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.
If you're looking for only the premier schools that Chicago has to offer, then check out our list of Chicago's best cosmetology schools.
Salary and Job Growth in Chicago Beauty Careers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cosmetologists in the Chicago metro area during 2019 made an annual mean salary of $30,960. The BLS uses cosmetology to include hairdressers, hairstylists, and hair braiders in the state. Glassdoor shows hair braiders in Chicago make an average of $21,261 per year, which is 5% above the national average.
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% (2018-2028), compared to the -2% decline projected nationwide.
Barbers are also in high demand in Illinois. Nationally, jobs are expected to grow by 8%. Illinois barbers in 2019 made a mean yearly salary of $23,330 ($11.22 per hour). But wages vary drastically throughout the state, with those at the 10th percentile making $20,520 and the highest 90th percentile making much more at $52,760.
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 $23,990 in 2019. 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 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 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 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.
a.salon is an eco-friendly boutique salon. It's not only female-owned and operated, a.salon 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:
Beauty School Scholarships and Grants for Chicago Students
The best scholarships and grants available for Chicago students include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit: 24 E. Madison Street Chicago, IL 60602
Saber Professional is a top salon supply company in Chicago for over 30 years. No student discounts are currently offered.
Visit: 3310 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60647
Bravco Beauty is a boutique beauty retailer with over 30 years of service. No student discounts are currently offered.
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
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.