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Become a Master Barber: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a master barber. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career in barbering.

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Should I Become a Master Barber?

Barbers cut and trim hair and beards, often for male clients. However, some may perform additional duties, such as coloring and shampooing hair and giving scalp massages. Weekend and evening work might be required, since those tend to be the busiest times. Work usually involves standing for many hours, and barbers may need to protect their hands when using chemicals.

Experienced barbers can receive a master designation from the state, which is the highest level in the field, after obtaining the requisite education and experience and passing state-issued examinations.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aesthetician and Skin Care
  • Barber and Hair Cutting Services
  • Beauty Salon Management
  • Cosmetology, Hair, and Nail Instructor
  • Electrolysis
  • Facial Treatment Specialist
  • Hair Design
  • Make-Up Artist
  • Nail Technician - Manicurist
  • Permanent Cosmetics and Tattooing

Career Requirements

Degree Level State-approved training program, certificate or diploma
Degree Field Barber/cosmetology
Licensure State licensure is required for barbers in all states; qualifications for master barbers vary; typical requirements include minimum work experience - up to 1,500 hours - for master barber examination eligibility
Key Skills Stamina, customer-service skills, creativity, interpersonal skills, time management
Salary $25,410 (2014 median salary for all barbers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance; Job Postings from Monster.com (July 2012).

Step 1: Complete a Barbering Program

Prospective barbers must first complete a barbering program, where they will learn about cutting hair and shaving beards. These courses are offered at a variety of places: community colleges, cosmetology schools or vocational training programs. They may also include instruction in elements of cosmetology. Barbering programs will combine both classroom study with hair cutting experience. Courses may be offered in the day or evening to accommodate individuals who need a flexible schedule. Courses will cover areas involving clipper cutting, facial massage, hygiene, sterilization and sanitation, scissors-over-comb techniques and shaving. The program will also prepare students for job interviews and state licensure as a barber.

Success Tips

  • Check licensure requirements. Before applying to any barbering school, check with the state board to ensure that any licensing requirements will be met upon graduation.

Step 2: Participate in an Apprenticeship

Some states will require that individuals complete a barbering apprenticeship before becoming a master barber. An apprenticeship offers aspiring master barbers a chance to work and learn under a master barber and begin cutting hair and working with clients. Some states may require you to satisfy a minimum number of hours, while other states may require you to work for a minimum number of years.

Step 3: Pass Licensing Exams

In order to become licensed and earn the master barber designation, individuals may have to complete several examinations. These exams vary by state. For example, Minnesota requires that barbers pass a written, oral and practical examination. Individuals must achieve at least 75% on each exam, and in addition to cutting hair, must have knowledge of state barber statutes and laws.

Step 4: Continue Education and Training to Advance Your Career

Master barbers can advance their careers by opening their own shops. Taking courses in marketing, sales and business management will help you establish and run your own business. Also, attending hairstyling conferences, seminars and expositions can help you stay on top of current trends, techniques and fashions. There, you'll learn the skills you need to expand your client base, move to a more lucrative salon or grow your business.

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