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Cosmetology's Highest Paying Career: Theatrical Makeup Artist


Theatrical makeup artists are in charge of making actors look as though they stepped out of the actual movie, play, or production setting, whether that’s in the past, present, or future. You’ll look over the script and come up with a plan to execute the looks. Makeup application, prosthetic pieces, wigs, and other special effect techniques are your tools in getting the cast made up for their parts.

What Education Is Needed?

Most theatrical makeup artists attend cosmetology school, and most cosmetology schools require you to have a high school diploma or GED before you can apply. There are some degrees available at the bachelor’s level that allow the student to concentrate on makeup. Also beneficial is a bachelor’s degree in theatrical production: The courses will help you understand how lights and cameras affect your work, in addition to giving a better handle on production in general.

In school, you will learn about the application of makeup as well as study special effects. Many times, you will have the opportunity to work on small productions within your community for practice and credit.

Besides Makeup, What Skills Will Help?

If you can provide outstanding customer service, be able to meet and exceed customer expectations, and see your work with a critical eye, then you’ve got the makings of a successful theatrical makeup artist. Additionally, you should have full knowledge of design techniques and tools used in productions. Understanding business administration is also helpful, especially if you are self-employed or have to coordinate a staff.

What Kind of Salary And Employment Opportunities Are There?

The job growth for theatrical makeup artists is predicted to be 19 percent, which is faster than most occupations. Generally, you’ll be employed in the motion picture industry, but you can also do freelance work for fashion shows as well as more regular makeup applications (special occasion and everyday looks). Currently, New York, California, and Texas need the most theatrical makeup artists, so if you live in those states or are willing to relocate, you might find a good share of job opportunities. As for salary, the median wage is $60,970, but top theatrical makeup artists make $124,960 and up.

What Next

If you’ve got talent at transforming people and are ready to start your career in theater or film, find classes near you. Then get to work! As your portfolio grows, so will your income.

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