Ask these questions before choosing a make-up school
What makes a good make-up school? There are lots of important factors to consider, including coursework, instructors and student services. When you look at what a school offers, it’s a good idea to think about where you want your new skills to take you once you graduate. Do you want to work backstage at couture shows or on the backlots of Hollywood? Would you rather spend your time creating a smoky eye or a foam latex nose? And how will a particular school’s programs and staff help you achieve your goals?
One of the first things to consider is whether the school you’re interested in is operating according to local education laws. If it isn’t, buyer beware. Laws vary from state to state and country to country, so prospective students may want to start out by contacting school administrators and asking whether the school is licensed and/or accredited. These are actually separate criteria: in California, for example, licensing is governed by the state and includes a state review of facilities, while accreditation is conferred by non-governmental agencies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (for more on this, visit www.accsct.org).
Why are licensing and accreditation important? “If you were working on your house, you could hire someone who isn’t licensed, but that gives you no recourse,” says Make-up Designory CEO Tate Holland. “The state ensures legal compliance. People confuse that with accreditation, which is voluntary. To better themselves, schools have to meet quality standards, so accreditation helps to insure more compliance and more quality. A school can only offer traditional financial aid if a school is accredited and authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to do so.”
Schools that are licensed and/or accredited are obligated to provide proof when they’re asked for it, Holland said. Practically speaking, a licensed school has proved that it is financially sound, its physical space is suitable for teaching, its instructors are qualified and its curriculum is sound. “It’s similar to what accreditation will look at,” Holland said.
Tracey Payne, an administrator with the Blanche McDonald Centre in Vancouver, B.C., says considerations are similar in her area—vocational schools should be accredited by the provincial Private Career Training Institutions Agency. “We’re not allowed to get [government] funding without accreditation,” she said. As part of this process, the school is audited every five years to make sure it’s meeting the criteria for course content, curriculum and physical space. “If a school is not accredited, you can’t be sure it will be there when you’re ready to start,” she said. “This way, you know we’re above board. It provides consumer protection to students.”
Governmental review and financial aid are also linked in France, where, says Fleurimon school owner Jean Pierre Fleurimon, make-up schools are all privately owned. Schools approved by the Ministry of Education are assigned an identification number that allows the school to receive financial aid from local associations or government agencies.
Wherever you decide to study, take time to find out whether the school is in good working order. Once you’ve done that, you can save yourself additional heartache by looking more closely at what it has to offer. Keep these questions in mind as you look:
1. Who are the teachers? Do they have teaching experience or certification? Are they currently working in the industry? How much personal attention do students get?
2. What does the curriculum include? Which courses fit which needs? How much hands-on instruction is included?
3. Does the school provide a kit and if so, what’s in it?
4. What is the physical space like? Is it crowded or roomy? If there is a lab where chemicals are used, is it ventilated? Are there Material Safety Data Sheets posted, or published procedures for handling materials and equipment? What kind of supervision and/or safety instruction is provided?
5. What are the hours of instruction, and how many hours must be completed to graduate? What are the attendance and grade policies?
6. What student services does the school offer? Are financial or housing aid available?
7. Is the school in a safe location and accessible by public transportation?
8. What do graduates receive? A diploma/certificate/license? What are the differences among these—what do they qualify an artist to do, and where?
9. Is there a career services department? Help with job placements? Internships?
10. What are the school’s graduates doing now? Are they available to speak about the school?
Payne also recommends that prospective students tour the facilities and compare schools that offer similar courses. Contacting the Better Business Bureau (or its equivalent outside the U.S.) to find out if there are any complaints against the school isn’t a bad idea either.
Make-up schools are not academic institutions, Holland noted; they’re vocational schools that teach practical skills, so job placement is one of the benchmarks of their success. But success is a two-way street, so he suggests that ultimately, students choose a school based on where they want to land professionally.
“We don’t see a lot of employment for entry-level people who only do special make-up effects,” he said. “You’re going to do some counter work or something to bring in some extra income. You have to make yourself available to do different types of work. We keep placement statistics, and the people who do more get hired more. Make sure your foundation is solid. You don’t want to have to turn work down—it’s too hard to get. Go by where you want to work, not by what class you want to take.”