Skip to main content

How to Transfer Your Cosmetology License to California

In a past life, I was a barber. Now, I'm an online writer and mother.

Not all states are created equal. If you want to cut hair in a different state, you will be required to transfer your license.

Not all states are created equal. If you want to cut hair in a different state, you will be required to transfer your license.

Transferring Your License

In beauty school, the last thing on your mind is the possibility of transferring your state license to another state. You're focused on graduation and getting a job.

However, sometimes in life, we find ourselves drawn across the country. In the field of cosmetology, not all licenses are created equal. While it is possible to transfer the license, a stylist is unable to use one license in each state. However, some states will allow you to practice under a temporary license while waiting for your new license to come.

The hours needed to obtain your cosmetology license differ from state to state. To find the number of hours needed for your state, click here. Since each state updates regularly, it is a good idea to check out the specific state board website for barbering and cosmetology. There you will also find what their rules are for reciprocity, and whether or not you will need to take another examination to obtain a license in another state. Some states will require another examination, while others will waive the test if you have been an active license holder for a set amount of years.

Moving On...

Recently, I moved to California from the state of Wisconsin. Figuring out how to switch my license over was a tiring process. For the most part, each time I went to the search engines, I was able to find articles telling people how to transfer their California Cosmetology License to another state, but not the other way around. This was not only tiring but also annoying.

I finally figured it out. I hope this will make it much easier for others who are in the same situation.

NOTE: Since my situation is specifically for transferring my Wisconsin license to California, I will use these two states as references. Even though, this article should provide a basic format and information to transfer licenses between each state.

Step 1:

Having your cosmetology license does not automatically qualify you for a California license. The first thing you will need to do is fill out a reciprocity form and send it to the state along with the fees required by the California board. Currently, obtaining your California Cosmetology license will cost $50.

You will also need proof of a current license, which will be provided by your previous state. The out-of-state license must meet the following requirements:

  1. It has not been revoked, suspended, or otherwise restricted.
  2. It is in good standing.
  3. It has been active for three of the last five years, during which time the applicant has not been subject to disciplinary action or criminal conviction.

NOTE: If you have not worked with your license for a minimum of three years, you will be required to take the State Board Examination all over again. In addition, after talking to a specialist at Consumer Affairs, the website instructs the stylist to contact the previous state. I was informed the California State Board will contact the previous state. Therefore, the only thing necessary to do is to fill out the reciprocity form.

Step 2:

You will need to mail out the form to the address at the top of the form along with the form of payment.

To transfer your license to California, the address is:

  • Board of Barbering and Cosmetology
  • PO Box 944226
  • Sacramento, Ca 94244

Step 3:

That's all! Finding the information on the internet to transfer your license turns out to be harder than the whole process itself. As of the time of publication, the turnaround time for obtaining your new license is about three weeks.

What Now?

Once sending the form in, the California Board will review your application and license certification. If they are satisfied that you have met the criteria, you will be sent a letter informing you of how to obtain your license from a PSI examination site in California.

While waiting times may vary, it is a good idea to check the status. For California, call 1-916-574-7540. Another good number to call if you have questions is 1-800-952-5210.

For more information, visit the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology by clicking here.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with the proper tools to effortlessly transfer your cosmetology license to the state of California. Good luck with your continued journey!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


dani on February 25, 2019:

this is un-accurate they do not contact the state you came from and I am trying to transfer from Tx and California requires you to have a certified copy of your licence sent from Texas....they dont do that. California has told me twice to just to fill out the paperwork and attatch a copy of my cosmo license and my DL and my original date and it will be fine. then they take my money and send me a reject letter saying they need a certified copy from tx

Brenda Ridgeway on March 10, 2017:

Thank you so much

I have moved to Florida and in Reno

But moving to San Francisco

You know I have cut hair for 50 years and from Ireland

I just find this is all about money

Why don't they have one license for all states

I cut hair no different from one counrty to an other

It's hard when you just want to work

So many thanks

For your information

Brenda on February 15, 2017:

Thank U ! That sure made my life a little easier !

claris on December 07, 2016:

hie thanks for the information im coming from south africa .I wanted to find out where i can get the form cause l have moved to california

Colie on October 03, 2016:

Thank you for this article. I live in WI and and would like to keep my license in both states. If I submit a reciprocity form, would I then lose my WI license and only have my CA license?

lien bess on September 28, 2016:

Valuable article - I learned a lot from the details - Does anyone know if my assistant could possibly locate a sample GA App for Re-Instatement form to type on ?

Raquel on May 17, 2016:

Did you actually have to retake the State Board Exam? Or, did the states just talk to each other and you got your license?

katie on January 27, 2016:

i have NY state cosmetology ,i want to change to CA~i got the license only one year~

Cuttingloose on October 04, 2015:

Hi, I am a stylist for 20 yrs and I'm trying to move to California from Florida . Can I fill out and send in the reprocity form before I actually move there? Or do I have to live there before I start the process?

I would appreciate any info on it..

monica818 on March 07, 2015:

Thank you SO much you saved me a whole lot of time babe!

Yoy on October 20, 2014:

where is the form to send in??

jake on February 05, 2014:

Hi, so I am a little confused. My girlfriend is currently going to Cosmetology school in WA state and will be graduating in August and will hopefully be moving down and living in CA with me. I'm not exactly sure what the state board examination is. Will she have to just take a test or does she have to go to school all over again? Any information would be extremely helpful. Thanks.

Sofiya on November 12, 2013:

Hi. So I have my license in Florida state and u really want to get my California one.I have a long experience job more them 30 years!23 years in Europe and 7 years i USA,please help I really don't want to take the practical exams again!May I got transfer CA license on line? Please healp me.

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on August 31, 2012:

@lil - I asked the same question. Luckily I didn't have to worry about it because Wisconsin had more hours required and I had been working for a few years before I moved. However, I am almost positive that you won't have to take the taste. You have made up the hours based off of how long you have been working. You should be safe. Granted, regulations change all the time so it is always best to check with the state of California, but I am sure you will be ok.

lil on August 30, 2012:

I want to move to California from Maryland, I've been a cosmetologist for 20 yrs. I don't know if California Cosmetology stateboard will let me transfer without having to retake the tests because it only requires 1500 hrs in Maryland while California needs 1600 hrs. I tried to search for information but couldn't find any clear answer, does anyone know and can help me with this information? Thanks!

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on July 11, 2012:

@Sarah - I had similar problems trying to get all the information down and so I thought, if I figure this out I am sharing it with every one. The biggest problem I see is the number of hours often. However, lucky for me, I moved from Wisconsin which has a higher required hours. Good luck on your transfer.

Sarah on July 11, 2012:

This was so helpful! I've been trying to make a transfer from one school to another across state lines, but their hour requirements ate different. I was concerned when I made my move to California I may have troubles. Looking up the information was nearly impossible! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. Your a saint:)

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on June 08, 2012:

@Shaye - It didn't take to long. If I am thinking correctly it was a couple of months so you should hear something from them soon. If you don't, then I would definitely call the number and see what the hold up is.

Shaye on June 07, 2012:

How long did it take for you to get some sort of notification from the board about your reciprocity? I put in my request almost six weeks ago and still nothing.

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on May 01, 2012:

@alex - Well you have to apply for reciprocity. From there, the state will decide whether or not to grant you your liscense. Chances are good though, if you have had your liscense for 4 years, you should be able to move to California and get reciprocity.

alex on May 01, 2012:

so if i have a license for four years in Virginia i can just pay the $50 and get my license?

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on April 11, 2012:

@bea661 - If I am remembering correctly, you are supposed to be working. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they will not grant you reciprocity. Since the regulations are always changing, I would definitely call the number to verify what will happen with your liscense. Chances are good you will probably qualify for reciprocity.

However, I also heard rumor that they are going to start making the liscense nationwide. I need to look into that a little more. To me - that would be great so they don't need to be changed every single time you move from state to state!

Good luck and I hope it works out for you. Sorry I couldn't give you an exact answer, but I would hate to give you wrong information.

bea661 on April 05, 2012:

So I have my license in Washington state and u really want to get my California one and i that you said that I have have to be working with my license for 3 years at least ... does it count if ive had it for 3 years but only worked one year? Please help I really don't want to take the practical exams again!

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on November 24, 2011:

@emilgen2011 - Thank you so very much! I appreciate it!

Gener and Emily Geminiano from The Land Where Salt is Abundant on November 24, 2011:

nice name and awesome hub!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 04, 2011:

Funny how you start a path writing something and it leads in a completely different direction! You are too much BBG!

@Katharella - yes it gives me a giggle to think about the old dippity doo - and yes it was "a little dab will do ya:-). Omg I am showing my age:-). Hilarious:)

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on March 04, 2011:

You are really falling behind.. after all... who hasn't heard of ambient lighting underneath the bed... ha ha (Okay, so that is thanks to RealHousewife - I never heard of it before either! LOL) There is also the Magic Bullet... oh yeah... and the Robo stir - really need to get me one of those.

Yet, I am horribly confused as to how these comments all got on here from writing about transfering a cosmetology license. lol ;)

Katharella from Lost in America on March 04, 2011:

LOL@dippy do! I remember that stuff! My oldest sister used it! "A little dab'l do ya' or something? lol.

@BBG you make me think of Edward Scissor hands with this snippity snipping the neighborhood ladies hair into sculptures lol.

Oh what I would do though to lean back and let someone else wash my hair it's such a chore, but I can't bring myself to let anyone at it. I do really need like a good 6-8" off it.. by someone who knows what they're doing that is! (not me lol) I have my mom's scissors, the "do not touch these or you're in trouble" ones! I get the ends with them so at least my hair will lay flat rather than frizz out at the bottom. (BioSilk helps too lol) Ok I'm up on Booty Pop, I'll have to investigate Sham Wow's! Ambient bed lighting? Um.. woah.. all I wanted was one of those nets that come from the center with the lace trim canopy and now there's lights! I gotta get with the program here! lol

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 04, 2011:

Haha! Yes I was able to do many haircuts pretty good - now I take the girls for a trim so no one will make fun of them at school:-ambient light under bed - over rated as I tend to prefer to sleep on TOP of the bed- LOL! Call me crazy! I know!

Stacy Harris (author) from Hemet, Ca on March 04, 2011:

It seems like there are a lot of people out there who are afraid of getting their haircut. I don't know whay... I mean... crazy woman like we with a wicked smile holding a sharp pair of scissors in my hand as I comb through your hair and snip snippity snip snip through your hair so fast you can't even tell if I am paying attention enough to make it straight. That is probably the reason I don't let people touch my hair as well! lool

@Realhousewife... oh I would love to you your hair. That would be such a blast. We could talk about Booty Pop and Sham Wows, and of course beds that cost ridiculous amounts of money that have ambient lighting underneath... rotflmao. On a more serious note, cutting hair is a great skill to have. At least they gave you your money back after 700 hours. I save so much money because I don't have to worry about any of my kids having to get haircuts by anybody else??? Although having nonfamily clients is much better.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 04, 2011:

Oh I wish you could be my stylist:-) I bet it would be hilarious to talk to you when I'm getting pampered:-) I did - I am not lying here - go to cosmetology school when I was maybe 20 - I decided it wasn't for me after about the 50th dippidy doo shampoo set:-)! haha I actually turned some ones hair a blue tinge once - I was able to get my money back prior to completion of like 700 hours - I opted to do that for the sake of others good hair:-)

Katharella from Lost in America on March 04, 2011:

Did you stop at "To make..." what happened? Um, yeah my mom was a cosmetologist by trade, but I never knew all this. She worked in MI and retired there. But as per your first point about accidentally gouge LOL I used to fear that as a kid when she chopped my bangs. Anyway, yeah I've found that since she died, I can't let anyone cut my hair! I freak lol the minute they lay eyes on hair below your shoulders, their eyes glaze over and you look like a sculpturing device to them lol. So, I just try and keep the ends a but even but am in dyer need of one! But an inch is an inch not 15"'s lol