All states have licensing standards for hairdressers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. To become licensed, an aspiring hairdresser must be at least 16 years old. The candidate must have also earned a high school diploma or the equivalent and completed a state-accepted cosmetology school program. The specific time may vary, but the BLS indicates that the minimum program for hairdressers is at least nine months.
Someone who completes the bare minimum amount of time in an approved cosmetology school program could become licensed within nine months of graduation. There is often a slight lag between completing the educational requirements and applying and getting a professional license from the state.
For candidates who prefer to continue on with school, many vocational or cosmetology schools do offer two year associate degrees in cosmetology, according to the BLS. While this degree is not necessary to perform basic hairdressing work, it does improve a hairdresser's knowledge base and makes her more qualified for better pay at a salon. During the full two-year program, it is possible that a hairdresser picks up more skills to perform higher-paying services, such as hair extension installation. Along with improved employment opportunities, a degree may help in self-employment.