Can a Felon Get a Cosmetology License?

A cosmetologist helps people care for their hair, skin, and nails.  Cosmetology jobs are currently plentiful. The number of jobs is expected to grow. Cosmetology jobs tend to be stable no matter what the economy is like. People like to get their hair cut and nails done as a pick-me-up.

Cosmetology may be a good fit for you if you like to help people feel good about themselves. It helps if you like to chat with people. You will need to be able to handle a variety of personalities – people can get touchy about their hair.  You will need to be able to stand for long stretches of time. Some people are bothered by the chemicals that cosmetologists use.  If you have allergies or chemical sensitivities, you may want to re-think a cosmetology  license.

The average salary is $28,790 a year. There will be some upfront costs. You will need to pay application and licensing fees. Some states require schooling. You will need to pay anywhere from $5000 – $15,000 to attend cosmetology school. There may be some  financial aid specifically available to attend cosmetology school. You may be expected to provide your own tools, such as scissors and clippers. There are some re-entry programs in the U.S. that may be able to help with a grant or a loan. These loans or grants can help with educational costs and school supplies.

There is a time commitment. School is about 1500 hours of class time. Cosmetology schools are usually in-person, but there are some on-line options available.

Can a person with a felony conviction get a cosmetology license?

Probably. Getting your cosmetology license is the first step. If your state requires schooling, you will have to find a school that will accept a person with a felony conviction. But ultimately your license will have to be approved by a state board. So, it doesn’t make sense to spend time and money if you live in a state that won’t approve your license.

There are convictions that are more likely to make it more difficult to get approved by the state board: Anything involving inappropriate sexual conduct, crimes involving children, violent crimes, and the making/and or selling of drugs. Every state requires cosmetologists to have a license. Every state has different rules regarding a felony background.

However, in general, state licensing guidelines are moving toward more forgiveness for the mistakes in a person’s past. For example, Delaware and Indiana recently passed laws to eliminate barriers for a felony record in regards to a cosmetology license. Six more states are moving in the same direction. Find out the laws in your state. Your own state board makes the decision.

Requirements By State

You should start by looking up the licensing requirements in your state. Specifically, check to see whether your state has a “good moral character” clause.  If your state does not have that clause, you will have a better chance. “Good moral character” is vague, but it is a term that is used to disqualify people from certain types of licenses. You may need to do some research to determine exactly what it means in your state.

The states with the least restrictions are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida,Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

States with a “good moral character clause”: Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada,New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

States with a “blanket ban”: Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, and New Mexico. You will have to do research into those states to find out exactly what they are banning.

The state licensing boards will do a background check.

Information about background checks

The state licensing boards should ask permission to run a background check run on you. They will not be in compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC) if they run a background check without asking you first.

You may have to pay for your own background check.

It is legal to discriminate against you due to your felony conviction, except for certain circumstances. It is not legal to discriminate because of gender, race, age ( over 40), disability, gender identity, sexual identity, pregnancy, color, religion and genetic information. So, while the state licensing board can decide not to license you because you have a felony conviction, they have to be fair. They can’t license a woman with a felony record but not license a man with a similar felony record.

Some states only allow background checks to go back seven years. The eleven states that have a seven-year limit are California, Colorado, New York, Kansas, Montana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas, and Washington.

If your state isn’t one of the 11 states, your felony conviction will be disclosed on a background check.  However, the cosmetology licensing board decides how many years back to check. You might try to find out ahead of time how far back the background check will go. If your felony was a long time ago and the background check won’t go back far enough to reveal the felony, you may decide not to mention it. It’s your decision. As long as you can fill out any paperwork or application honestly, it’s okay to not mention the felony.

The official advice is to be completely honest when filling out an application. You can be denied the job for lying on an application. Possibly you could be punished by law.

Requirements for a Cosmetology license

Some states allow you to get a license at 16. If your state requires schooling, most schools will want you to have a high school diploma or a GED.

What is the process to get a cosmetology license?

Every state has different  requirements . Some states require schooling and others require an apprenticeship. If your state requires schooling, you will need to find a school. Every school is different. You may have better luck with a community college than a private cosmetology school.

You will have to fill out a school application. Once again, it’s important that you answer any questions about your criminal record honestly. If you are caught lying on your application, it can lead to an automatic denial of your application. You will attend school for 9-15 months, depending on your state. Many people decide to specialize in a certain area, which adds about 600 hours to your schooling. You have a better chance of landing a job if you have a specialty such as Barber or Wedding Hairstylist.

When you finish school, you will have to take a state licensing exam. Finally, you will have to pay a licensing fee.

What’s the best order to do this in?

First, determine the laws in your state. Is it possible for you to be granted a license? If the answer is yes, then you need to follow your state’s licensing process. Many states will require you to attend a school first. Depending on where you live, you may have options as to where you attend school. You will probably have two choices. One choice will be a cosmetology program at a community college or trade school. The other option is a private cosmetology school. There are some on-line options available.  However, since cosmetology is so hands-on the schooling is usually done in person. Schools are allowed to make their own decisions as to who they accept. A community college may be more felon-friendly than a private school. Schools often accept people who are qualified to attend the school.

Many people with a felony record can get a cosmetology license. The job market for cosmetologists is very promising. A cosmetology license will require educational costs and time in school. Do research ahead of time on your state’s specific laws regarding cosmetology licensing. It would be terrible to go through all the time and money of cosmetology school only to be stopped by the decision of your state’s licensing board. Most states are getting more flexible. It’s definitely possible to get a cosmetology license in many states.

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