Courtesy of Empire Beauty School Empire Beauty School Makeup
Courtesy of Empire Beauty School

Cosmetology and barber schools in Pennsylvania are hands-on, but not completely. New law allows more theory-based education to be done virtually.

HARRISBURG — Two new laws will make it easier for aspiring barbers, hair stylists, makeup artists, and nail technicians to get the training they need during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

Act 76 and Act 77 allow cosmetology and barber schools to offer distance learning for up to 50% of the curriculum. The only courses students can take virtually are theory courses; practical demonstrations still must be done in person.

Both laws were proposed by state Rep. Lynda Culver (R-Northumberland).

“In many cases, the COVID-19 pandemic taught us the need for flexibility in many aspects of our lives,” Culver said in a news release. “Through it all, we still had students learning valuable trade skills but found out there are portions of their coursework that didn’t necessarily require them to be in a conventional classroom setting.”

The bills won nearly unanimous support in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate; state Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) was the only legislator who voted against them.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bills into law earlier this month, and the laws take effect in December.

State law requires that cosmetology students complete 1,250 hours of training and pass a test to be licensed. About half of the training is theory and half is hands-on. Prior to the pandemic, all of the training had to be done in person.

Under Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 disaster declaration, beginning March 2020, cosmetology students could take up to 20% of their classes virtually. Officials in the state Department of State then requested that cosmetology and barber schools be allowed to offer up to 50% of education virtually, and the governor granted the request. The waivers that allowed virtual instruction were set to expire in March 2022, but the new laws make virtual instruction a permanent option.

Empire-Beauty-School
Courtesy of Empire Beauty School

“Doing distance education got us through COVID, absolutely, and I think there’s a lot of other, I guess, implications, a lot of other things we need to invest in,” said Kyle Schoeneman, vice president of marketing for Pottsville-based Empire Beauty School.

Empire Beauty School administrators are considering the online infrastructure and staff they would need to continue to offer classes virtually, but Scheoneman says the beauty school would be happy to offer more flexibility for its students. 

“We’re no different than any other school with lots of different types of students, so it could be transportation problems, it could be childcare issues, obviously they need to put money in the gas tank to get to school every day,” he said. “So if a portion of that could be virtual, that’s why we’re so welcoming of this bill in Pennsylvania.”