Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
version 9, draft 9

How to Become a Make-Up Artist in the US

A career in makeup artistry can be glamorous, playful and even pretty exhausting on most occasions. It’s an art form, like painting except you’re painting people instead of canvas. As with all forms of artistic expression your skills will improve with practice.

Career Prospects

Qualified make-up artists may find themselves in a variety of exciting work environments. Salons, spas, department store cosmetic counters and even photography studios are all wonderful options that usually offer full-time hours and benefits. Freelance gigs such as fashion magazine shoots, stage plays or television and movie sets are also worth consideration. They offer larger paychecks, excellent networking opportunities and are impressive additions to any resume.

Practice Makes Perfect

The first and most obvious step is to do what you love, apply makeup! Not just on yourself, but on others. You may find that “perfect liquid line” you mastered years ago is not looking all that steady once you put it on someone else’s face. It takes a while to warm up to your own hand placement when working on other people. Oh and about those people, think variety. A variety of features, skin tones, skin types, eye colors, hair colors... all of which need to be taken into account when creating a complementary look for someone.

Study the Craft

Read books. There are tons on the trade explaining everything from complementary colors to compensation for set lights. Devour material on your profession (that goes for everyone, not just artists). Collect pictures. Looks you love, looks you want to try to recreate or simply images that inspire you (they don’t all need to have anything to do with makeup directly).  The idea is to see what’s out there, get familiar with the creativity of others and get your own creative juices flowing.

Helpful Hints

As you practice applications, take photographs of your work. They may not be brag worthy at first but they’ll show you how far you’ve come and eventually they’ll start to look good enough to be saved in what’s going to be your portfolio. Your portfolio is essential to landing jobs once you’re ready to get out there and show the world your craft.

A great way to find models and get your name out there when you’re just starting out is at the local schools. Donate your services to the theater and film departments. This gets you experience, your name in the credits, and it’s a great networking opportunity for future projects that will pay you.  


No formal education or certification is necessary to simply apply makeup in the U.S. It’s when you want to provide additional services like waxing, tweezing and facials that you need an Esthetician or Cosmetology license. Requirements vary by state so look up your state’s Board of Cosmetology for the correct information.

In addition to providing beautiful make-up applications, to be successful in the field you’ll also have to possess traits such as:

  • Patience                               
  • Creativity                            
  • Be detail oriented
  • Work well under pressure
  • Have excellent people skills
  • The ability to work long hours
  • Willingness to keep up with current trends and research looks of the past
  • Have the ability to take direction & collaborate with others

Getting Hired

Working at a salon or makeup counter in a department store is a great way to have job stability. If you take the freelance route, having a website and business cards is a must. Promote yourself! Get in touch with wedding planners, event staffing agencies, and bridal shops for freelance work.  Some cosmetic companies also have a list of freelancers they pull from for big in-store promotions, fashion shows or simply when a regular staff member calls in sick and there’s no one to cover. You want to get on as many “on-call” lists as possible. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising tool in your arsenal so meet people, don’t turn down gigs (unless you’re really being taken advantage of) and always act professionally.


It’s not uncommon to be paid a day rate per project in this business. As far as hourly paid positions, these are the earnings in the United States on average. Set your day rate with these numbers in mind.


Hourly Wage

Annual Salary

Film & Video Production



Performing Arts Companies



Personal Care Services



Amusement Parks



It takes more than just a passion for make-up artistry to excel in this industry. You can be amazing at applications but that doesn’t guarantee you work. If you’re truly talented, reliable and able to conduct yourself in a professional manner you’ll be successful in the field. It’s a vibrant career path. Enjoy the journey!

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