December 2008
Q&A session with Paula Jennings, a cosmetologist who works in Union, SC at Suns Spa and Hair Salon

Q: What is your job title? Where are you employed?

A: I am a cosmetologist and I work at Suns Spa and Hair Salon.

Q: How long have you been a cosmetologist?

A: I’ve been working in the field for a little over a year now. Before that, I always enjoyed working on my friends’ hair and making them look nice. Then, when I had my first child and she was a girl, I was a little frustrated because she is biracial and I had never dealt with that hair texture before. That’s when it dawned on me that “Hey, I could study hair and make that my career”.

Q: What type of training did you have to become a cosmetologist?

A: I had to go to a special school for cosmetology where I learned about different hair textures, the special issues they have, scalp conditions…and then we got into the more detailed issues of styling and cutting the hair. School lasts about ten months, and then we had to pass a written test in front of a state board and a lab working on someone’s hair.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and I get to do that everyday with this job. It’s always a good feeling when you get repeat customers. It lets you know you do a good job. I also love that I get to be creative everyday and help my clients look their best. A lot of people don’t understand that we’re really doing more than hair. We help people look the way they want to look. Give them confidence.

Q: Describe your typical day on the job.

A: First, I come in and set my supplies out, making sure that everything has been sanitized before a client comes in. Generally, in a typical day, I do several shampoos, cuts, a few rollersets, and colorings. I also do chemical relaxers and perms, and extensions or weaves.

Q: How much do you make as a cosmetologist?

A: How much someone can expect to make with this career varies widely on where you work and what kind of thing you specialize in. Owning your own salon is usually the ultimate goal, and then you charge by the job. If you can do the more complicated things, and do them well, then you can expect to earn even into the six digits. But it does vary widely, I’d say from twenty thousand and up.

Q: What career were you in before becoming a cosmetologist? Do you feel that it helped prepare you for becoming a cosmetologist?

A: I was a correctional officer at a level 2 male state prison. Completely other end of the spectrum there! Essentially, that job only helped in making me appreciate my current career more.

Q: What traits do you feel are necessary to be successful as a cosmetologist?

A: You have to love people and understand that they are always right. You won’t get any repeat clients if you can’t listen to what they need and get it right the first time. Sometimes you get someone who isn’t happy and you just have to do it again or don’t make them pay. A lot of people would say that’s wrong, but it’s the little touches like that that make people want to come back and see you.

Q: Would you recommend this career to someone else?

A: Yes! I love what I do, and to anyone who loves making people look and feel their best; this is a great career move.

Q: What is your next career move, if any?

A: Just to do what I do and try to make my clients as happy as possible. I want them to leave feeling good about the way they look. It makes them what to come back so they can feel that way again and again.

If you’re interested in a career like Paula’s – in cosmetology and hair styling – you can view a list of schools in Texas offering cosmetology programs.