isn’t slowing down.

“We’re just crossing our fingers, hoping that we can get back to operation soon with all the vaccines coming out,” he said.

Almost a dozen states have found a temporary solution by paving a path for provisional or temporary licensing to help graduates in that gap. One of those states is Arizona.

“I was a little nervous too because of COVID but I didn't let that stop me. When you have the passion and you want to go out and help people,” said Katrina Johnson, a recent cosmetology school graduate.

She’s currently working under a provisional license that will allow her to practice for six months, while she waits to take the practical exam for her license.

“I heard that it was like maybe three to four months,” she said, explaining the potential wait time.

“There’s probably a backlog in every state. I would imagine there has to be because there was no practical testing pretty much throughout the country,” Anthony Civitano, Executive Director of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, explained when discussing pandemic-related shutdowns.

“Their long term full licensure may have a little bit of a backlog, but I don't see it going into a year or anything like that,” he said.

So while grads in some states wait to practice officially, Civitano said many have the knowledge they already need to see clients when they are able.

“Sanitation, sterilization, and public safety is at the forefront of what we teach,” he said.

As long as a state’s COVID-19 regulations allow the operation of salons, there will be a demand.

“There is no shortage of jobs out there for licensed hairdressers, skincare, massage, hair technology,” Civitano said. “Everybody needs a haircut. They still need to look good and feel good about themselves. We are as much a part of their mental health as we are just looking good and feeling good because when you look good, you usually feel good.”