Barber School: Information on Becoming a Barber or Hairdresser

Research the requirements to become a barber or hairdresser. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in these fields.

Do I Want to Be a Barber or a Hairdresser?

Barbers and hairdressers are responsible for cutting hair and providing styling services to customers. Barbers and hairdressers have similar tasks, since they both are involved with cutting, styling and caring for hair. However, barbers generally work with male clients, while hairdressers have male and female clients. Long hours spent standing should be expected, and these workers may need to protect their skin from repeated exposure to chemicals.

Job Requirements

Both of these positions require licensure that depends on a particular training program. Potential barbers and hairdressers must graduate from a state-approved barbering or cosmetology school. Some colleges and universities offer associate's degree or certificate programs for those who wish to further their education. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a barber or hairdresser, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree is required; some positions require a high school diploma
Degree Level Barbering or cosmetology
Licensure State license (requirements vary by state)
Experience Entry-level; licensure requires a minimum number of training hours
Key Skills Excellent customer-service, creativity
Technical Skills Knowledge of hairdressing equipment
Additional Requirements Able to stand on feet for long periods of time

Step 1: Complete the Required Training

The qualifications for barbers and cosmetologists to earn a license vary by state. For example, some states require a high school diploma and successful completion of a state-approved program. Cosmetology and barber certificate and associate's degree programs generally offer technical studies in the classroom and hands-on training, as well as the necessary clock hours to pursue licensure. Topics commonly covered in these programs include skin care, hair styling, sanitation and hair cutting.

For some states, aspiring barbers and cosmetologists can work as apprentices to meet the requirements for pursuing licensure. This apprenticeship can last two years and teaches prospective cosmetologists and barbers the tricks of the trade. Under supervision of a licensed cosmetologist or barber, students will train to become professionals and prepare for the licensure examination.

Success Tips:

  • Check with the state. Make sure that the school you choose is approved by the state before beginning your education. Only state-approved schools count towards your licensure.
  • Work as an intern. Certificate or degree programs may offer their students internships. Internships can help earn on-the-job training and learn how to properly run a business.
  • Learn the tools of the trade. While working as an apprentice, be sure to master the barbering tools. This includes shears, clippers and buzzers. You will be tested on these tools during your licensure examination.

Step 2: Earn a License

All barbers and hairdressers must be licensed by their state in order to work. Upon completing a state-approved program or apprenticeship, students are eligible to take the state licensing exam, which consists of a written exam and sometimes a practical or oral exam. Although they may vary, other licensing requirements usually include a high school diploma or its equivalent and being over the age of 16.

Success Tip:

  • Bring all the right equipment. You must bring your own equipment to the practical examination, and there are strict rules as to what is allowed and how they are to be transported. Be sure to check with the state prior to taking the exam.

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