Whether you just started your career as a hairstylist, or you’ve been working at a salon for years, this question probably comes up from time to time: What’s next?

From beauty school to junior stylist, to fully booked in your own suite or salon, the hairstylist’s journey isn’t easy, and it’s tough to know which move to make next.

If you’re considering different career opportunities in hair or maybe you’re wondering how to quit a salon job, there’s lots to think through.

That’s why we took a close look at the different phases of a hair stylist’s career and broke them down step by step. 

So at the end of this blog, no matter which phase of your career you’re in, you can better answer the question: What’s next for me?

Hairstylist Career Facts

Before we dive into the career path of hairstylists, let’s first dig into some stats on the current state of the industry:

  • Is it trending up or down?
  • What’s the average salary?
  • The average cost to open a salon?

Trending Up

  • The amount of hairstylist positions is projected to increase 9% between 2018 and 2028.
  • Total revenue for the US salon industry in 2022 is 46.2 billion!
  • Globally, the hair industry market size is estimated to increase from 69 billion USD to 87 billion in 2023.

Average Hairstylist Salary

When considering average hairstylist salaries, you have to factor in years of experience and different phases of your career. 

  • In the US, the average total pay for a hairstylist is $83,047/year.

Of course, that number is an average and based on different locations, so the number will be different depending on where you’re located. ZipRecruiter has a great breakdown of average salaries by state if you’d like to really dig in!

💡 Pro tip: Feeling burnout or fatigue in the hair industry? Check out the latest report on “hustle culture” in the hair industry — Hustle Culture Sucks: A Study on Balance Culture in Hair Professionals.

Average Salon Costs

From upfront costs to daily expenses, there’s a lot to keep track of when opening your own salon. While the costs will vary depending on your business plan, goals, and location, here are a couple figures to give you an idea:  

  • Average cost to purchase an existing salon space: $40,000–$200,000
  • Average cost to build your own salon: $100,000–$500,000

💡 Pro tip: Don’t miss our guide to unexpected expenses for salon owners!

What Kind of Money-Maker Are You?

Let’s talk money, honey! Spend it, save it, hustle for it.

Take the Quiz

Hairstylist Career Path: A Breakdown

No matter what point you’re at in your hair career, there’s bound to be some tough questions:

To help you understand where you’re at in your career and what to do next, let’s break down each phase of the hairstylist career path.

#1 Junior Stylist, Trainee, Assistant

Average Salary: $16.06/hour 

Straight from beauty school, the first step to building your career comes as a junior stylist or trainee.

Junior stylists are crucial for bigger salons, as they help ensure day-to-day tasks run smoothly. Starting here is your best bet to get your foot in the door of a salon and begin growing your career.

Typical Tasks:

  • Assist front desk
  • Answer phones
  • Greet clients
  • Prepare clients for treatment
  • Shampoo clients hair
  • Disinfect equipment
  • Stock retail areas
  • Assist hairstylists

#2 Full Time Stylist — Fully Booked

Most junior stylists and assistants will continue on to become a full time stylist after a year or two. Once you’re working full time, the next phase is to sharpen your skills and fill up your schedule.

Required Skills:

  • Help clients decide haircut and hairstyle.
  • Completes haircutting techniques, including trims, layers, and texturizing.
  • Performs coloring methods, such as highlights, ombre, and balayage.
  • Style hair, including blowouts, curls, braids, ponytails, and updos.
  • Upsell clients on products and services.
  • Develop ongoing relationships with clients to keep them coming back!

#3 Booth or Suite Rental

Now that you’ve proven you can keep your books full and grow your client list, you may be ready to venture out on your own. This step usually involves renting a booth or a suite, where you run the show on your own.

This is a big step as a hairstylist, as it means your earnings are your earnings.

Plus, you don’t have a boss to report to. Instead, you’re looking at more of a landlord/tenant relationship to rent your own booth or suite.

Average Cost:

Booth rental pricing varies by location and most averages are based on word-of-mouth. Some industry sites say the range is $250-$1250 per month. Others suggest $150-$250 per week. 

We like to follow what The Thriving Stylist recommends: Plan for 15% of your total budget. 

#4 Salon Owner

Running your own booth or suite can pave the way for the final phase of a hairstylist’s career: owning your own salon.

While owning a salon is a dream goal for a lot of stylists, it’s not for everyone.

Some stylists are content to remain full time stylists working for a salon, as it means someone else is handling all the heavy lifting for them, like rent or insurance. And that’s totally okay!

But if you’re at that phase in your career where you’re ready to start your own salon, here’s some handy data to consider.

The Stats:

How to Quit a Salon Job

No matter the reason you want to leave the salon you’re at — find a bigger salon or start your own salon — knowing when to quit and how to quit can be tricky.

To help make sure you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things, we put together a few pro tips.

  • Understand Why You’re Quitting: Before making a big decision, like leaving a salon, it’s important to understand why you want to move on. Why are you dissatisfied with your current role? Is there a situation you could remedy without moving? Or are you just ready for something bigger? With a “wherever you go, there you are” kind of approach, you need to get to the root of why you want to quit before you take that step.
  • Do Your Research Before You Leave: If you walk away from a salon, you don’t want to then start researching jobs and applying. This kind of research should be done before you quit. Take the time to make a list of where you’d like to work, including business names, locations, and contact info. And of course, take the time to update your resumé to start dropping off or mailing to potential new employers.
  • Protect Your Client List: Depending on your situation — full time employee or booth renter — knowing who gets to keep your client list can be tricky. Do they belong to you as the hairstylist? Or to your boss as the business owner? While there’s great advice out there about how to handle client lists in these types of situations, it’s something you’ll need to resolve with your current boss before you walk away. 

Bonus: Best Jobs for Ex-Hairdressers

We know walking away from your career as a hairstylist may not have been something you thought would ever happen.

But we get it. There are so many reasons why hairstylists decide to move on to a different career path.

Maybe it’s stress, the potential for more money, or you just lost that passion you had and you want to try something fresh. 

Either way, there are a ton of jobs out there suited for previous hairdressers.

Here’s a short list of some of the most common roles previous hairdressers end up in.

  • Corporate Trainer: Corporate hairstylist trainers work with companies to train employees. You’ll teach their employees about products, different techniques, and create instructional guides. 
  • Pet Groomer: While your license isn’t needed to be a pet groomer, the same skills you’ve honed over the years can be invaluable: patience, knowledge of styling and cutting techniques, and of course — customer service skills. 
  • Affiliate Marketer: Affiliate marketers are salespersons who sell products. Since you already understand hair products as a hairstylist, you can sell makeup, nail, skin and hair products.
  • Beauty Influencer/Social Media Marketing: Do you have a unique style and a flair for education? You can turn your passion into a social media personality and make money as a hair influencer.