It's a good time to be an aspiring stylist, barber or hairdresser. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be nearly 100,000 new cosmetology jobs in the U.S. by 2020. If you want to find one of them, cosmetology school is a crucial step.
A good cosmetology program will provide you with expert instruction, real-world practice and teach you everything you'll need to know to pass your all-important certification and licensing exams.
Of course, great schools aren't free. And while technical colleges and dedicated beauty schools offer shorter programs and lower price tags than four-year colleges, the costs still add up. Fortunately, there are plenty of cosmetology scholarships available to help you pay for your education without going into as much debt.
There are several major national scholarships for cosmetologists. In addition, talk to the financial aid office at your current or prospective school, as staff there can point you to some focused, community-specific scholarships that fit your interests.
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Beauty Changes Lives, a nonprofit initiative of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, provides the Vidal Sassoon Professional Beauty Education Scholarships, a couple of the largest and most prestigious annual cosmetology scholarships.
The basic version of the scholarship awards 10 new cosmetology students a scholarship to cover 50 percent of the tuition at a qualified school. If you're already a licensed cosmetologist, the advanced scholarship provides its winners tuition, travel and expenses to learn new techniques at the Vidal Sassoon Academy.
Wherever you are in your school and career search, don't miss out on this program. Applications open in January.
And, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools also offers its own variety of cosmetology school grants and scholarships.
The Professional Beauty Association also sponsors several awards. PBA members can apply for the Hans Neumaier PBA Member Scholarship, which is worth $1,000 and open to high school and cosmetology school students as well as professionals interested in continuing education.
The trade group also partners with Minerva, a retailer of salon equipment, to award the Minerva Beauty Scholarship. Unlike the Sally Beauty program, Minerva's scholarships are available to students who are already enrolled in a cosmetology school.
If you're a current beauty school student and you've maintained a 3.0 GPA or 80 percent average, you can apply for one of five $1,000 awards. The deadline for 2014-2015 scholarships is May 31, so you've got some time to apply. Don't delay, because this one also requires a letter of reference from a professional or instructor.
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In addition to these national programs, don't forget that your hometown and your school are excellent sources of scholarship assistance. The Minnesota School of Cosmetology, for example, has a number of scholarships available for enrolled students, including academic and matching awards.
Pasadena City College offers specific cosmetology grants to cosmetology students with qualifying FAFSA need, which can be used to purchase supplies. And the Melissa Eleanor Ernest Scholarship, offered to Jackson County, Mich., students attending cosmetology school, is just one of a number of local and regional examples of financial aid for a career in the beauty industry.
There are plenty of great reasons to pursue a career as a stylist, esthetician, barber or cosmetologist, and these cosmetology scholarships can help you start and complete the education you need.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.