Though the career of a makeup artist may sound extremely glamorous at first, there is a lot of hard work that goes into it. It’s a makeup artist’s job to transform people, whether it’s transforming a pretty woman into a beautiful supermodel for a photo shoot or transforming a 35-year-old into an old man for an indie film. Not everybody who goes into makeup design ends up brushing foundation onto Brad Pitt for his new movie. A lot of makeup artists work behind the scenes without getting much credit for what they do. If designing and applying makeup is something you really love, it can be a very rewarding job with lots of artistic pride and joy, but if you’re hoping to make a name for yourself, it’s a long, hard road — much like any artistic endeavor. For those who do want to pursue this career path, your first step is finding a good makeup artist school.
Directory of Makeup Artist Schools by state:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Directory of Makeup Artist Schools by city:
- San Diego
- Los Angeles
- San Antonio
- Las Vegas
What You Learn in Makeup Artist Schools
This is where you will acquire the essential knowledge you need to excel in your job as a makeup artist. Your school experience may vary some depending on whether you want to special in beauty makeup or special effects makeup, but for the most part both courses will teach you the same thing. Whichever specialization you choose, you will be taking classes in safety and sanitation, as well as some business ethics and marketing classes. Of course, you’ll also learn all the essentials of makeup artistry. This can include general classes like color theory, but you will also be taking a lot of very specialized classes. Don’t be surprised if you have an entire course dedicated to lip coloring techniques — you have to know all about it if you’re going to satisfy your customers! You may also learn about specialty makeup situations, such as men’s makeup, vintage makeup, theater vs. film makeup, and wedding party makeup.
Educational Requirements for Makeup Artist
You might wondering just how much education is required for a makeup artist career. Can you just learn the essentials on your own or by reading textbooks and luck into a job without attending school? Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen at all. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics requires most beauty professionals to complete their formal training at some sort of college, and some states may require this for licensing anyway. If you are primarily interested in beauty makeup, you should find a cosmetology program, which may also include hair cutting, skin care and nail treatment. Depending on the program, you may choose to focus more heavily on makeup, but others train you on everything relating to cosmetology. If you are hoping for a career doing stage and screen makeup, you may want to instead pursue a degree in theater. Many technical theater programs offer a concentration in makeup. The techniques used for theatrical makeup are often very different than those used for cosmetology, so knowing ahead of time where you want to focus can help you choose the right path.
Makeup Artist Licensing Requirements
Not every state requires makeup artists to be licensed, but many of them do. Others may allow unlicensed makeup artists to work only in very specific areas. For example, California allows unlicensed makeup artists to work outside of licensed establishments or in theater and film. Even if your state doesn’t require licensing, most beauty salons or theatrical companies are much more interested in hiring someone with a license, so being licensed makes you much more marketable and can make it much easier for you to get a job. The exact requirements for licensing also vary from state to state, but typically you will need to have had a certain amount of education from a makeup artist school and you will need to pass a licensing exam. These licenses must be renewed every few years, so be aware of when your license expires or you may find yourself unlicensed again.
Job Demand for Makeup Artist
The need for makeup artists has stayed fairly steady in recent years, which is a good sign. Unlike some other jobs, there is no major technology advance that renders makeup artists obsolete, although the popularity of Photoshop and other editing trends makes them less prevalent in certain fields. If you pursue general cosmetology training, it may be easier to get a job in a salon where you do other beauty-enhancing services beyond just makeup, such as manicures, haircuts, or facials. If you really want to focus exclusively on makeup, you have two options. For more steady income, you can work in the cosmetics section of a department store, where you can provide demonstrations and sell products to customers. Your second option is to relocate to a large city where you will be able to find enough just-makeup work to support yourself. Media-heavy cities such as Los Angeles or New York are especially good for this, and the demand for makeup artists in these cities has stayed pretty consistent, due to the active film and theater scenes. You may also be able to get a job as a makeup artist in residence at a professional theater, where you stay and work with the same company even as actors come and go. As you gain more experience and work with higher-profile clients, you will be able to depend on more steady work.
Salary Trends for Makeup Artist
Since there are so many different ways a makeup artist can earn a living, compensation varies greatly. As a baseline, however, the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2012 that the median annual income for makeup artists was $26,270. A 2008 report from the BLS indicates that makeup artists working in the film industry made an average hourly wage of $38.27, while those in personal care services made around $12.28. Makeup artists working on big-budget films or for VIP clients may make significantly more than the average, so there is certainly potential for growth if you can network with the right people and land the right gigs.