Best Cosmetology Schools in North Carolina (2022)
Ready to jumpstart your beauty career? Choosing the best school for your cosmetology training can make all the difference in a successful, rewarding profession. Check out our below list of the top 12 cosmetology schools in North Carolina, with information on program content, training hours, reviews from current and former students, and more.
Top Cosmetology Schools in North Carolina
Top Cosmetology Schools in North Carolina (Full List)
Mitchell's Academy has two North Carolina locations, in Raleigh and Wilson. At its Raleigh campus, the school offers students programs in esthetics and cosmetology.
The school's cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete. Classes take place Tuesdays through Saturdays, with a new intake every couple of months. The program is designed to give aspiring cosmetologists a fundamental knowledge of the industry—starting with career opportunities, then covering all aspects of the field from finger waving, styling, cutting, coloring, and shampooing to skin, nails, wigs, bacteriology, sanitation, chemistry, and salon management.
The school has positive reviews on Indeed, with comments like this from a recent alumnus: "Mitchell's Academy in Raleigh NC is the best cosmetology school in the NC area. You start learning hair and everything you need to pass state boards from day one. It is very time consuming if you go full time but you're done in 11 months as long as you stay consistent with going to school and don't miss too many hours."
This popular Greensboro school has several different beauty programs, including cosmetology, esthetics, and teacher training. It also offers continuing education (CE) classes for those looking to renew their license.
The school's cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete and prepares students for successful future careers in the industry. Upon enrollment, all learners receive a cosmetology kit valued at $1,100 and packed with helpful tools and products to assist in their studies.
"Great teachers and the ability to work at a Leon's Style Salon after completion of 1500 hours of training," states one reviewer on Indeed. "Diverse student body and flexible availability."
This school offers three core programs in cosmetology, esthetics, and cosmetology instruction. The 1,500-hour cosmetology program takes approximately 11 months to complete and prepares students for their future careers in the beauty industry.
The program covers various relevant topics, including hair coloring, cutting, styling, keratin treatments, nails, facials, business skills, social media marketing, mock interviews, etc. Upon enrollment, all students receive a cosmetology kit, including a laptop. The institute was honored for its use of technology in the Modern Salon Media Excellence in Education Awards in 2017 and has a 100% licensure rate and 100% job placement rate.
"Alexander Paul has given me many great opportunities in starting and furthering my career as a cosmetologist!" says one former student on Google. "I was able to graduate feeling confident working In this amazing industry. The school provides great hands on education teaching everything from the basics to current trends and the instructors were amazing. I highly recommend this school."
Located near Chapel Hill's unique local arts scene, the Aveda Institute is the ideal place for creativity to thrive. The school offers a core cosmetology program and a cosmetology instructor program for beauty professionals who want to take their careers to the next level. The institute also gives students the option of taking their classes at night or via a hybrid online model, making it easy to fit studies around other life commitments.
Aveda's cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete, and students normally graduate in around 52 weeks. It combines extensive hands-on learning with classroom theory to provide a complete understanding of hair, beauty, and wellness. All students also receive a Level I MUD Makeup Certification with the option for further MUD Certifications upon graduation.
"Good combination of academia and hands on learning," says one program graduate on Indeed. "It is long hours of standing but the outcome of your work is worth it. The teachers there are also passionate about their work. The only downside is sometimes you wait for a while for an instructor to come check your work."
Paul Mitchell the School in Fayetteville offers students (or Future Professionals, as Paul Mitchell calls them) programs in both cosmetology and teacher training. Its cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete and takes students through three levels of learning—Core, Adaptive and Creative—that help them learn more advanced techniques and build real-world skills and confidence as they move through each one.
During the Core stage, students focus on the fundamentals of hair cutting, color, texture, styling, skin, and nails and get an introduction to school culture. Students continue building upon their skills during the Adaptive stage and perfect their techniques in the school's onsite salon. In the Creative stage, they work independently, prepare their career portfolio, and get ready to take the state board test.
The school has an impressive rating on Indeed, with positive testimonials from former students. "I learned the key fundamentals of general education as well as Cosmetology. I got to experience clients hands on and practice my creativity, communications, sales, and intellectual skills. I enjoyed talking to my clients and establishing a genuine care for them and their services."
Paul Mitchell the School's Raleigh campus offers the same programs as its sister locations, with students choosing between a 1,500-hour cosmetology program or an 800-hour teaching training program.
Cosmetology students advance through three stages of training, picking up knowledge and skills as they go. The program covers all aspects of cosmetology, from the basics of hair cutting, coloring, and styling, to nail care, skin care, salon business practices, and more. All Paul Mitchell cosmetology students receive a kit upon enrollment that's packed with essentials—from hot styling tools and mannequin heads to combs, brushes, scissors, and clips.
Students can also participate in regular charitable events—to date, Paul Mitchell schools and students have donated over $22 million to local communities through their FUNraising campaigns.
At the Carolina College of Hair Design, students usually complete their cosmetology training in around 12 months. The school aims to give every student a solid working knowledge of all hair and beauty industry aspects through this program, with hands-on and classroom theory training from qualified supervisors with more than 30 years of experience.
The school regularly invites guest artists, lecturers, and trainers with proven expertise to speak to students and enrich the learning experience. During their studies, students can also practice their hair and beauty techniques in the school's onsite salon.
Reviewers on Indeed praise the school, with one recent graduate saying, "School provided me with great skills to maintain a job in the cosmetology career. School was completed in a year. Flexible hour. Flexible payment options. And great staff to help you along the way. Plenty of knowledge coming from the direct directors."
This school offers students programs in cosmetology, massage, and instructor training. Its cosmetology program takes 1,500 hours to complete and is split into 300 hours of fundamentals and 1,200 hours of hands-on salon time.
Classes are scheduled during the day and evening, so it's easy to work around other commitments. During the program, students practice their new techniques and skills on real clients in the college's onsite salon and spa. Financial aid and several scholarships are available for those who qualify.
"This was a decent school, very nice teachers and clients," says one cosmetology program graduate on Indeed. "I would recommend this school to family or a friend! The atmosphere makes it much easier to attend especially if you're commuting from many miles away."
Like its sister locations in Fayetteville and Raleigh, Paul Mitchell the School's Gastonia campus offers cosmetology and teacher training programs.
Students enrolled in the 1,500-hour cosmetology program move through three distinct learning levels, advancing through the different training phases and picking up new skills and knowledge.
Once students have completed the three core phases, they can also take an additional class. This optional intensive course is ideal for those looking for an additional challenge, with advanced techniques and conditions that mimic salon reality.
"It was a good combination of classroom and hands-on training." says one recent student on Indeed. "The teachers there were understanding and very compassionate about your way of learning. You take an assessment Test when you begin the school to learn your learning style so you get put with the right teacher so that you get the most out of your education."
The Pinnacle Institute is proud to teach its students the techniques and science of cosmetology and the business of the salon industry. As well as the latest styling, coloring, and cutting techniques, students learn vital skills for client retention, retailing, goal setting, and front-desk operations.
The school is situated in a 9,300 square-foot facility with 55 student salon stations, four pedicure spas, four individual classrooms, and a modern facial room. The cosmetology program uses the Milady curriculum, which focuses on competency-based knowledge, scientific and artistic principles, and hands-on fundamentals.
"Love this school with all my heart!!" says one former student on Facebook. "Everyone is absolutely amazing from the owner to the students. The instructors/teachers make this school a great learning experience! I actually want to come to school everyday which is different lol. The class sizes stay small so you have that one on one learning you need! Students are amazing and all super sweet! Would not want to go to any other school!!"
Pamlico Community College's cosmetology school offers a certificate program designed to prepare students for a successful future cosmetology career. It provides a simulated salon environment, giving students a chance to practice their newly learned hair and beauty techniques while under the supervision of experienced licensed instructors. The program covers all phases of professional hair design, chemical processes, skin care, nail care, multicultural practices, business and computer skills, and product knowledge.
As well as its core cosmetology program, the college also offers continuing education classes in natural hair care. In these sessions, students receive basic instruction in sanitation, bacteriology, disinfection, first aid, shampooing, draping, anatomy, disorders of the hair and scalp, and client consultation. Advanced students then learn about natural hair twisting, wrapping, extending, locking, blow-drying, and the use of the thermal iron.
One former beauty student on Indeed says, "I loved everything about the college, they were very helpful and understanding. The teachers are amazing and friendly, school is neat and well organized."
Empire Beauty School is known for its commitment to cosmetology education nationwide and is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS).
At Empire's Charlotte-Pineville location, students can enroll in a 1,500-hour cosmetology program with engaging, interactive classes in hair cutting, coloring, styling, facials, makeup, manicuring, salon management, and more. During their studies, students practice their skills on real clients in the onsite salon.
"Great school! Great teachers! Lots of knowledge at this school," says one Facebook reviewer. "I'm an Empire baby. (Graduate from the cosmetology program and educator program)," says another. "I enjoy the entire atmosphere at Empire. The curriculum really prepares the students for the career in Cosmetology."
How We Ranked North Carolina Cosmetology Programs
The cosmetology schools ranked are accredited or state-approved to provide cosmetology programming according to the licensing requirements in the state. We researched schools that qualified as Title IV institutions and had an average of at least 25 students enrolled in the most recent 3 academic years of available data (2018 - 2020). These schools are all within 50 miles of a major city center and had a weighted 3-year average graduation rate (2018, 2019, and 2020) greater than 50%. After filtering for those requirements, we sorted the remaining programs by the highest weighted average graduation rate to determine the top 13 cosmetology schools in North Carolina.
Graduation rate and student enrollment data are from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reports. Schools with key data points missing from IPEDS reports may be omitted from the ranking, as are schools with data that is unattributable to its beauty programs. Many excellent educational institutions—including community colleges—offering a wide variety of vocational programs may, as a result, not be represented on these rankings of top beauty schools.