How To Choose A Makeup School

makeup artist photo shoot

Do you want to be a professional makeup artist? Are you looking for a makeup school? If you are trying to choose among a few different makeup schools and don’t know exactly how you are supposed to make this multi thousand dollar decision I have some very important criteria for you to consider.

Up until the end of last year (2017) I had been teaching a pro makeup artistry program. I am not teaching at the moment, so I can offer you advice from the inside, with nothing to sell you and no personal profit to gain.

There are some really fantastic makeup schools out there with alumni who have gone on to build huge careers. And there are some really shady makeup schools, operating with very sleazy business practices. To an industry newcomer or to someone with no experience of the industry it can be a very expensive money trap.

The makeup artistry education industry is not regulated. If you want to be an aesthetician or a hairdresser or a manicurist then you have to go to a state regulated school and be taught an official curriculum. You have to hold a state license and the school has to be licensed with the state. If the school doesn’t meet the state’s rules then they lose their license and go out of business.

Makeup schools aren’t held to any similar standard. Part of the reason for this is that makeup is considered to be an art form, and although there may only be one correct way to wax an armpit there are many ways to enhance an eye.

HOW TO CHOOSE A MAKEUP SCHOOL

You have decided that you want to become a professional makeup artist and you realize that this career generally starts with a quality education, so how do you choose a school? How do you differentiate between a fantastic program and a sleazy money-trap?

1. RESEARCH THE SCHOOL

The first step is to look in depth at each school as a business. Who are they, how long have they been in business and what is their reputation in business? How long have the current owners owned the school? If there were previous owners has the change been a positive or negative one. If the school had a bad reputation under previous management or ownership it could be great now. Conversely if it had a fantastic reputation before, the new owners may have trashed the program since taking over.

2. LOOK HARD AT THE FACILITY.

When you go tour the facility look to see that the area is safe. Where will you be parking your car? How well lit is the parking lot at night? Is student safety a priority?

How clean is the school? Are the floors clean? Are the bathrooms clean? What does the makeup room look like – is it well lit with good sized work stations? If they are not taking care of the facility itself, chances are they won’t be taking care of you.

3. READ REVIEWS

You can learn some crucial information by reading the school’s reviews. Hopefully the school you are considering has some good reviews, but you also need to consider the bad reviews. If there are bad reviews you need to look at the dates and what the reviewers are saying.

Are the bad reviews spread out across a broad space of time? If so that is a major red flag. It tells you that the school is not addressing and correcting its problems. Are the bad reviews consistent? For example are you reading multiple reviews saying that the owner is mean and rude to students, or that the course material is incomplete? Are you reading multiple reviews that criticize the teachers or a specific teacher?

What is the school’s response to the reviews? Are they writing a reply that indicates they are fixing the problem or are they assigning blame? I read reviews on one school that kept replying that the review had been written by a disgruntled or fired employee (why so many fired employees?)

If there are multiple bad reviews you may want to take that school off your list. Any business can get a bad review, but if there are multiple bad reviews you need to question what is going on.

4. HOW LONG DO THE TEACHERS STICK AROUND?

If there is a constant turnover of staff it indicates a bigger problem. If a school treats its teachers well they will stay for a long time. Trouble tends to run from the top down, so if the teachers aren’t sticking around it would indicate that there is a problem at the management or ownership level.

5. ASK ABOUT THE REFUND POLICY

What is this school’s refund policy? Ask them specifically what they would do if you have a death in the family, or if a medical situation arises. Are they going to postpone your finish date or can you get your money or the balance of your money back? Get this in writing.

makeup artist

6. THE CURRICULUM

You need to go over the curriculum with a fine tooth comb and look to see what is being taught and what isn’t.

Ask who wrote the curriculum and what their background is. I wrote my curriculum after 20 years working as a freelance makeup artist. It was based on what you need to know to successfully build a makeup career and also what I didn’t learn in makeup school. It wasn’t until I was actually working and building my career that I realized there had been huge gaping holes in my (very expensive) education.

Most makeup careers are freelance careers. You don’t have just one employer paying you. This means that most makeup artists need to be able to work in multiple areas of the business. You might be on a photoshoot one day, then shooting an industrial the next day. You might round out your week with a satellite hook-up on CNN, a commercial and a wedding. This would be a fabulous week! Each of these days require different makeup skills and profiles, will utilize different types of cameras and lighting, and will have a different work rhythm. A good makeup curriculum will teach you multiple aspects of the business.

7. WHAT IS THE BUSINESS COMPONENT OF THE CURRICULUM?

A successful makeup career is about much, much more than just being able to blow out a good smoky eye or a killer winged liner. You must understand the business aspect of running a freelance career, how to manage your money, how to market yourself, how to balance your advertising expenses with your kit building expense and your business expenses. You need to know how to factor in your tax burden as well as how to structure your fee schedule. This is really important. Most of you are going to makeup school because this is what you want to do for a living, so you need to be taught how to earn a living doing this.

Which brings me to the next crucial factor:

8. WHO IS TEACHING YOUR CLASS AND WHAT IS THEIR BACKGROUND?

makeup Sadie Robertson

Touch ups on set with Luca Magazine

This is massively important.

If you are paying for a makeup education then the person teaching you must have had, or currently have, a substantial makeup career.

Ask the school for your teacher’s resume. Look to see exactly what they have and have not done in their career.

Has this person been able to support themselves and be financially successful solely from their makeup career? If not how on earth can they teach you to be successfully financially self-sufficient with your makeup career? Has their income been a part-time income with their husband or boyfriend or family actually paying their way? (You can figure this out to a degree by looking at their resume)

If the school tells you this person has worked on magazines, ask them specifically which ones. They should be able to show you tear sheets and covers with that person’s name credited on them. Your teacher needs to have worked on multiple magazine shoots – just one or two doesn’t cut it.

What advertising campaigns has this teacher worked on? The school should provide you with a comprehensive list. You cannot teach makeup for advertising if you have never worked in it. Advertising is an extremely lucrative area to work in and requires a different set of skills and knowledge than wedding makeup does.

What film and television has this person worked on? Did they key these jobs? You cannot teach film and television if you haven’t worked in these fields.

How recently have they worked in commercial/music video/film and TV?  Technology is moving at lightning speed, so if your teacher hasn’t worked in these areas for a long time, chances are they are not going to be able to teach you the specifics you need to know about cameras, lighting and how you need to amend your techniques to be a viable hire on any of these jobs.

Does this person have work experience outside of your city or town? In a big market such as Los Angeles or New York this isn’t such a big deal. You can have massive careers in those cities without ever leaving. But if you are in a smaller market you should at least know if your teacher has relocated from a large market, travels for work, or has only worked in this small area.

Most beauty makeup courses cost thousands of dollars. You are paying for the use of the facility, a starter makeup kit, and for the products they have on hand to work with. But most importantly you are paying for someone to give you a quality education that prepares you to go out into the workforce. This means the teacher either has to have worked in all of these aspects of the business, or ideally still be working in the business.

9.  INTERVIEW THE TEACHER.

Once again, you have thousands of dollars about to be invested in a makeup program so ask the school specifically which teacher or teachers will be your instructors, and ask for a sit down meeting with them.

Come to the meeting prepared with a list of very specific questions about their makeup experience. No matter how fun and bubbly they are, no matter how fabulous their own makeup is, if they haven’t done the work they are not qualified to be your teacher.

Ask this person why they are teaching. A successful freelance career will pay much more that a teaching job, so why are they doing it? Some will have small children and want an easier schedule, others may have wanted to slow the pace they were working at. My reason was that the divorce judge told me my son would be extradited back to Phoenix if I moved back to Los Angeles. There has to be a reason why they are doing this, so ask the question!

If the school is not willing to set you up with a meeting with the teacher you need to question why.

10. ASK FOR ALUMNI SUCCESS STORIES WITH SPECIFIC EXAMPLES

Another important piece of information you need relates to former students of this school. A school that is worth your money should be tracking their alumni and the jobs they are working on. If the school is not keeping an eye on this it would indicate to me that they just want your money and don’t care what happens after you leave.

Do the math. Ask them how many students they average per class, how many classes per year, and how many years they have been running the program. This will give you an idea of how many people have come through this program. Now ask to see a list of former students and their success stories.

A handful of girls who have worked on a handful of weddings doesn’t count. If this school is worth your while they should have a brag sheet telling you which student did which magazine, ad campaign, film, television series. Who has been to New York Fashion Week, who is working with which celebrity. If you are seeing a broad cross section of alumni doing a broad cross section of jobs then chances are this school is a good school.

Write down the names of several alumni and check them out on social media. Ask them about their experience with the school, who their teacher was, and if they recommend this program. Some may be too busy to respond, but I would imagine you will get enough responses to make a good judgement call.

I am so proud of the alumni of my classes. So many of them have gone on to do great things. Many of them just wanted a solid part time side hustle doing weddings and events, and are hitting it out of the ballpark. Others work in film, key TV shows, go to New York Fashion Week, do fabulous magazine editorials, work corporate gigs and work with celebrities, athletes and musicians. Some are out around the world working. One has become the official makeup artist at one of the Saudi palaces.

A really great makeup program is going to produce some really great success stories. If the school you are talking to is not bragging like crazy about their alumni successes, ask yourself why.

makeup room photo studio

11. ASK ABOUT THE STUDENT MAKEUP KIT

If your school provides a makeup kit as part of your fee ask for an exact breakdown of the products in that kit and how much you are being charged for it. Pro makeup discounts are normally around 40% and schools get up to 50% off of the retail price. Do the math and make sure you are not being charged more than the retail price on your kit.

Also look to see what products are in the kit. A pro makeup artist kit should be mostly pro products. These are products that are designed to hold up under studio lighting and be shot either by a photographer or in a TV/Film/Commercial/Video environment. If you are not familiar with the pro brands, google them. Ask some pro makeup artists on social media.

Sometimes I see school kits made up of absolute nonsense, products that you could never use on a professional job, and I feel so sorry for the students who have invested in them not knowing any better.

The makeup kit has to be in balance with the education too. I know of one school who provides a fantastic kit – it is enormous and full of great products, but they only provide 2 weeks of education. You can’t learn a career in two weeks. If the education isn’t in balance with the kit then you have just been on an extraordinarily expensive shopping trip!

Look at the products in the classroom that you will be working with too. If the school doesn’t teach with professional makeup products, don’t buy their program.

SUMMARY

A career as a professional makeup artist is both fun and rewarding but it is not easy. Very few people just land on their feet and have all the doors open for them. Most of us have had to pay our dues and work really, really hard to make it in this very competitive field. Not only do we have to be constantly striving to improve our skills and techniques, but we also have to go after the career aggressively, we have to be assertive, we have to be thick skinned.

We work long hours. Our days can start very early – 2:30am, 4am, 6am and they can run incredibly late. We do it because we love it and because this career can be very rewarding.

Before you pay for a makeup school ask yourself if you are a self-starter? Are you disciplined? How much hustle do you have in you? If 10 people tell you no, will you still get up and go after number 11?

If you plan on going to makeup school do your research. Compare multiple schools. Look at the business history of the schools and read their reviews. Be wary of complaints – too many bad reviews means something is not right.

Compare the curriculum for multiple schools. Most students don’t know a good curriculum from a bad one until they start comparing them.

Research the teacher from each school. Research their careers. Have they been successful makeup artists themselves? If not then how do you expect them to teach you how to be successful?

Ask about each school’s alumni success stories. Make them get specific. You should be bowled over by the number of former students out there killing it as professional makeup artists!

Just to be sure that no one was being sketchy with the truth, get on the social media channels of these alumni. See what they are posting, message them and ask what they thought of the school, who was their teacher, what was their experience.

Ask for the student kit to be itemized and ask for the exact dollar figure you are being charged for this kit. You are paying for it, so you deserve to know.

There are plenty of really dubious characters out there running some really shady operations. If you do your homework and your due diligence you will save yourself from being scammed, and find a really fantastic school that can prepare you for the most fabulous career in the world!

If you have questions about this post please ask them in the comment section below, or private message me on any of my social media channels @corinnamakeup

XO

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