Barbers are a vital part of every community. Receiving a first haircut is often considered something of a rite of passage. After all, it takes a good deal of trust to have someone using a straight razor on your face or neck, not to mention fluttering scissors that send hair flying into your eyes. Though barbering used to be a profession that was built on informal apprenticeships, now there are formal licensure processes that states require. This not only protects consumers from bad haircuts but when you have a license your abilities cannot be questioned.
As a profession, barbers have many options. You can work as an independent stylist or you might wind up cutting hair for celebrities. Many accrue experience and open their own shop where they can cultivate their own culture of barbers and cosmetologists. The choice is up to you. Please enjoy this page that discusses how to become a barber.
What Does a Barber Do?
A barber is a professional who cuts hair and helps people look their best. Some are artful stylists while other barbers provide utilitarian haircuts that look good, but which may lack flair. Ultimately, every barber is able to cater to their specific clientele. Some specialize in intricate hair coloring jobs and detailed layering while others deliver quality buzz cuts to plain-spoken gentlemen.
To do this job, all barbers must be able to work in close proximity with their clients. They must also have a keen ear and be able to hear what their customer is looking for in a haircut or style. It's also important to be a good conversationalist since many customers like to chat while they get their hair cut. In fact, barbershops have a long tradition of being community hubs where people share news and gossip.
Where Do Barbers Work?
Barbers typically work in barbershops or hair salons. Their working conditions often involve renting a space, including a barber chair, from the shop owner. In this way, barbers are rather entrepreneurial. However, their rental agreements often include certain stipulations such as keeping regular hours, being available to take walk-in clients, and even adhering to a standard for dress. In return, the shop owner agrees to keep the store clean, provides marketing support, and even employs a receptionist to handle appointments and walk-in customers.
On the other hand, some barbers can work from home and have clients have their hair cut in the barber's kitchen, or wherever they have set up their workspace. It's also possible for barbers to visit clients in their homes. This is a very versatile trade where practitioners can find their own niche.
Why Become a Barber?
Barbering is one of the most versatile career paths around. The entrepreneurial aspects of the career are very attractive in that it's possible to work the schedule that you choose and in the environment that feels best. Some work in chain barbershops located in shopping malls while others prefer independent shops where they can be more individual in how they conduct their business.
As for the pay, barbers can choose to add more skillsets that allow them to charge more. For instance, barbers that have strong skills with hair coloring and highlighting can fatten their wallets with those premium services. It's also possible to add adjacent skills related to make-up and even piercing.
Many barbers and stylists love the creativity in their job. Those that can help a man with thinning hair artfully cover a bald spot not only gain a client but also find great job satisfaction. Barbers can also make a career in show business. Their local film, television, or theatre scene may need someone who can style wigs for actors, which provides a great creative outlet.
Barbering is also a career that allows great mobility. Many find that it's easy to pack up and move across the country and barely miss a day of work. It may also be possible to work while traveling, since barbershops may need skilled individuals to fill in for a day or two.
Many barbers and stylists decide to open their own shop. Once they have a few years of experience observing various business models, and meeting barbers with equal or complimentary skills, opening a shop is a great idea. It's important to start a shop with a team of hair styling professionals who are of a similar quality so that the shop can institute a consistent fee structure.
To become a barber, you will need to have a certain talent for cutting hair. That's the bottom line. Your state may also require that you attain a license. Licensure can involve intensive schooling and even an internship period, depending on the state. In years past it was possible to attain a license by doing little more than paying a fee, but these days states have begun to crack down on the profession and are insisting on more advanced credentials.
Some may even require certain certificates before you can offer certain services. For instance, you may be required to prove your skills before you can legally dye hair, give a perm, or apply extensions. Regardless of state requirements, it's a good idea to start a career with a certificate from a licensed barber school or cosmetology school. This the best way to start a career as an unknown.
This is a key skill as you need to understand what a person expects from their haircut or style. You also need to be able to explain certain terms that may not be familiar to some, especially to younger clients. You should be ready with easy explanations for terms like feathering, layering, highlighting, etc.
Not everyone can have the same hairstyle, but many are looking for the same fashionable look. You'll need to find creative solutions so that your clients and customers can walk away from your chair looking like a contemporary fashionista. As your barbering skills improve, you'll style hair in new and surprising ways.
- Time Management:
You'll need to know how to use time in such a way that you are able to take care of your appointments in a timely fashion.
To be successful on the business end, you'll need to be able to manage your expenses and revenues. If you plan to open your own barbershop, you will need higher level accounting and bookkeeping skills in order to survive and thrive.
- IT Skills:
If you are working as an independent barber or stylist, you should be able to set up your own website with at least a calendar feature. You may also need to set up a payment system so that clients and customers can pay in advance or without needing cash in hand.
- Physical Dexterity and Stamina:
Barbers are on their feet all day long, so they need to be prepared for the wear and tear on their feet, knees, and even hips. Barbers also need be precise when using their scissors, straight razors, and electric clippers. One false move can be the difference between a dynamite haircut and a disaster that must be grown out.
How to Become a Barber
GED or High School Diploma
Every barber or stylist needs to start out with a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree (GED). The GED option is for those who can't or don't wish to complete a traditional high school diploma. Some know they aren't headed for college so skip out on their senior exams and take the GED exam while others may need to leave school for a variety of reasons, including health. The GED offers a terrific option that carries the same weight as a high school diploma, in many circumstances.
Not only will you need this credential to attend a barber training or certification course, but you'll be glad you have basic math and verbal skills to help conduct your business. If you later decide to head to college, many find that the local community college will honor either a GED or a traditional diploma.
Barber Training and Other Certification
You can find barber training through any number of schools. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer a certificate course for future barbers, cosmetologists, and stylists. These are often publicly funded institutions with lower tuition. Then there are private beauty schools or barbering colleges that offer state approved courses that will prepare you for full, state licensure.
It's important to find out what your state requires for licensure. You might start by asking your favorite stylist when you venture in for your next cut. Since their information might be outdated, you should also ask for any information regarding the website for your state's Board of Cosmetology. Keep in mind that they may go by some other name. Your barber may be able to help you find the website, since not every state's web presence is as organized or efficient as we might like.
Regardless, once you find a barber training school or cosmetology college, they should have the relevant licensing information. You may also find that your state has different licenses for barbers, estheticians, hair designers, nail technologists, and natural hair care professionals. Each license may have its own set of requirements for initial licensure and renewals.
Licensure is often a rather straightforward process. First, you'll need to complete and successfully pass a course in barbering or your chosen specialty. Your state will likely have a set number for hours of instruction that you must complete as part of your certificate as well as time spent in actual practice of barbering, cosmetology, or your specialty area. You may also need to pass a criminal background check, be fingerprinted by the state, and offer letters of recommendation. There are also fees that you should be prepared to pay. Finally, there may be a practical examination that covers specific details in your barbering practice. There may also be an examination that covers the state laws and regulations that will govern your work.
As a practicing barber or cosmetologist, you will need to renew your license with your state. These days this is probably done online. The process for a barber likely involves little more than paying a fee and filling out simple paperwork. However, if your license has been suspended or there is pending disciplinary action against you there may be additional steps. In a typical case, however, you will surely need to have your license number and a state issued ID card.
Most states don't require continuing education units (CEUs) for this license. However, you may wish to continue your learning so that you can advance in your level of expertise. You may also wish to add new skills, but your instructors could be your fellow barbers or cosmetologists who are interested in sharing their knowledge. If you wish to open your own salon, you should probably return to school for a degree in business administration or accounting. Who knows? Maybe you'll be able to open your own cosmetology school. Cosmetology programs can be quite lucrative.
Salary and Job Outlook
The salary possibilities for barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are rather wider ranging. While some work at local barbershops others may provide highly personalized in-home services to wealthy clientele. Nevertheless, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a median salary of $26,270 for the profession. They also show that the field will go into a decline by 1% through 2029. There could be many factors that might impact these figures such as the fact that many work as independent contractors or categorize their employment in some other way.
Payscale.com's statistics for the profession indicate that the top end salary is around $79,000. Their figures are based on employment figures. Since many barbers are not technically employees but are entrepreneurial independent contractors, these figures may be off a bit. Further, if a barber opens their own shop, they might fall under a wholly different employment designation.
As their careers advance and their barbering skills improve, barbers are likely to start earning more money. This increase might simply be a function of inflation but those who cultivate a clientele who demands more intricate services you can charge more. Many barbers, stylists, and cosmetologists venture into independent business and either open their own salon or work on an on-call basis to their home or outcall to meet their clients.
- Skincare Specialists:
These specialists work with people to optimize the health and beauty of their skin. The BLS shows that this field is experiencing high demand and will expand by 17% through 2029.
- Manicurists and Pedicurists:
This field aims to help people exfoliate, clean, and beautify their hands and feet. The BLS shows that demand for this profession is on the rise to the tune of 19% percent growth through 2029.
- Tattoo Artists:
This field requires a high level of artistic talent, attention to health and safety concerns, and a lot of creativity. The BLS doesn't have a specific category for these workers but they are similar to barbers in that they usually rent space in a tattoo shop, they often work from home as solo craftspeople, and they can open their own studio.
- Beauty Supply Sales:
When barbers get tired of standing on their feet all day long, they sometimes move into beauty supply sales. This position often involves driving to barbershops and salons to sell new products and help business owners discover new product lines that will improve their businesses.
Vocational Trade School & Career Paths