Opening up a cosmetology school can be an exciting opportunity to put your skills to use and train the next generation of stylists. However, before you can open up your program to future barbers, hair stylists, and skin specialists, consider how your program can gain accreditation status with our guide on how to become an accredited cosmetology school.
Accreditation means your program meets the standards of high-quality educational performance established by accrediting agencies. But what exactly does this entail for students, and are there any benefits to receiving accreditation?
Continue reading about how to become an accredited cosmetology school as we dive into everything you need to know about accredited cosmetology programs.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
It’s essential to consider accreditation, a status provided by agencies signifying that a program offers high-quality education.
When your school receives accreditation, it means it’s been evaluated and meets the accreditor’s standards for providing a comprehensive educational program. You must be accredited to receive Title IV funding, however, being accredited does not automatically grant Title IV funding (there are more steps a school must take). Just make sure to consult with experts to abide by regulations.
To participate in Title IV financial aid, a cosmetology program must receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Agencies providing accreditation for cosmetology programs include but are not limited to the following:
- National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Middle States Association – Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
(A good resource for accreditation bodies can be found at https://www.chea.org/)
10 Steps to Receiving Cosmetology Accreditation
The first thing to note is that once a school is eligible to begin the accreditation process, it may take up to two years, depending on the agency. Here’s the typical process of receiving cosmetology accreditation through an agency:
1. Identify Pre-Eligibility Requirements
Before proceeding with your application, you must determine if you meet the requirements for pre-eligibility, as each accreditor differs in its requirements. Accreditors often have an initial inquiry, a notice of intent to apply, or a registration process to ensure that the school falls within the accreditor’s scope.
2. Attend a Workshop
A workshop aims to help applicants understand educational expectations and how they should report to the agency. NACCAS, ACCSC, COE, and ACCET require workshop attendance and offer workshops throughout the year. Investigate the latest events for more information. Some accreditors require workshop attendance before applying.
3. Complete an Application
Every accreditor establishes different requirements regarding application submission. An accreditor staff member will likely review your application and provide instructions if you must make changes or revisions. Application fee schedules will also differ.
4. Conduct a Self-Study Process and Report
All accreditors require a self-study or self-evaluation report. Depending on the accreditor, this document can be called an ISS, SER, or something else, but they are all self-evaluations. In this process, the institution explains how it meets the accreditors’ standards and demonstrates compliance through exhibits. If a standard is not met, the school must adjust its policies and procedures to achieve compliance. The self-study can take six months or longer to complete and must be submitted to the accrediting agency by an established deadline.
5. Host a Consultation/Accreditation Visit
Some accreditors have a consultation visit, preliminary visit, or readiness visit. Think of this as an on-site consultation visit to ensure that the institution is prepared to proceed through the rest of the accreditation process. While accreditors have different conditions for this initial visit, your accreditor will review all programs and services your institution offers and provide a report of items that are in compliance and items that need to be addressed prior to the submission of the final self-study.
6. Submit the Final Self-Study
Following a consultation/accreditation visit, you must address non-compliance concerns. These items should be addressed in the self-study and exhibits. In some cases, the institution must also submit names of potential program evaluators. Be sure to review all of the instructions and requirements so that your institution’s submission is complete. The final self-study must be submitted by the deadline provided by the accrediting agency.
7. Complete a Second Initial Accreditation Application
Some agencies, such as ACCSC and NACCAS, require a second accreditation application to be submitted at the same time as the final Self-Study. Here again, make sure that your institution provides an on-time application, as well as all attachments and fees. Other accreditors, like ACCET, require the institution to submit a request for an on-site visit.
8. On-Site Visit
After the final self-study has been submitted, the comprehensive on-site visit is scheduled. This visit typically takes two to three days and usually includes at least three evaluators, one representative from the accreditor, and others from peer institutions. Depending on how many programs are offered, there may be multiple program evaluators. During the on-site visit, the evaluators ensure that the institution is operating as stated in the self-study. They will interview students, staff, and faculty. They will review files. They may call employers to validate placement and determine satisfaction. At the end of the visit, the team will conduct an exit interview to identify areas that they determined do not meet the accreditor’s standards.
9. On-Site Visit Report Response
It’s important that the school start working on improvements based on the exit interview. While the institution will receive a formal report to respond to any weaknesses, the amount of time to respond can be as little as two weeks depending on the accreditor. The goal of the response is to provide an update that explains how the weakness has been addressed and provide evidence to validate the improvement.
10. Await a Commission Decision
The commission board will make a final decision about your accreditation status. These decisions are made at the commission meetings. These meeting dates are generally published on the accreditors’ websites. Schools are notified of the commission’s decision within 30 days, though it can take longer in some cases.
Cosmetology School State Requirements
Every state requires students to get a license to become a cosmetologist. Students will also need to attend a state-licensed cosmetology program. While students don’t have to attend an accredited school to become licensed professionals, they must attend a program that has state approval, which might or might not be accredited.
Training requirements and prerequisites differ by state, so it’s essential to check out cosmetology state requirements to understand the available options.
What Are the Standards for Accreditation?
Standards depend on the accreditor agency. Accreditors will lay out a set of standards by which your program needs to abide. These standards demonstrate your ability to provide a high-quality educational experience for your students.
Here’s a sample list of criteria your cosmetology program must meet to receive accreditation:
• The program must have a defined mission statement.
• The school must comply with federal, state, and local government requirements.
• Program instructors must hold teaching credentials complying with state requirements.
• The topics covered must be relevant to the program’s educational objectives.
• The school must demonstrate that it can meet financial stability and aid management requirements.
• The disclosure of student information must comply with local, federal, and state laws.
• The program’s practices must align with admission policies and requirements.
Benefits of Cosmetology School Accreditation
Cosmetology schools receiving accreditation have demonstrated they can provide a comprehensive education that accommodates student needs, expectations, and career goals. More importantly, accrediting programs can help facilitate the post-educational experience for students aiming to establish their cosmetology careers quickly.
Here are some benefits of getting your program accredited:
• Your program may be eligible to distribute federal financial aid.
• Your school will be able to apply for other funding opportunities (Accreditation makes participation in programs such as the VA/GI Bill, SEVP, and others easier).
Fame Can Facilitate Cosmetology School Accreditation
Learning how to become an accredited cosmetology school takes time, patience, resources, and regulatory knowledge. While Fame is not an expert at accreditation, we partner with experts such as Cyanna who can guide you on your journey. Fortunately, Fame can simplify the accreditation process and streamline your cosmetology program. We address all educational needs through our innovative products and service solutions.
With years of school operational and regulatory experience, we can help your program remain compliant with educational regulations and accreditation requirements so you can deliver an unmatched experience for your students. Our software solutions facilitate administrative tasks, enrollment management, and financial tracking.
Cyanna, Vice President of Licensing & Accreditation
Fame, Director of Compliance