Legislators should say yes to creating a hair technician license

A lot of things about occupational licensing do not make sense, especially in the state of Minnesota. One good example of this is the fact that our state has stricter requirements for someone looking to be licensed as a barber than for someone looking to be licensed as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

These irrationalities continue even among jobs in the same industry. In the cosmetology industry, for example, to be an esthetician, the state of Minnesota requires that individuals obtain 600 hours of training. And to be a nail technician, the state requires that someone undertake 350 hours. For an eyelash technician, the required amount of training is 38 hours.

For people who are only interested in hair, however, the story is different. For them, the state of Minnesota requires that they obtain a full cosmetology license, which requires 1,550 hours of training. This training includes instruction in “shampooing, scalp and hair conditioning, hair design and shaping, chemical hair control, hair coloring, hair styling, skin care and facials, makeup, waxing, and manicuring and nail care.”

So, in other words, people who are only interested in learning about hair end up spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars learning about nails, skincare, facials, and makeup — skills that they are not interested in and will likely not use.

Getting a cosmetology license is not cheap, as data from the Institute of Justice (IJ) shows. According to IJ, in 2019, the total cost of completing a cosmetology training program in Minnesota was $17,398. The median wage for a cosmetologist, however, was only $29,600.

Creating a hair technician license would reduce licensing burden

The cosmetology industry tends to be made up mainly of low-income individuals. These are people who do not have thousands of dollars to spend on getting a cosmetology license. So these onerous requirements keep them out of the industry.

For some of them, these requirements mean taking on debt. And indeed, IJ estimated that a good portion of cosmetology license holders had federal student loans. In 2019, the proportion of license holders with federal student loans was two out of every three.

The board of cosmetology would, of course, argue that this complexity is for the sake of health and safety. But cosmetology in general is a low-risk occupation, at least when compared to some other occupations that are licensed less onerously, like EMTs.

So, if licensing was indeed about health and safety, these rules would not be as complex and as onerous. And more specifically, there would be no requirement that individuals interested in hair have to undertake training in makeup and nail care. Requiring wanna-be hairstylists to take a 1,550-hour training course in cosmetology is costly and irrational.

This is why legislators should support bills HF 3155 and HF 4390, which aim to create a hair technician license. This would enable individuals only interested in services like “cutting hair and the application of dyes, bleach, reactive chemicals, keratin, or other preparations to color or alter the structure of hair” to obtain a less burdensome license requiring fewer training hours as compared to a full cosmetology license.

More can be done

In an ideal world, licensing in cosmetology would be replaced by less burdensome rules like registration or inspection. But any effort aimed at reducing licensing burden and reducing complexity in the cosmetology industry is better than nothing.