North Carolina Licensing Overview for a Cosmetologist

Licensing for a cosmetologist in North Carolina is controlled by the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners.

General Guidelines for a Cosmetologist in North Carolina

Specific requirements to perform cosmetology 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?

Check with local governing body for updated details.

What’s the state licensing site for cosmetologist?

North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners

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?

Renews every 3 years by October 1.

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.

There are four main steps that need to be completed to become a qualified cosmetologist / esthetician in North Carolina. 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 for licensure with the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners
  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 licensed cosmetologist or esthetician in North Carolina. The minimum education requirement for this profession is a certificate or diploma in cosmetology / esthetician undertaken at a registered beauty school. To successfully complete this course, students are required to undertake a minimum of 1,500 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 hours of coursework at a registered school of beauty.

North Carolina does not currently offer cosmetology or esthetician apprenticeships as a career pathway into the vocation. 

Licensing Exam

North Carolina requires students who wish to become fully licensed as either a cosmetologist or an esthetician to successfully pass a licensing exam. North Carolina uses the National Cosmetology Examination through the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) as their written examination. This exam consists of two parts: a theoretical exam, and a practical exam. 

The theoretical exam consists of questions relating to the fields of hygiene, human anatomy, skin analysis, chemistry and more. The exam questions will cover a range of areas that are specific to the course content relevant to your field of study. It typically takes around 90 minutes to complete the written exam.

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. Keratinizatio

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

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

What is one of the principal functions of the skeletal system?

  1. It protects dendrites
  2. It aids in the metabolic process
  3. It produces red and white blood cells
  4. It produces calcium

Which of the following substances do the sebaceous glands utilize to lubricate the skin?

  1. Lymph
  2. Ascorbic acid
  3. Uric acid
  4. Lipids

Quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds are used by estheticians because…

  1. They are odorless
  2. They don’t soften plastic bottles
  3. They kill bacterial spores
  4. They disinfect tools quickly

What are actinic keratoses?

  1. Rough skin patches
  2. Hives
  3. Shingles
  4. Atopic dermatitis

The cosmetology practical exam will typically look at a range of areas of the profession including (but not limited to):

  • Set Up and Client Protection
  • Thermal Curling
  • Haircutting
  • Chemical Waving
  • Virgin Hair Lightening Application 
  • Hair Color Retouch
  • Virgin Relaxer Application 
  • Relaxer Retouch

You can only apply to complete the esthetician practical exam following the successful completion of the theoretical examination above. The practical exam is run by the Professional Credential Services (PCS) and costs $130 to undertake. The practical exam will run for up to 4 hours, with breaks in between. You must bring your own equipment and model to undertake the exam.

The practical exam will typically look at a range of areas of the profession including (but not limited to):

  • Set Up 
  • Client Protection
  • Facial massage
  • Facial steaming
  • Manual Extraction on the Forehead
  • Hair removal
  • Makeup application
  • Facial masks
  • Clean up

Application for licensure

Upon the successful completion of a cosmetology / esthetician course or an apprenticeship, students within the state of North Carolina are required to submit an application for licensure. This license application must be submitted to the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners for both a cosmetology license and an esthetician license. The cost of this application is $20 for an esthetician and $49 for a cosmetologist.

Continuing 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 when notified by the Board. This process is simple and can be done online through the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners.

In the state of North Carolina, professionals are required to complete a minimum of 8 credits of continuing Education each licensing cycle to maintain their license. This allows them to stay up to date with the latest techniques and trends in the field of beauty.


North Carolina