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How to Become a Cosmetologist: From Student to Independent Cosmetologist with Reagan Nieves

How to Become a Cosmetologist

This article is based on an interview with Cosmetology Alumni Reagan Nieves. Some parts have been summarized for length and clarity.

Reagan Nieves came to American Institute of Beauty looking for something different. The average 9-5 desk job just wasn’t for her. With her love of hair and nails in mind, and the desire for a hands-on career, Reagan made the decision to chase her dreams during COVID-19 and enroll in Cosmetology school.

We sat down with her to talk about her experience in school and her journey to becoming a licensed Independent Cosmetologist. Reagan shares her story from future professional to successful Cosmetologist and offers our current future professionals’ advice as they pursue their own dreams!

“I realized I wanted more, and to do something totally my own with my work. I decided to start my own business.”

Tell Us a Little Bit About Your Journey

Reagan: While I was still in school, a salon owner, who would become my mentor, taught a class at AIB a couple months before graduation. I spoke to her after the class, she invited me to her salon, and told me about their associate program! I started shadowing her every Wednesday after school until the day I got my license, and then she officially hired me! November 2021 was my official “hiring” month, and I was in her associate program until June of 2022! I gained an insane amount of knowledge with her program. We worked on formulating, placements, guest experience, design cutting, basic styling, bridal styling, EVERYTHING and MORE. It was an extremely in depth 16 module program.

Before I graduated onto the floor, I trained two new associates for her and then made my transition! I wasn’t on the floor for long before I realized I wanted more than just being a stylist. I expressed interest in also wanting to be part of the makeup department. I was chosen to be trained on RUNNING the makeup department and being the Head of Makeup. I dealt with inventory, deep cleans/sanitation, organization, and just overall making sure the system was clean. We eventually decided to re-vamp the entire makeup style to be even more luxurious and my makeup team assisted me in researching lots of brands!

While working on this, I was also building a significant hair clientele. I was fresh out of the associate program and had been licensed for almost a year at this point, so I was scared! I was learning what I loved, what I didn’t love, what I was comfortable with and what I needed more practice with. I took LOADS of Redken courses, Kerastase trainings, I attended the Redken Symposium (which was an amazing experience) and started gaining education to become the salon Curl Specialist. I did have a bit of curly hair training, but personally I didn’t feel like I had enough to call myself a TRUE specialist just yet.

Eventually, I expressed interest in wanting to become some type of On Floor Team Lead for the salon. It wasn’t an established position that we had, so management created and formulated a training for the position. After a couple months of learning about running a salon behind the scenes, I realized I wanted more, and to do something totally my own with my work.

So, in August of 2022, I decided to start my own business- The Shag Salon, LLC. I went out looking for my own salon suite. I researched a few places, toured, and finally chose my space. I moved in October, and it’s been an amazing experience ever since. It was scary starting up, but I’m fortunate enough that a portion of my clientele from the salon came with me, and I’ve met so many new faces along the way. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least!

Why Do You Love the Beauty Industry?

Reagan: I love making people feel special! In a literal sense I enjoy blonding, color, design, etc. But it’s so much more than that. I love sitting someone down and learning about them and who they are. I love pampering people and making a session all about them and letting them know they’re cared for, loved, and will always be treated kindly in my chair.

Why AIB?

Reagan: It was the highest rated on google for Cosmetology schools! I was living in Tampa when I applied, and I ended up moving to St. Pete about a month after starting (for unrelated reasons) so it worked out perfectly!

Why Did You Choose Cosmetology?

Reagan: Honestly, I initially went to college for Forensic Science and then switched to Hospitality AND THEN went to Cosmetology School. People ask, “did you always know you wanted to do hair?”, and the answer is no I didn’t at ALL. I spent a lot of time on nails and hair growing up, so it was something in the back of my head, but I never thought I would go to school for it. I always did my mom’s manis and pedis when I was younger, which is funny, because I have absolutely no interest in working with nails now. I did makeup a lot in high school, which turned into me being Head of the Makeup Department at the salon I worked at.

I always felt the need to get a degree even if I didn’t actually NEED it. Instead, I decided to dive into Cosmetology during COVID because I knew I wanted a hands-on career, not a standard 9-5 desk job.

Advice to Current Cosmetology Future Professionals?

Reagan: My biggest piece of advice- just get through school! Cosmetology School is in no way a real preparation for the beauty industry. You learn the science, the sanitation, and how to pass your state boards, and that’s all that matters. You unlock your true talent, your passion, your everything once you’re in the field. Don’t stress about any of that in school because it doesn’t matter yet. What you’re interested in now may change. Focus on learning the theory and hands-on skills to pass the state board exam.

Tips on Passing the State Board Exam?

Reagan: Memorize the mini Milady book. Have someone quiz you and don’t give you the multiple-choice answers until you memorize it without them. Sanitation is huge in all versions of the test, but each version is different when it comes to concentration on skin/nails/cutting/color. Study it all!

Start Your Career Cosmetology Today!

Reagan’s story goes to show you just how versatile a career in Cosmetology can really be! Cosmetology is an umbrella license that encompasses hair, skin care, nails, makeup, and everything in between. If her story inspires you, then contact American Institute of Beauty today to learn more about our programs! Our experienced staff and educators want to help you pursue your career goals in Cosmetology. Whether you’re interested in cosmetology, nail technology, makeup, or skin care, get in touch with us today! We can’t wait to meet you.

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