Certified vs. Licensed: What’s The Difference?

In the beauty industry, often times, you may come across individuals who tell you that they are either “certified” or “licensed” in the field – mainly in Makeup Artistry. Having credentials to back up your title and position is super important, but unfortunately, all credentials are not created equal. Over the years, entry into the wold of Freelance Makeup Artistry has become quite a free for all. It seems that, nowadays, everyone who has a simple interest in makeup is now calling themselves a “Makeup Artist”. Many times, you will hear people say that they are a “Certified Makeup Artist” because they have taken a course or class on makeup artistry.

But is that person REALLY a “Certified Makeup Artist”?

To become a licensed¬†cosmetologist, we are prepared to enter our field by learning about many things that most people wouldn’t expect for us to have to know. Learning about infection control and being educated on bacteria, viruses, pathogens, parasites and prevention was one of those things. Anatomy and Physiology, and knowing about cells, tissues, organs, and body systems such as the skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, endocrine, digestive, excretory, respiratory, and integumentary systems is another area of learning that many people don’t realize that cosmetologists have to go through. Since cosmetologists are licensed to provide hair, skin and nail services, we also have to learn about the skin. Learning the anatomy of the skin and knowing about disorders of the skin, as well as maintaining the health of the skin is also part of our training, as was knowing about fungus and disorders of the nails. As cosmetologists, we truly have a wealth of information that enables us to not only provide the best service possible, but to do it in the SAFEST way possible.

When you hear the term “licensed”, you can rest assured that the person whom you are dealing with holds a state issued license from the state’s Department of Health. For Cosmetologists, that means that we have completed 1500 hours of in-school training composed of both theory and clinical hours. So in addition to our book work, we’ve also spent time in school working with real clients and providing real services before we even take our State Board Exam. In order to become a “Licensed” Cosmetologist or Esthetician (someone who specializes in skin care), an individual is required to complete the required number of hours in school, and once that is completed, one must pass both a written and a practical exam administered by the State Board. Once we pass, we are now legally able to work in salons, spas, medical spas, and as independent freelance artists and to charge money for our services.

On the other hand, individuals who hold a “Certificate” have not endured the same level of training as an individual who holds a license. In many states, ¬†“Certified Makeup Artists” actually don’t even exist because there is no regulation on the makeup artistry field. There is no state accredited course to take, or state issued exam that will license an individual to become a “Makeup Artist”. Technically, in order to be considered a professionally working makeup artist, one is required to hold either an Esthetics License, which still requires you to complete a certain number of hours in school, as well as passing the state board, or a Cosmetology License. In a certification course, one will mostly learn about techniques such as airbrushing, rather than the deeper topics such as the Infection Control, Anatomy and Physiology, etc. While a person who holds a “Certification” may be very skilled and talented in technique, they do not hold the same level of education as someone who holds a “License”, nor do they hold any type of certification that actually qualifies them as a “Makeup Artist”.

These two titles, “Licensed” and “Certified”, are very different and should not be confused or looked at as the same. When someone says that they are “Certified”, it is important to ask yourself the following: “Under what authority is this person certified?”

Bottom Line: a “Certified Makeup Artist” has merely taken a class and has received a certificate for completion of that class. They did not become a “Certified Makeup Artist”, nor did they receive a License from the state Department of Health. Many “Makeup Artists” have simply found a gray area in their state’s laws and regulations for the beauty industry, and they are capitalizing on it.

Because of this very important difference between these two titles, and because our client’s health and well being is so important to us, at M.A.W.Beauty Hair & Makeup Studio, we only hire artists who hold a State Issued License in either Cosmetology or Esthetics. Our state Licensed professionals are educated in the underlying knowledge that backs up the technique.

This post is not an attempt to knock anyone down, but simply to explain the difference between what it means to be “Licensed” vs. “Certified” in relation to Makeup Artistry. There are many talented artists who do not hold a license, and there are also individuals who do hold a license, but lack talent and skill. At the end of the day, it is up to the client to determine which level of education, skill and professionalism is important to them, but in any field that deals with health or an individual’s well being, using a Licensed professional is always the safest way to go.