At Avenue Five Institute, an Austin-based cosmetology school, enrollment has doubled over the past year, said Brandon Martin, president of the school.

Avenue Five isn't alone. Beauty schools around the country are seeing a surge in enrollment as a growing number of people are being drawn to careers in cosmetology.

This interest is coming from a wide range of people—from young people out of high school to displaced workers from other industries. Also fueling the growth is the record availability of financial aid.

The number of professional salon employees, 1.7 million, greatly outnumbers the number of lawyers across the United States.

"We're seeing a lot of older students (30 years old and older) who are finding the need to retrain or pursue a long held dream that they have wanted to accomplish for years and never did until now," says Jill Kohler, president and founder of Kohler Academy, a cosmetology school in North Scottsdale, Arizona, who has seen a growing number of people enrolling from the banking and real estate industries.

Martin believes the economy has provided people with the opportunity to pursue a career they may always have been interested in.

"Beauty school is not a Plan B anymore." Martin says. " For a lot of people, they may have wanted to do it for a long time by their parents told them they had to go to college or they were told it wasn't a good career. But they realize now that it can be great career that they can be very happy with."

Many are drawn to the fact that they can have a daily impact on people's lives. The increased exposure of celebrity stylists through reality shows has contributed to the glamour and allure of the profession.

In a recent British job satisfaction survey, hairstylist ranked No. 1.

“It’s a feel-good industry,” says Walt Hunter, an educator and owner of Salon Professional Academy in North Fort Myers, told the News-Press in April.

At Salon Professional Academy, enrollment has doubled from this time last year.

"We've definitely seen growth in enrollments over the past year," said Jim Cox, executive director of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools.

Cox says he's talked to a number of schools with record enrollments, with many schools expanding and building larger facilities to accommodate the surge in students.

While the economic downturn may be driving some of this growth, Cox and others in the industry believe perceptions about the industry are changing. Some of this can attributed to the popularity of celebrity stylists like Nick Arrojo and Ted Gibson on "What Not To Wear" and shows like "Tabitha's Salon Takeover" and "Shear Genius."

"In the past, we've been the red-headed step-child," says Cox, citing such images as Grease's "Beauty School Dropout." "The momentum has really shifted. Now it's is more accurately portrayed as a cool career."

For more information, and to find a cosmetology school near you, check out Beauty School Advisor.

To pursue a career in hairstyling, opt for a hairstyling course from a reputed, accredited institution. You can find a detailed director at Beauty School Advisor.

Take a look at the curriculum. Find out if the course provide both theoretical and practical knowledge. Does it cover the techniques and skills required to style hair using appropriate materials and equipment?

Ideally, a hairstyling course begins with teaching the basic fundamentals of hair science, styling and cutting. A step-by-step approach helps in creating a firm foundation and mastering the art of hairstyling. The importance of shape, bone structure and suitability of hairstyles in accordance with one's personality and preference should be necessarily covered. The program should provide due emphasis on classic cuts and sharpen hairstyling techniques.

After completing a basic hairstyling course, you should be well prepared to work as an entry-level hairstylist.

To hone skills in particular areas, including working with texture and color, stylists often pursue continuing education. Some stylists choose to work as assistants for experienced stylists to sharpen their skills.

And with financial options more abundant than ever, now is an ideal time to pursue a career in beauty school.

Much of the government financial aid has become available to cosmetology students at accredited cosmetology schools, and it is no longer necessary to be enrolled in a traditional four-year university. Also, most accredited cosmetology schools offer financial aid, ranging from grants and scholarships to loans and payment plans. There are even some non-accredited schools that offer grants and scholarships to qualified students.

Some financial aid options for beauty school may include the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work-Study and the Federal Perkins Loan.

"It's a good time all the way around," Martin says. "There's more financial aid then ever to help people enroll in cosmetology school."

For those who choose a career as a stylist, the benefits can be many.

While other careers may be sensitive to economic ups and downs, the $60 billion cosmetology industry tends to show more economic stability.

One of the benefits of the career is that cosmetologist can easily move into any number of jobs such as esthetician, movie stylist and product sales representative. Even better, cosmetologists can easily set up their own professional salon business out of their homes or elsewhere.

"I'd say the biggest benefit is freedom, hands down," Kohler says. "You have the freedom to be creative, the freedom to work when you want, the freedom to make as little or as much as you want, the freedom to travel and the freedom to be the best version of yourself."