What are the Best and Worst Cities to be a Hairdresser?
Hair stylists are the professionals most often asked to fit hair extensions and to cut or fit wigs.
The demand for hair stylists is expected to grow by 19% between 2020 and 2030 – far outpacing the 8% growth rate expected for jobs in the US as a whole. But that growth and earning potential will vary dramatically from location to location.
Those who choose the right location, like 25-year-old Alex Pardoe, a hairdresser in the Detroit area, can earn a cool $280,000 a year (of course, this figure is extreme, but you get the point). And like Pardoe, they can spoil themselves with sort-after luxury items like a custom Mercedes and other pricey luxuries like Hermes Birkin bags.
Before heading for Detroit to set up your hairdressing salon, it’s important to realize that earnings are just one aspect of what makes a specific area attractive for hairdressers.
To get a more comprehensive idea of where you would shoot for the stars as a hairdresser, you will need to look at a lot more than the money. This is precisely what we did at WigReports.com.
We compared 136 of the leading cities in the US to determine the best and worst cities to be a hairdresser. To come up with our answer, we compared cities based on five indicators, ranging from salary to the rate of growth of a city’s population to the number of hairdressing schools in the city.
After considering the results of this study, we hope you will either appreciate the advantages of the city where you currently work or decide whether it’s time to pack your bags and head off to one of the best cities we feature.
So, what are the best and worst cities in which to work as a hairdresser?
Table of Contents
Here is a bird’s eye view of our city rankings:
|Overall Rank (1 = Best)||City & State||COLI-adjusted Salaries||Google Trends||Pop Growth %||Average tip Percentage||# Hairdresser schools|
|4||Fort Worth, TX||$33,991.31||81||1.4||9.26%||4|
|8||Las Vegas, NV||$36,965.08||80||0.5||8.89%||8|
|14||New Orleans, LA||$35,351.55||86||-1.6||9.76%||4|
|17||Oklahoma City, OK||$36,692.22||60||0.7||9.06%||6|
|24||Cary town, NC||$38,610.53||0.9||8.97%||0|
|25||Kansas City, MO||$32,308.29||81||0.1||9.44%||1|
|31||Fort Wayne, IN||$34,569.51||0.7||9.12%||3|
|36||St. Petersburg, FL||$33,694.93||73||-0.2||9.01%||0|
|38||Des Moines, IA||$36,039.73||65||-0.8||9.06%||2|
|44||El Paso, TX||$31,929.42||73||0||9.26%||3|
|45||Colorado Springs, CO||$26,567.38||82||0.8||10.03%||4|
|50||Baton Rouge, LA||$29,751.34||84||-1||9.76%||5|
|52||San Antonio, TX||$29,163.95||70||0.9||9.26%||7|
|53||North Las Vegas, NV||$32,514.06||3.8||8.89%||2|
|56||Boise City, ID||$32,503.02||0.7||9.62%||0|
|58||Port St. Lucie, FL||$32,081.87||5.2||9.01%||1|
|65||Fort Lauderdale, FL||$35,544.83||-0.6||9.01%||1|
|66||St. Louis, MO||$32,667.40||71||-2.4||9.44%||0|
|74||Newport News, VA||$29,983.45||91||-0.7||8.66%||8|
|83||Salt Lake City, UT||$31,691.94||58||0.4||8.92%||0|
|90||Kansas City, KS||$34,237.70||-1.1||8.88%||1|
|93||Pembroke Pines, FL||$32,043.86||-0.9||9.01%||2|
|97||Gilbert town, AZ||$29,094.66||1.5||8.88%||0|
|100||Corpus Christi, TX||$26,968.51||48||0||9.26%||5|
|103||San Jose, CA||$32,926.99||61||-2.7||8.22%||6|
|104||San Diego, CA||$26,209.02||81||-0.3||8.22%||5|
|105||Macon-Bibb County, GA||$30,299.32||-0.2||8.91%||0|
|109||Jersey City, NJ||$32,269.26||-2.7||8.94%||0|
|111||New York, NY||$23,096.65||100||-3.5||8.85%||4|
|115||Virginia Beach, VA||$27,250.24||-0.4||8.66%||10|
|116||Moreno Valley, CA||$25,659.99||1.1||8.22%||0|
|118||Santa Rosa, CA||$30,750.18||-0.5||8.22%||0|
|121||Elk Grove, CA||$24,148.89||0.8||8.22%||0|
|124||Chula Vista, CA||$21,016.46||0.3||8.22%||1|
|125||Los Angeles, CA||$22,643.52||66||-1||8.22%||16|
|128||Long Beach, CA||$28,511.81||-1.9||8.22%||0|
|131||San Francisco, CA||$24,497.49||61||-6.3||8.22%||6|
A Glimpse of the Top and Bottom Scores
When people look for the best city to be a hairdresser, they don’t always focus on the same elements. For instance, someone may believe that the city that pays the highest salaries is more desirable than others.
On the other hand, someone may believe that the best city has the most hairdresser schools that will allow for better development of skills, which could eventually lead to a better income and quality of life.
To see how the 136 cities in our study compare, let’s break the data from the massive spreadsheet above into some digestible chunks by looking at the top five cities and the bottom five cities per metric:
Best by Cost-of-living Index Adjusted Salary
Suppose the indispensable ingredient for making the world go around for you is money. In that case, you will undoubtedly want to look for the city that pays the highest cost-of-living index (COLI) adjusted salary to hairdressers.
Here are the top five cities to get the best COLI-adjusted salary as a hairdresser in the US:
1. Houston, Texas
2. Raleigh, North Carolina
3. Memphis, Tennessee
4. Arlington, Texas
5. Charlotte, North Carolina
Your lowest five
1. Torrance, California
2. Fullerton, California
3. Anaheim, California
4. Syracuse, New York
5. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
Best by Google Search Trends
In the digital age, many of your customers will likely find you on search engines, especially Google. So, Google search trends provide an idea of how many customers you are likely to find in a specific city.
When we gathered data based on Google search trends, we listed these five best cities:
1. Jacksonville, Florida
2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3. New York, New York
4. Gainesville, Virginia
5. Richmond, Virginia
And the lowest ranking
1. Omaha, Nebraska
2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
3. Madison, Wisconsin
4. Lubbock, Texas
5. Corpus Christi, Texas
Best by Average Tip from Customers
Working in service industries like hairdressing is often demanding even though the work pays less. However, when customers show that they appreciate the work done by hairdressers by tipping them, the hard part of the job becomes more bearable.
Here is our list of the top five cities you should be heading to if you think that an extra 10% from every customer could make a difference:
1. Aurora, Illinois
2. Rockford, Illinois
3. Chicago, Illinois
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
5. Aurora, Colorado
And the title for the stingiest five cities goes to:
1. Hayward, California
2. Torrance, California
3. Sunnyvale, California
4. San Francisco, California
5. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
Best by Hair Dresser School Density
The EdTech startup, Getsmarter.com, proposes that “… skilled, engaged employees result in high job satisfaction, commitment, and thus retention.” There you have it; skilled employees are happy employees.
It follows then that for hairdressers in a specific area to be satisfied with their jobs; they will need access to hairdressing schools.
Here are the top five cities when it comes to hairdressing schools:
1. Houston, Texas
2. Chicago, Illinois
3. Phoenix, Arizona
4. Miami, Florida
5. Los Angeles, California
Here, we don’t have the bottom five because there are dozens of cities without a single hairdressing school.
It’s time to take a bird’s eye view of our data to see the primary trends it depicts.
No Hair Out Of Place in North Carolina and Texas
If you are already working from Texas or North Carolina, you may know that cities in these two states are some of the overall best for being a hairdresser. Texas has six cities in the top 25, and North Carolina has four.
Overall, the city that takes the top spot as the best place where you can be a hairdresser is Raleigh in North Carolina. Even though Memphis, Tennessee, and Houston, Texas pay better salaries, more people are searching for hairdressing services in Raleigh, making the area promising for future business.
While Raleigh scores high overall, you can’t help but note that it doesn’t have the best score in relation to tipping. Maybe customers here know that their hairdressers are already paid quite well.
Also, the number of hairdressing colleges in our number one city is only two, but this makes sense considering the city’s population of 469,124. However, the smaller city of Rockford, Illinois, with less than half the population of Raleigh, has double the number of colleges.
Small Cities with a Full Head of Hair
When we started this survey, we expected to see some big cities like Houston, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, and New York shoot right to the top. However, our results show this was not always the case, as many small cities are punching above their weight.
Among the top 25 best cities to be a hairdresser, there are some pretty small cities with populations of less than 200,000 people. These include the city that takes the overall second spot, Charleston in South Carolina, the city in the 5th spot, Rockford, Illinois, Knoxville, in Tennessee is 8th, and number 21, Greensboro in North Carolina.
It is a surprise that the big cities of New York and Los Angeles do not feature in the top 25. New York was number 111, and Los Angeles was in position 125.
A Bad Hair Day For California
California may be one of the top destinations for tourists in the US, but our data shows us that the state is certainly not the best when it comes to being a hairdresser.
In the last 25 rankings, there are 17 cities in California. Look at Californian cities’ tip scores and salaries. You will understand that working as a hairdresser in most California cities will certainly not leave you feeling very well off.
For instance, if you took a job in Fullerton, California, you will earn less than half of the COLI-adjusted income made by a hairdresser in Raleigh, North Carolina.
We put in quite a lot of work to ensure that we came up with a credible list. Of course, we should say that there is no definitive answer to the question relating to which are the best cities in the US to be a hairdresser.
Here is a summary of the details of our methodology:
We were only able to get salary details from 136 cities, so that’s the population for our study.
Essentially, we ranked 136 cities on five different factors and then assigned a weight to each factor as follows:
● Salary: We started from the assumption that how much you get paid significantly impacts how much you enjoy your job. Therefore, we assigned 40% of the weight of our index to the cost-of-living adjusted salary.
● Google Trends: Google trends provide a glimpse into what people are searching for on Google and how such searches change over time. We begin by assuming that a good city to be a hairdresser is a city where many people search for hairdressing services. For this aspect, we allocated a weighting of 20%.
● Tipping: In specific service industries, employees sometimes depend on tips for more than half their earnings. We allocated 15% of the weight of our index to tips. It was a huge challenge to get perfect data on tipping. However, we have state-by-state tipping numbers put together by data from Square, a mobile platform, and reported on QZ.com.
● Population growth: Generally, it is accepted that an increase in population also enlarges the economic base. Therefore, we believe that there will be more hair to take care of in those cities where populations are growing faster, and there is potential for better earnings in the future than in those that are not. We gave this aspect a weighting of 20%.
● Hairdresser schools/population: For hairdressers to be confident in their work, they must have access to training and skills improvement programs. Thus, the number of hairdresser schools per given population was one of the matrices we included in our rankings. We gave it a weighting of 5%.
The city that scored the highest in the above categories is the best. In the same vein, the lowest scoring city in each category is also considered the worst.
The US Hairdressing Industry from a Bird’s Eye View
● There are over 900,000 hair saloon businesses in the US in 2022.
● Females constitute 90.8% of employees in the hairdressing sector in the US, and the proportion of males is 9.2%.
● On average, males earn around $2,000 more than females per year in the US hairdressing industry.
● The states with the highest number of businesses in the hair salon industry are California (a little over 8,000), New York (a little less than 8,000), and Florida (a little less than 7,000).
● The majority of hairstylists in the US are white (64.1%).
What Makes the Top 5 Cities Special for Hairdressers?
Now that we know the best and worst cities to be a hairdresser in the US, let's end this piece with some insights into what makes these cities special for hairdressers.
Raleigh: Benefits Galore
To get an idea of why Raleigh is on the list among the best cities to be a hairdresser in the US, you just need to look at the benefits offered by Raleigh employers like JCPenney, an American department store chain.
A 2019 report by the television station abc11 indicated that the company hired 60 hairstyling specialists. Listen to the benefits: “Stylists working for JCPenney can get up to 70 percent commission, up to $1,000 in bonuses, and flexible scheduling.”
And that’s not all; as abc11 adds, “JCPenney employees also get health benefits, paid time off, and 401K eligibility.” Add a COLI-adjusted salary of $41,955 per annum, and you will soon agree that hairstylists in Raleigh are certainly having it easy.
Charleston: Best Mannered City
The hairdresser's COLI-adjusted salary in Charleston is not as high as in the other cities making it into the top three. Still, there are many reasons why working as a hairdresser in this city is likely to be a rewarding experience. For instance, the city has a high tip weighted score.
If you want to understand why Charleston is a great city for people in the service industry like hairdressers, maybe you should read the piece by Shane Snow published by FastCompany.com.
Snow tells the story of the city’s generosity, which has led it to be “repeatedly named the U.S.’s best-mannered city.”
Houston: Forget About Income Tax
Head to Houston if you are looking for the best hairdresser salary in the US. If you also consider that the city’s tip weighted score is relatively high, then you know that money will not be one of your biggest challenges working in the city.
Still, on the subject of money, hairdressers in Houston don't pay income tax. However, other property and sales taxes will be much higher in Houston than in other cities in the US.
Fort Worth: Lower Cost Of Living
In the top five cities to be a hairdresser, you will earn the least COLI-adjusted salary in Fort Worth, but your customers will likely leave generous tips. You also get the benefit of not paying income tax in this city.
The compensation software and data company, Payscale, identified another factor that makes Fort Worth an excellent city for hairdressers: a cost of living that’s 3% lower than the national average. Lower housing costs mainly drive this.
Rockford: Generous Clients
Based on its tip-weighted score, we can safely say that clients in Rockford’s hairdressing salons are some of the most generous. Add this to the city’s good salary, and you will understand why this city makes it to the top.
The moving tools and guides resource, MyMove.com, identifies the main reasons Rockford would be a great place to work in general: “...its job opportunities and low cost of living.”