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Survey of Success of Beauty, Wellness Careers Conducted by AACS

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) offered information on how beauty and wellness careers are perceived inside and outside the industry, according to a survey it recently conducted.

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) presented findings from a national survey regarding attitudes and perceptions toward beauty and wellness careers during the recent AACS convention held in Phoenix. The survey was commissioned to learn more about the attitudes and perceptions various audiences have regarding careers in beauty and wellness.

Respondents included career investigators, identified as young women between the ages of 16 and 34 who reported speaking with someone about careers in the past 12 months; career influencers, including parents and guidance counselors; and individuals who had trained or worked in the beauty and wellness industry. Additionally, the survey captured perceptions regarding other career paths including health care, information technology, graphic design and culinary arts. The online survey was conducted in September and October of 2009 by Decision Analyst, Inc., a leader in consumer market research.

Key findings in the interest/support for beauty and wellness careers

The survey asked career investigators to indicate their level of interest in various careers. Forty-one percent of investigators reported having some interest in a beauty and wellness career. Among those expressing interest, 5% were extremely interested in a beauty and wellness career, 17% were moderately interested and 19% were slightly interested.

However, investigators between the ages of 25 to 34 had a stronger interest in beauty and wellness than younger respondents. More than 75% of respondents between 25 and 34 also indicated that they had investigated or taken steps to upgrade their job skills in the past year. "The findings indicate that cosmetology schools may want to target some of their recruiting efforts specifically towards career-changers," noted Jim Cox, executive director of AACS.

Among those that influence young women's career decisions, respondents were generally supportive of beauty and wellness careers. Ninety-four percent of influencers indicated some level of support for beauty and wellness careers, and 62% of respondents were "extremely" or "moderately" supportive of a young person's choice to pursue a career in beauty and wellness.

What draws people to beauty and wellness careers?

Respondents who expressed interest in a beauty and wellness career valued the career path for its entrepreneurial qualities, the creative expression opportunities it presents, as well as the opportunity it provides to help others. Supportive influencers also noted that there will always be a need for beauty and wellness professionals.

The survey asked individuals who were not interested in or supportive of beauty and wellness careers to share their concerns. Among investigators, the most common reason cited was that the respondent was simply not interested in beauty. However, other concerns included income potential, health/retirement benefits and the availability of jobs.

Although generally supportive of careers in beauty and wellness, influencers including parents and guidance counselors, expressed a strong desire for information and data to support beauty and wellness as a career choice. Additionally, these individuals tended to be more concerned about the amount of time and cost of entry required for various career paths. "The survey revealed that influencers are considering the return on investment careers in beauty and wellness provide," noted Cox, adding that member schools can use the short time to licensure as strength when prospective students are comparing various careers.

How does beauty and wellness compare to other career paths?

When investigators and influencers were asked to rate various career fields, beauty and wellness performed competitively with careers in information technology, graphic design and culinary arts, but significantly lower than health care. Beauty and wellness careers' perceived strengths compared to other fields surveyed included creativity, flexible scheduling, working with others and entrepreneurship. Perceived weaknesses included income potential, health insurance and retirement benefits. "Factors where beauty scored particularly well, such as creative expression, indicate that cosmetology may be a draw for students considering other career paths such as graphic design," said Cox.

The survey also asked respondents to indicate how "believable" they found several statements regarding careers in beauty and wellness. Statements focused on income potential, job availability, entrepreneurial opportunities and skills that last a lifetime, among others. After indicating how strongly they believed each statement, respondents were provided with claim statements supporting careers in beauty. Among both investigators and influencers, the claim statements had a positive impact on respondents' perceptions, particularly among the influencers. "The survey findings indicate that people can begin to change their perceptions about careers in beauty and wellness, but that it's important to provide them with facts," said Lynelle Lynch, president of Bellus Academy and a director with AACS.

Perspective from industry veterans

As a supplement to the investigator and influencer research, AACS also asked individuals who had trained or worked in the beauty and wellness industry to share their perceptions about beauty and wellness careers. Beauty veterans tended to have some of the same concerns typically expressed by other independent contractors and entrepreneurs with regards to health and retirement benefits. However, they also valued the field for its opportunity to help others, be creative and the entrepreneurial opportunities it provides.

Continuing education was important to beauty veterans. More than one-third of beauty veteran respondent—36%—indicated that they had taken an advanced beauty school program, and 62% indicated they had some level of interest in advanced training for beauty and wellness professionals.

Conclusions

While beauty and wellness is not the leading career choice for investigators, it is perceived as a strong career path for individuals interested in helping and working with others, being creative and having an entrepreneurial drive. Despite the positive attributes associated with careers in beauty, the field is perceived as having some areas of deficiency, primarily related to predictable income and security.

Research indicates that it is possible to improve attitudes toward careers in beauty and wellness by exposing individuals to facts regarding career benefits. Cosmetology schools, salons and businesses vested in the beauty and wellness industry have an opportunity to educate prospective students and the public in general about the rewards and opportunities careers in beauty represent. "Our industry's potential has been a secret for too long. We're excited to be engaging in initiatives that will position beauty as a premier career of choice," said Lynch.

About the AACS

Founded in 1924, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) represents nearly 900 member cosmetology schools in North America. AACS is a source committed to elevating the beauty and wellness industry as a premier career choice.

The 2009 Study of Attitudes toward Beauty & Wellness Careers used a U.S. and Canadian sample of respondents, made up of 203 career investigators (women ages 16 to 34) and 211 career influencers (parents, counselors, and mentors, ages 25 to 64). More than 3,500 individuals were screened to ensure a balanced, representative final sample. Findings based on the total sample of 414 are subject to a +/- 4.9% or less margin of error, at a 95% confidence interval.

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