How to Become a Professional Barber in 5 Steps

The steps to become a barber include completing an approved training program and securing a state license. Learn the typical duties of a barber as well as the employment outlook and average salary. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Barber?

A barber is a personal care worker who primarily cuts and styles men's hair. You might also provide other grooming services, such as shaving or beard trimming; however, grooming has become a lesser part of the barbering business in recent years. Your specific duties include consulting with customers about styling preferences and using electric clippers, scissors and combs to trim and cut hair. You also converse with customers during styling sessions, clean your work area, maintain business records and order supplies. Some barbers are also trained in women's styles.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Some states require personal appearance workers, including barbers, to have a high school diploma or GED, and most states require completion of an accredited barbering program. To gain entry to the latter, you need a credential proving you have completed high school. Your high school may also prepare you for barbering if it offers hair styling classes or partners with a local community college that does.

Step 2: Assist a Professional Barber

Observing and, if possible, assisting or interning with a barber is one way to find out if you want to become one. Short of allowing you to cut customers' hair, a barber can show you how to interact with customers, organize a workspace and manage workflow in a shop. Cleaning and organizing equipment, sweeping up and running miscellaneous errands are also possible duties if a barber agrees to take you as an assistant.

Step 3: Complete a Barbering Program

Barber programs are available from community colleges and private beauty schools, either as an area of emphasis within a cosmetology program or as a stand-alone barbering program. These programs often confer a diploma or a certificate, though some cosmetology programs may result in an associate degree. Courses in a barber program teach you the fundamentals of cutting, shaping, styling and coloring hair. These programs also cover state and federal laws, sanitation, safety and shop practices. Some programs may include shop promotion and customer service. A certificate may be earned in a year or less while diploma programs may take up to 18 months.

Step 4: Obtain a License

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but, in addition to completing high school and a barbering program, you typically need to pass a qualifying exam. Exams always include a written portion and sometimes either a skills or oral test. Many states will allow you to apply cosmetology training towards a barber's license. Some issue joint barber-cosmetologist licenses. In a few instances, states have reciprocity agreements through which you can obtain another state's license using the credentials you've already earned.

Step 5: Find a Barbering Job

After completing your education and securing a license, you can either seek a position in a barbershop or establish your own business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 44% of barbers are self-employed (www.bls.gov). In 2008, approximately 53,500 people worked as barbers, and the BLS predicted this number will rise 12%, to 59,700, by 2018. According to June 2011 reports on PayScale.com, most barbers with 1-4 years of experience earned a salary of $14,254-$49,316.

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