The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

If you’ve decided that some type of formal education is the way to go for you, the next step in your journey is to find the best education option for you. In this chapter I’m going to mostly focus on schools because schools are the most expensive option in terms of both time and money, but all of the points – with the exception of licensing – also apply to selecting a workshop or private lesson as well.

One of the challenges of finding quality instruction is that makeup instruction is literally the wild west. There are no governing bodies overseeing makeup artistry the way there is for Cosmetology. This means that anyone, yes, literally Anyone can wake up one morning and decide to teach makeup. Needless to say not everyone is qualified to teach makeup, therein lies the rub. In addition for whatever reason over the last 15 or so years, the number of new makeup artists entering the profession has grown exponentially. Back when I started makeup there were about 3 makeup schools and 4 makeup agencies in Los Angeles. Now there are countless “schools” and a search on Workbook yielded 22 agencies, and those are just the agencies that list on Workbook (I know of 3 prominent ones that do not list on Workbook and goodness knows how many smaller boutique agencies do not list there). The makeup profession has blown up. This means that a ) you’ve got to be smarter and work harder in order to shine amongst the sizable competition that exists and b ) there are lots of opportunists out there willing to take advantage of eager and enthusiastic aspiring makeup artists. Here are my suggestions for how to find the good ones.

1 ) Don’t Base Your Decision Solely on Pictures.

Schools use enticing pictures to try to lure you in, the premise of course being “Your work can look like this, too!”. Well first of all, there are NO guarantees that the photos on a website actually have anything to do with that school. The only way you can verify the work that a school is producing is by going to the school and taking a tour. I know of at least one school that uses stolen work on their website. Secondly, look again: Do you *really* want to do that work? Look at the work on the websites of most schools and then go look at the work that appears in most magazines, advertisements, TV, music videos, etc. Yep, you got it. It’s not very good. If the students of the school are producing bad work like that do you *really* want to go there? Probably not.

2 ) Who Owns The School?

Most legitimate schools are owned by people who were (or in some cases still are) legitimately involved with the industry in some meaningful capacity. This information should be readily available, and in today’s internet world, easily verifiable. I’ve noticed with the more questionable schools it’s extremely difficult to find out who owns it. Red flag.

3 ) Who Are The Instructors?

Again, the instructors should be people with significant involvement in the industry. In fact, the instructors should still be currently working artists with verifiable credits. Not semi-retired, recently retired, used to be a working artist, none of that. Not only do trends and styles of makeup change, but what it takes to get a job has COMPLETELY changed. Someone who hasn’t worked in 5 years is entirely out of the loop. Further, if the school doesn’t have instructors that are working in the mediums in which you hope to work, how are they going to be able to teach you what it takes to work those jobs? Being a wedding artist is not at all the same as being a Department Head of a TV show.

4 ) Is The School Licensed?

This is a big one. It varies by state what the requirements are, but most states do have requirements that schools have to meet for post-secondary/vocational education. In California schools need to be registered with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education which is part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. It’s a big deal and the requirements are rigorous. It’s not something that can be done quickly and it’s not something that everyone can and will qualify for. As of a search taken while writing this article, only 3 makeup schools are currently registered in the state of California and they are all in Los Angeles. A school’s standing may be “pending” but you won’t know for sure until you check to make sure. To find out current standings, visit the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education search page. For other states, I would suggest contacting your state’s department of Consumer Affairs and/or Cosmetology licensing agency.

A non-licensed school can be shut down at anytime, with no prior warning and take your money with them. I’m sure you can figure out the likelihood of obtaining a refund from a school that has been shut down. It is such a problem, in fact, that the California BoPSE has an entire page devoted to what to do when caught in the situation.

5 ) Ask Lots of Questions. Take A Tour If Possible.

Any reputable school (or workshop) expects you to have lots of questions and has no problems answering them for as long as you need in order to be comfortable in your choice. If they are rushing you like a used car salesman, that’s a red flag. For a school, it’s also beneficial to tour the facilities if at all possible. A lot of students come from out of town to attend schools in Los Angeles, so if you’re going somewhere distant, that may not be possible. If it is, however, take time to tour the schools you’re interested in. You should be able to see the work rooms, the supplies, the faculty, etc.

6 ) Be Wary Of Lots of Add-ons and Additional Sales.

Most schools have either a required kit list that the student has to go out and buy or a pre-made kit that is bundled into the student’s tuition. This is due to the fact that a student obviously needs makeup and tools to work with during the class. A school should not, however, have a zillion different add-ons that they are pressuring you to purchase. It’s wholly impossible to buy everything you’ll ever need for your career within your first 5 minutes of starting. Your kit, your portfolio, your tools, and everything associated with your career will be an ever evolving journey. Besides – tuition is not free. If you have to purchase everything else “on the side” what is the tuition covering?

Other Information

– Online/Home Study courses are generally a waste of time. A well written program may have some useful information, however you need to put actual makeup on actual human beings in order to learn makeup. You can’t just read and think about it. Also, with no instructor there to guide you, there’s no way to know if you’re doing it correctly or not. You need critique in order to learn and push forward.

– With workshops and private lessons there are no licensing or any other requirements what so ever, so it is particularly important to know who is running and teaching the course.

Full Disclosure (edited 5/9/14): I was formerly one of the teachers at the Margaret Kimura Beauty Academy in Los Angeles. At the time I was teaching there MKC Beauty Academy was one of 3 licensed schools in California. They have since closed the physical location of the school and they are no longer listed as an Accredited school with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education. I am now teaching at the Blush School of Makeup in San Francisco and as of the time of this update they are a fully Accredited school with the BPPVE.

Resources for This Section:

Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education

Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Search Page

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

© 2010 – 2016, Tania. All rights reserved.