makeup artist
photo: iStock/PeopleImages

In hot spots like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, a degree in cosmetology requires between 1,000 to 1,600 hours of course work.

Not only that, tuition at top beauty schools can easily cost over $15,000. For instance, at the Aveda Institute in New York City, a 1,000-hour program is approximately $20,000. 

After graduation, many cosmetology students begin their careers with mega-brands like MAC and Sephora. But what kind of salary does all that hard work and money spent on school actually get you if you're just starting out? According to salaries reported by former employees on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, here's what top makeup brands pay their artists. 

1

NARS — $18 to $24 per hour

francois nars
photo: Getty/Astrid Stawiarz

Sources: Glassdoor, CareerBliss, Payscale 

A recent makeup artist listing for NARS doesn't show that a cosmetology license is required. Instead, the ad asks for "one to three years working in a retail environment for a cosmetic company" and "MUA skills a must." Despite not requiring a license, these excerpts from the job listing are INTENSE. 

"Each artist is responsible for seating a minimum of five customers a day and booking seven appointments per week ... Arrive ready to work at the counter at your scheduled time. Clocking in on time and showing up at the counter 10 minutes late constitutes being late even though you’ve clocked in on time ... During down time, getting makeup application at other brands is not tolerable."

2

MAKE UP FOR EVER — $15 to $25 per hour

Source: Glassdoor 

Head Make Up For Ever artists can make up to $46,000 a year, according to three salaries reported on Glassdoor. On the lower end, entry level makeup artists reported making an average of $31,000 annually. Make Up For Ever also has its own academy with a 660-hour course program. 

3

ESTEE LAUDER — $15 to $23 per hour

estee lauder counter
photo: Getty/E. Charbonneau

Sources: Glassdoor, Payscale, CareerBliss, Indeed

Glassdoor puts the average makeup artist salary at Estée Lauder at approximately $38,000 (based on nine salaries) while CareerBliss puts it at $45,000 (based on 17 salaries). The lowest salary we found for this job was around $15 per hour. 

4

MAC — $18 to $20 per hour

mac makeup artist
photo: Getty/Andreas Rentz

Sources: Glassdoor, Indeed, CareerBliss, Payscale

Most makeup artists reported making approximately $18 per hour at MAC. According to recent job listings, some MAC artistry jobs require a cosmetology license, while others don't. All of the job listings we saw for MAC makeup artists were part-time. 

5

LANCOME — $17 to $21 per hour

lancome beauty counter
photo: Getty/Jonathan Leibson

Sources: Glassdoor, CareerBliss

Only three Lancome MUA salaries were reported on Glassdoor, with the base pay ranging between $20 to $21. But CareerBliss showed 19 salaries from former employees who made an average of $17 per hour. Lancome beauty counter makeup artist jobs require one year of "makeup application" experience and are full-time. 

6

CHANEL — $19 per hour

Source: CareerBliss 

There weren't as many Chanel makeup artist salaries available online, but based on 17 salaries reported to CareerBliss, the average is $40,000 per year. We couldn't find any current listings for a Chanel makeup artist — only beauty analysts (aka counter clerks), which don't require any makeup artistry training or experience. 

7

SEPHORA — $11 to $17 per hour

Sources: Indeed, Glassdoor

Based on our research, Sephora's entry level makeup artist jobs pay $11 to $12 per hour. However, we didn't find any makeup artist jobs on Sephora's careers site; we saw "color consultant" listings, which do not require a cosmetology license. The color consultant job profile is a mix of retail (heavy lifting included) and doing makeovers. 

8

ULTA — $10 to $13 per hour

ulta store
photo: Getty/Jesse Grant

Sources: Indeed, Glassdoor 

Ulta's pay is on the lower end, but according to job listings, you don't need a cosmetology license. This sounds like a great job for someone who's currently in cosmetology school.