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Cosmetology: How to Get Certified

Fields of Practice

Nail technology  
Applicants may obtain certification in one or more of five individual fields of practice as defined in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 690.005: 


Barbering is a separate discipline from hair design. Barbers shampoo, cut, style, condition and singe (lightly burn hair ends with a lighted wax taper) hair, but they cannot provide chemical hair treatments (see Hair Design).
Barbers also shave, trim and cut the beard, and massage the scalp, face and neck, applying facial and scalp treatments with creams, lotions, oils and other cosmetic preparations, either by hand or mechanical appliances, but such appliances shall not be galvanic (direct electrical current) or faradic (interrupted, or alternating, electrical current).


Estheticians provide services to keep skin healthy and attractive. Estheticians use their hands or mechanical or electrical apparatuses or appliances for cleansing, stimulating, manipulating, exfoliating or applying lotions or creams and for the temporary removal of hair, makeup artistry. facial and body wrapping, and facial and body waxing.

Hair Design

Hair designers shampoo, cut, style, condition and singe (see Barbering) hair and apply chemical treatments such as coloring, dyeing, relaxing and permanent waves.  They also temporarily curl and braid hair as well as shave, trim and cut the beard or mustache.
Hair designers also massage the scalp and neck, but not the face, if in conjunction with the above services. 

Nail Technology

Nail technicians cut, trim, clean, polish, color or tint the natural nails on hands and feet and massage, cleanse, treat and beautify the hands, arms (below the elbow) and legs (below the knee).  They also apply, sculpt and remove artificial nails.


Natural Hair Care 

“Natural hair care” means the braiding, cornrowing, extending, lacing, locking, sewing, twisting, weaving or wrapping of human hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers or hair extensions through the use of hands or simple devices such as clips, combs, hairpins or needle and thread.


Scissors may be used to trim synthetic fibers, hair extensions or sewn-in weave extensions as is necessary to perform natural hair care activities or to make customized wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers or hair extensions.

Natural hair care does not include the use of scissors except when trimming synthetic fibers, hair extensions or sewn-in weave extensions as is necessary to perform natural hair care activities or to make customized wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers or hair extensions.

Natural hair care also does not include the use of penetrating chemical hair treatments, chemical hair coloring agents, chemical hair straightening agents, chemical hair joining agents, permanent wave styles or chemical hair bleaching agents.
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Business Authorizations

All practitioners who provide services in Oregon must do so in a licensed facility, which is defined as "...an establishment operated on a regular or irregular basis for the purpose of providing services in one or more fields of practice."
The only exception is a practitioner who obtains a freelance authorization, which is a written authorization allowing a pracititioner to practice outside of or away from a licensed facility.
The third type of cosmetology business license is an independent contractor registration.  An independent contractor is defined as a practitioner "...who is not under the control and direction of a facility license holder."
Temporary facility permits allow holders to operate a facility on a temporary basis for a period not to exceed 30 consecutive calendar days.

More information
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Education & Training for Barbering, Esthetics, Hair Design and Nail Technology

Oregon applicants for licensure must first complete and pass courses required by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission's Private Career Schools Licensing Unit.

Programs offered by Oregon licensed career schools under Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) 817-030-0005​:

  • Barbering - 1100 hours 
  • Esthetics - 250 hours 
  • Hair Design - 1450 hours 
  • Nail Technology - 350 hours  

Mandatory training of 150 hours in Safety/Infection Control and 100 hours of Career Development is also required for initial certification.
Training may also be obtained through a competency-based school {scroll to page 43, OAR 581-045-0200(6)}, which may not require the minimum training hours.


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Education & Training for Natural Hair Care

Natural Hair Care Training Module

The Natural Hair Care Training Module is solely for the purpose of preparing individuals with the necessary information to practice natural hair care in Oregon.  The information was obtained through the Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 817 and Oregon Revised Statues Chapter 690  for cosmetology and the Milady Standard Natural Hair Care and Braiding textbook. Topics within the presentation include licensing and certification, practice standards, facility standards, chemical storage and hair characteristics.
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Practical Examinations for Barbering, Esthetics, Hair Design and Nail Technology - Both hourly-based and competency-based schools require students to pass a state-sanctioned practical examination, conducted by a licensed career school meeting HECC criteria and standards. 
In collaboration with HECC, the Health Licensing Office (HLO) regularly conducts performance evaluations of state-sanctioned practical examinations at Oregon licensed career schools to guarantee compliance with HECC criteria and standards.
Oregon recognizes the practical examination as the first step in a two-step examination process toward licensure. 
Graduates of both hourly-based and competency-based schools in Oregon as well as applicants from out of state obtaining certification through reciprocity and experience equivalency (see below) must pass a written examination to obtain certification.

Written Examination Information for all fields of practice:

  • The written examination is conducted on a walk-in basis (no appointment necessary).
  • HLO office hours to begin testing are Monday 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Tuesday 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday 8 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
  • Applicants who are taking two or more fields of practice examinations should arrive as early as possible (no later than noon) to complete their examinations by 4:30 p.m. at the latest.  Applicants taking four fields of practice examinations should arrive and be ready to test at 9 a.m.
  • Please note: If you are on parole or probation, you must provide a letter of release from your probation or parole officer authorizing you to obtain an authorization to practice. If you are on bench probation, or probation with the court, you must provide documentation of your conditions of the probation.

Special-accommodation examinations are also available. Visit the Health Licensing Office (HLO) forms page to download and complete an Accommodation Request form to request special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Written Examination Overviews

The following highlight the subject matter domains and number of questions per domain on the state-prepared written examination for each individual field of practice.
Barbering Examination Overview  
Esthetics Examination Overview  
Hair Design Examination Overview  

Nail Technology Examination Overview

Natural Hair Care Examination Overview
Oregon Laws & Rules Examination Overview​  
The time limit for each field of practice section of the examination and for the Oregon Laws and Rules examination is 90 minutes. 

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Retaking a Written Examination

HLO and the Board of Cosmetology established requirements, including waiting periods and additional training, for applicants who fail the written examination and must retake the examination after one or more failed attempts. 

Barbering, Esthetics, Hair Design and Nail Technology Retake Requirements
After the third and sixth failed attempts, applicants must obtain additional training from an Oregon educational institution. 

Printable Examination Retake Policy 

Examination Attempts
All cosmetology examinations (except Natural Hair Care; see below) waiting periods and additional training:
After First Failed Attempt
Required to wait seven calendar days before second attempt
Afte Second Failed Attempt
Required to wait seven calendar days before third attempt
After Third and Sixth Failed Attempts
Required to:

  • Wait 30 calendar days before taking fourth and/or seventh attempt

  • Prior to fourth and/or seventh attempts, submit Certification of Additional Training certificate from an Oregon educational institution to Health Licensing Office (HLO)

  • Repply and pay application processing fee
After Fourth and Fifth Failed Attempts
Required to wait seven calendar days before retaking examination
After Seventh Failed Attempt
To be determined by the HLO and Board of Cosmetology


Natural Hair Care Retake Requirements

Examination Attempts
What Applicant Does Next
First and Second Failed Attempts
May be taken the same day
Third and all Subsequent Failed Attempts
Required to wait seven calendar days before next attempt
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New Cosmetology exams coming in January 2016

On Aug. 17, 2015, the Oregon Board of Cosmetology voted to adopt new blueprints for the barbering, hair design, esthetics and nail technology field of practice written examinations.

The new exam blueprints provide career schools with the information they need to prepare for the new written exams, which will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2016.

The blueprints, linked below, provide the following information for each exam: the number of questions, the time allotted, the sources used to reference each question, the percent of questions from each domain (or category), and the percent of questions asked from each skill set listed with in each category. The number of questions and the time allotted for exams has not changed; however, the percentage of questions from each domain and each skill set within each domain has changed substantially.

HLO office hours for testing remain 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the Health Licensing Office at 503-373-1816 or check out our website.

Barber exam blueprint
Esthetics exam blueprint
Hair exam blueprint
Nail exam blueprint

To stay up-to-date on Board of Cosmetology business, join our interested parties mailing list.
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Reciprocity from out of state

Reciprocity - Reciprocity allows a practitioner credentialed in another state to qualify for Oregon certification. An applicant must:
  1. Submit documentation—an affidavit of licensure—to show a minimum standard of quality assurance and competency.

    The out-of-state regulatory authority must deliver the affidavit of licensure to HLO in a sealed envelope or via pre-approved electronic transmission.  Applicants are responsible for any fee from the originating regulatory authority.

    If the affidavit discloses any unresolved disciplinary actions and/or outstanding civil fines, the applicant must resolve these issues before obtaining certification in Oregon.

  2. Submit a qualifying application and fee for certification through reciprocity. HLO sends application materials to the applicant after reviewing and approving the affidavit of licensure.

  3. Pay examination fee and pass the written examination, which includes the Oregon Laws & Rules examination and an examination for each field of practice for which the applicant is qualified and wishes to become certified.

  4. Pay certification fee per field of practice.  Applicants who pass the examination at HLO in Salem and pay certification fee(s) obtain same-day certification.
More information
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Application Process and Fees

To obtain application forms, please contact the Health Licensing Office or go to the Forms page.

Required documentation and fees for Barbering, Esthetics, Hair Design and Nail Technology

The following materials and information are required: official transcript from a licensed cosmetology career school (in-state applicants) or affidavit of licensure (out-of-state applicants), two pieces of government-issued photo identification, and Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number. View identification requirements
Applicants must complete an application form and pay a non-refundable application fee, examination fee per field of practice, examination fee for the Oregon Laws and Rules examination and an original cerificate fee for each field of practice. View Fees

Required documentation and fees for Natural Hair Care

The following materials and information is required: A copy of the Natural Hair Care Certificate of Completion showing proof of having completed the training module for Natural Hair Care, two pieces of government-issued photo identification, and Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number. View identification requirements

Applicants must complete an application form, pay a non-refundable application fee and an original certificate fee. There are no examination fees for Natural Hair Care. View Fees
How-to guide
The Health Licensing Office (HLO) has produced a how-to guide for recent cosmetology school graduates and people appliying for natural hair care certification that highlights the steps necessary to gain certification. 
Examination and Application: A How-to Guide (PDF)

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Renewal Process

Application for certificaiton renewal should be made in advance of the certification inactive date, which is the last day of the month two years from the date of issuance.
Renewal applications are mailed to practitioners approximately six weeks prior to certification expiration courtesy of HLO / Board of Cosmetology.

Name changes

If you have had a legal name change please see the list of acceptable documents to prove your current full legal name. You will need to provide provide this documentation in order to renew your certification. 
Note: If a practitioner two-year certificate goes inactive, there is a three-year window to renew by paying the current renewal fee(s) and late fee(s). 
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Reactivation & Reinstatement

Certification Reinstatement after Three Years in Inactive Status
Practitioners whose certificate is inactive for three years or more must take and pass both the practical and written examinations (within two years of re-application), reapply for certification and pay all application, examination and certification renewal fees.
Practitioner certification turns to inactive status if the practitioner does not renew prior to the date of certification renewal. Practitioners in inactive status who provide services to the public are in violation.
Note: Independent contractor registrations and freelance authorizations that are not renewed become dormant. These authorizations do not become inactive and do not expire. To reactivate a dormant independent contractor registration or freelance authorization, the holder must contact the agency.

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