The fields of tattooing and permanent cosmetics offer the opportunity for a creative, challenging career. Read on to learn more about the skills and experience it takes to work in this field, as well as what you could earn.
The art of injecting ink or pigment into the skin's dermis to form a permanent marking has a long and varied history. Better known as tattooing, this type of work requires artistic talent, particularly the ability to draw. Precision is also important, since you must hit the right layer of skin to create a successful tattoo and avoid causing unnecessary pain. Career possibilities include working as a tattoo artist, a medical tattoo artist or a permanent makeup technician.
According to the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) health system, medical tattoo artists may use their skills to add pigment to skin following reconstruction surgery from breast cancer or to cover scars from surgery (www.plasticsurgery.ucla.edu). The New York Langone Medical Center adds that permanent makeup treatments can also include permanent eyeliner, lip color or eyebrows for people who have difficulty putting on makeup because of medical conditions, such as makeup allergies, stroke or arthritis (www.med.nyu.edu). Piercings are also a form of body art and permanent cosmetic. By completing a training program and earning certification or licensure in the field, you can make sure you're meeting your state's requirements for tattooing and cosmetic professionals.
According to a survey conducted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health in 2006, approximately 24% of the 500 random respondents had tattoos, and 14% had piercings (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). About half of the respondents between ages 18-29 had either a tattoo or a piercing. According to a 2006 article in USA Today, it's possible that tattooing early could lead to those same individuals getting more tattoos and piercings as they get older (www.usatoday.com). The article also said that even if these people don't get more tattoos or piercings, it's likely the trend will continue due to the growing youth population combined with the observed prevalence, leading to many opportunities for tattoo artists. It should also be noted that wages for tattoo artists can vary greatly. As of April 2014, the median annual salary for tattoo artists and body piercers was $29,612, according to PayScale.com.
To become a tattoo artist, you must have natural artistic talent, which you can improve through art classes. You could also study cosmetology, which can teach you about the skin and skin care. However, according to the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT), most tattoo artists don't receive formal training from a college or university, (www.safe-tattoos.com). Instead, you'll complete an apprenticeship, which usually takes about three years. You'll work under the supervision of a master tattoo artist to learn the trade.
You can also join the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP) or the APT, which can help you meet state regulations as they're developed (www.spcp.org). Through the APT, you can become a cosmetic tattooist, an associate non-artist, an associate tattooist or a professional tattooist. To earn certification from the SPCP, you'll study permanent cosmetics, nursing, ethics and blood-borne pathogens. Then, you must pass an exam that covers pigmentology, infection control, anatomy and physiology. Some states have training, certification or licensure requirements, but they all vary from state to state.