How to Become a Make-Up Artist in 5 Steps

Make-up artists may apply make-up for public figures, actors, models or people attending special occasions. Read on to learn about job duties and the steps you can take to get started in the field, including opportunities to get experience and professional training courses. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Make-Up Artist?

A make-up artist is a creative specialist who applies topical colorant, shadow and liner to individuals' faces. If you work in the entertainment industry, you might apply make-up to a news announcer before a broadcast, or use make-up to enhance or change the physical appearance of actors in TV shows, theatrical productions or movies. You could also work as a fashion make-up artist and apply make-up to models before photo shoots, or specialize as a bridal or cosmetic counter make-up artist.

Your specific duties include assessing an individual's skin type to minimize irritation or injury; cleaning and toning skin prior to make-up application; and then applying various kinds of make-up. Other possible duties include creating budgets and purchasing supplies and cosmetics. If you work in the entertainment field, you might also confer with stage and screen directors about the look or effect they want performers to portray; noting instances in a script when story events change a character's appearance.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Figures from O*Net OnLine show that about 32% of make-up artists have a high school diploma or GED and about 46% have some college education (www.onetonline.org). In most cases you need a diploma to gain admission to college programs. Although high schools typically don't offer courses in make-up, you can take classes in art, design and theater to develop the necessary sensibility.

Step 2: Complete College Courses

Certificate programs and college courses related to make-up artistry can provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to get started in the field. Several community colleges, universities and other institutions offer such programs, which often provide hands-on training as part of the curriculum. Courses might cover topics such as make-up techniques, make-up and culture, make-up for fashion and stage make-up. They can also teach you how to apply specific materials such as blushes, foundations, eye make-up and liners.

Step 3: Gain Related Work Experience

Working at a department store's make-up counter or as a receptionist at a salon or spa can help you learn how to apply make-up, interact with customers and build a portfolio. You can look for a make-up artist in your area willing to hire you as an assistant to gain even more advantages. In addition to learning technique, you'll have the opportunity to observe a professional at work and build a network of contacts.

Step 4: Consider Earning an Esthetician Certificate

Although esthetician certificate programs are oriented towards training you to provide skin care services, most include make-up application in their curriculum. Program content covers skin analysis, skin care techniques and skin anatomy. Other courses may address product chemistry and facial bone structure. Some programs include a practicum that enables you to work in a supervised setting.

Step 5: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as a make-up artist in the entertainment field you could work for TV stations, theatrical companies, TV and movie production companies and amusement parks (www.bls.gov). You could also find employment as a make-up artist at a retail counter or cosmetics company. About 2,800 make-up artists held jobs in 2008. Over the 2008-2018 decade employment is projected to increase 17% to around 3,300. Excluding the self-employed, estimated figures show about 2,240 were employed in 2010.

Rising demand for movies, TV programs and online content will drive the demand for your services. However, the number of positions will still be limited and you're likely to encounter intense competition for them. As of May 2010 you could have earned a median annual salary of $38,130, the BLS reported.

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