The Chicago Beauty Student's Resource Guide

If you want to work in cosmetology, esthetics, or other beauty fields in Chicago, this is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know. We'll cover salary and job growth, a few top beauty employers, additional specialties and certifications, scholarships and grants exclusive to the area, and great places to get your beauty school supplies. We also include additional resources to help you on your way.

Salary and Job Growth in Chicago Beauty Careers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cosmetologists in the Chicago metro area during 2021 made an annual mean salary of $42,400. The BLS uses cosmetology to include hairdressers, hairstylists, and hair braiders in the state. Glassdoor shows hair braiders in Chicago make an average of $37,076 per year as of 2022.

Chicago metro cosmetologists have the second-highest employment rate in the nation, and hair braiders are especially in high demand. O*Net projects the job growth for Illinois hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists will grow by 3% from 2018-2028.

Barbers are also in high demand in Illinois. Nationally, jobs are expected to grow by 18% between 2020 and 2030. Chicago barbers in 2021 made a median yearly salary of $31,790.. But wages vary drastically throughout the state, ranging from approximately $25,000 to $40,000

Estheticians, also known as skincare specialists, are also needed in Chicago. Metro area skincare specialists have one of the nation's highest employment rates. In 2019, Chicago skincare specialists made an annual mean wage of $36,520 ($17.56 per hour). Employment for Chicago estheticians should grow by 6% by 2028.

Nail technicians include manicurists and pedicurists. The BLS shows Chicago manicurists and pedicurists enjoy one of the nation's highest employment rates in the field. Additionally, they earned an annual mean wage of $33,180 in 2021. The number of jobs for Illinois nail techs is expected to grow by 5% by 2028.

Top Beauty Employers in Chicago

The top cosmetology employers in Chicago include:

Empire Beauty School

Empire Beauty School teaches cosmetologists, nail technicians, and skincare professionals then hires their graduates in their salons. In fact, Zippia states over three-fourths of Empire's employees attended one of their schools. Founded in 1929, the chain now has three locations in the Chicago area.

Charles Ifergan Hair Care

Charles Ifergan Hair Careis a mega salon with hair, spa, and makeup services. The Chicago location is high-end, and they even offer an assistantship program for new cosmetologists. Former employees on Indeed say the work environment is fun but competitive.

Ulta Beauty

Ulta Beauty hires tons of cosmetologists and estheticians each year, and they pay well. According to Zippia, Ulta Beauty pays cosmetologists an average salary of $49,028 per year, a highly competitive salary in the industry. The site also gives then 4.8 out of five stars. Headquartered in Illinois, Ulta Beauty has over 15 Chicago locations. Employees love the flexibility in the work schedule and the benefits of working for Ulta Beauty.

Great Clips

Great Clips is a chain looking to hire cosmetologists, with many locations in Chicago. Zippia shows that Great Clips staff members are more diverse than many of their competitors, with over 20% not identifying as female and nearly 31% identifying as members of ethnic minority groups.

Madison Reed

Madison Reed is an at-home, ammonia-free hair color company with a salon called the Hair Color Bar. Founded in 2013, this prestige beauty brand hires licensed cosmetologists to perform the many services they offer. They mostly look for full-time colorists, but the salon also provides training experience and ongoing certification for assistant colorists. Madison Reed has locations all over the Chicago area. is an eco-friendly boutique salon. It's not only female-owned and operated, is local to Chicago. They offer hair styling, haircuts, coloring, extension services, and makeup services. The salon even has an apprentice program.

Specialties and Certifications Chicago Beauty Students Should Consider

Attending beauty school in Chicago may come with unique specialties and certifications you won't find anywhere else. Chicago beauty students should consider the following specialties:

  • Barbering: Barbering-specific programs are a hot trend. Barber schools like Paul Mitchell Chicago teach you how to perform fades, a classic taper, and other precision haircutting techniques.
  • Black Hair: Chicago has many salons that focus on Black people's hair's unique needs. If this is your passion, consider getting a license in hair braiding.
  • Makeup Artistry: Most of the Chicago area schools offer makeup artistry or theatre makeup as part of a cosmetology or esthetics program. Makeup training is considered a specialty in many places of business.
  • Medspas: Medical spa treatments are another trendy skincare specialty typical in Chicago due to the climate. Estheticians team up with trained physicians and nurses to perform these medical procedures in a spa-like environment.
  • Microdermabrasion: Consider esthetician school if you want to perform advanced treatments like microdermabrasion, a widely popular specialty treatment using superfine crystals to remove dead skin cells.
  • Nail Art: Intricate nail designs are trendy in Chicago. If you're creative, find a nail school with specialties in nail art.

Beauty School Scholarships and Grants for Chicago Students

The best scholarships and grants available for Chicago students include:

  • American Health and Beauty Aids Institute (AHBAI) Scholarship: The AHBAI is a Chicago-based foundation with scholarships for cosmetology students in the Black community, such as the Fred Luster Sr. Education Foundation scholarship.
  • Empire Beauty Schools: With campuses in 21 states, including in the Chicago area, you could start or complete your beauty school degree at Empire Beauty Schools. They have an in-house financial aid department, with federally funded and privately supported grants in the industry. Empire also offers many scholarships through the school and various industry partners.
  • Paul Mitchell The School Chicago: Paul Mitchell has cosmetology schools across the Chicago area, all of which offer scholarships and financial aid. They also provide alternative funding options like federal Pell grants or loans. Students must file a FAFSA with the federal government to apply.
  • Tricoci University: Earn a beauty school scholarship of up to $5,000 from Tricoci University for education in cosmetology, makeup, esthetics, barbering, or nail technology. The Beauty Changes Lives organization funds this scholarship, and Tricoci offers continuing education scholarships for industry professionals.

Looking For More Scholarships? offers a $2,500 scholarship for beauty and wellness professionals. We've also gathered the most comprehensive list of nation-wide scholarships available for beauty students.

Top Beauty Student Supply Stores in Chicago

While most cosmetology schools supply student kits with everything you'll need, sometimes you may need to purchase supplies from a local beauty supply store. Here are the best stores in Chicago.

Lynamy Beauty Supply

Lynamy Beauty Supply is a wholesale retailer of nail products. Nail tech students receive 10% off with a student ID.

Call: 773-275-1110
Visit: 4925 N. Broadway St, Suite F, Chicago, IL 60640

Jinny Beauty Supply

Jinny Beauty Supply is a wholesale retailer for multi-cultural beauty and barbering products. No student discounts are currently offered.

Call: 847-600-3030
Visit: 3505 N. Kimball Ave. Chicago, IL 60618


SalonCentric is a professional beauty supply store in Chicago with wholesale tools for hair, skin, nails, and barbering. No student discounts are currently offered.

Call: 773-296-4926
Visit: 2550 W. Addison St. Suite A5 Chicago, IL 60618

Sally Beauty Supply

Sally Beauty Supply has a range of cosmetology kits and multiple Chicago locations. Discounts are available with a student ID.

Call: 312-372-4305
Visit: 24 E. Madison Street Chicago, IL 60602

Saber Professional

Saber Professional is a top salon supply company in Chicago for over 30 years. No student discounts are currently offered.

Call: 773-384-9557
Visit: 3310 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60647

Bravco Beauty

Bravco Beauty is a boutique beauty retailer with over 30 years of service. No student discounts are currently offered.

Call: 312-943-4305
Visit: 43 E. Oak Street Chicago, IL 60611

Other Resources for Chicago Beauty Students

Learn more about attending Chicago beauty school and the licensing requirements in Illinois through the following resources

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)
The IDFPR is Illinois' cosmetology board. The site offers information on licensing and provides a variety of online cosmetology resources.

America's Beauty Show
America's Beauty Show produces an association for industry professionals called Cosmetologists Chicago. Members get healthcare benefits, networking events, continued education classes, discounts on products, and more.

Continental Testing Services
Take your licensing exams in Illinois online, find requirements, pay exam fees, or get ready for your exams with online study guides.

Illinois Association of Cosmetology Schools (IACS)
This organization for licensed beauty career professionals provides members with updated legislation information, events, and networking opportunities.

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