Iowa Licensing Overview for a Cosmetologist

Licensing for cosmetologist in Iowa is controlled by the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences.

General Guidelines for a Cosmetologist in Iowa

Specific requirements to perform cosmetologist services can generally be used as a guideline, but make sure to check with your local governing rules and regulations.

Who’s allowed to perform these services?


General requirements for cosmetologist license required?

At least 16 years old; 10th grade education or equivalent

What’s the state licensing site for cosmetologist?

Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences

What are some training programs available for cosmetologist?

See training programs

How long is a license good for and when do I need to renew?

Renew by Dec. 31 of even-numbered years

What are fees associated with licensing?


Cosmetologist / Esthetician Licensing

A cosmetologist is a beauty professional who specializes in the beautification and health of their client’s hair, skin and nails. An esthetician is a beauty professional that specializes in the beautification and health of their client’s skin, particularly through hair removal, skin and facial treatments and the application of makeup. With additional training, a cosmetologist can become an esthetician and vice versa. While there are fundamental differences between cosmetologists and estheticians as we have just explained, the process of becoming licensed within each career is almost the same. With this being said, the process of being a fully licensed cosmetologist and/or esthetician varies between each state.

There are four main steps that need to be completed to become a qualified cosmetologist / esthetician in the state of Iowa. These include:

  1. The successful completion of a cosmetology / esthetician course
  2. Successfully undergo state testing and pass the minimum requirements of each test
  3. Submission of an application with the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences
  4. Maintain your knowledge base through regular education to keep your cosmetologist / esthetician license current.


There are basic educational requirements needed before one can become a licenced cosmetologist and/or esthetician in the state of Iowa. The minimum education requirement for this profession is a certificate or diploma in cosmetology / esthetician undertaken at a registered beauty school, through vocational training or through a junior college. To successfully complete this course, students are required to undertake a minimum of 2100 hours of training before they can be signed off. For further training, some beauticians may choose to gain an associate degree to boost their qualifications. For those looking to begin their own start up business, an associate degree is quite a desirable skill to possess. To become an esthetician, students are required to complete 600 registered hours at a registered school of estheticians.  

The state of Iowa does not currently offer an apprenticeship for either cosmetologists or estheticians. 

Licensing Exam

The state of Iowa requires students who wish to become fully licensed as either a cosmetologist or an esthetician to successfully pass a licensing exam. Iowa uses the National Cosmetology Examination through the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) as their written cosmetology examination. This exam is in two sections. 

Read on to see some sample theoretical questions for the cosmetologist exam.

Which of the following refers to the deepest layer of the epidermis?

  1. Stratum spinosum
  2. Stratum granulosum
  3. Stratum germinativum
  4. Stratum lucidum

As hair cells grow, what is the process that they go through to reach full development?

  1. Eumelanin
  2. COHNS
  3. Keratin
  4. Keratinization

How may cranial bones do humans have?

  1. 10
  2. 8
  3. 9
  4. 7

Which of the following will not affect the rate of growth of a nail?

  1. Prenatal vitamins
  2. Exercise
  3. Diet
  4. General health

The cosmetology exam also requires a practical component. This exam lasts for approximately 3 hours and covers the following topics:

  • Safety
  • Hair Analysis
  • Styling
  • Physical processes
  • Chemical processes
  • Hygiene
  • Nails
  • Client consultation

The esthetician exam consists of a theoretical. This written exam costs $58, takes approximately 90 minutes to complete, covering topics such as:

  • Safety regulations
  • Facials
  • Hair removal
  • Client contact
  • Skin analysis
  • Facials
  • Chemical peels
  • Massage
  • Makeup

Application for licensure

Upon the successful completion of a cosmetology / esthetician course or an apprenticeship and the successful completion of the theoretical exam, professionals within the state of Iowa are required to apply for licensure by examination. This process requires professionals to provide a copy of their transcripts, identification documentation, official test scores and an application and required fee to the Iowa Board of Cosmetology. For both cosmetologists and estheticians, there is a fee of $60 for this application.  

Ongoing education

Following the successful completion of your state license to become either a cosmetology or an esthetician, it is important to remember that you must renew this license based on a two-year renewal cycle ending March 31st. This process is simple and can be done online through the Iowa Board of Cosmetology. The state of Iowa requires both cosmetologists and estheticians to continue their education during the renewal cycle. This education must consist of at least four hours concerning the practical side of your esthetician practice and two hours based on the law in Iowa.