How to Become a Professional Barber in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to be a barber. Learn about completing an approved training program, securing a state license, the typical duties of a barber, the employment outlook and average salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nail Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Barber Do?

A barber is a personal care worker who primarily cuts and styles men's hair. As a barber, you'll need to have good customer service and communication skills so you can determine what services your clients need, including cutting and shaving. Other duties may include keeping your tools clean and sanitized.

The following chart gives a quick overview.

Training Required Most states require completion of an accredited barbering program
Key Responsibilities Cutting hair with scissors and clippers, consulting with patrons, cleaning and sanitizing equipment
Licensure Required by all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Median Salary (2015) $24,850*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is a Barber?

In addition to cutting 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. In 2014 approximately 59,200 people worked as barbers, and the BLS predicted this number would rise 10%, to 65,100 by 2024. According to a May 2015 BLS report, the median salary for barbers was $24,850

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in styling hair, you might consider becoming a hair stylist, which is another career that requires completing a postsecondary cosmetology training program and earning a license. Hairstylists typically work in salons, and perform many hair services for clients, including cutting, dying and styling. Another career with similar requirements is that of a cosmetologist. These professionals provide services that include analyzing a client's hair and makeup, and performing scalp and facial treatments.

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Popular Schools

  • Virginia College

    Virginia College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Virginia College:

    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

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    • Georgia: Augusta, Columbus, Macon
    • South Carolina: Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Columbia, Florence, Greenville
  • Penn Foster High School

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  • World A Cuts Barber Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: York
  • Winston Salem Barber School

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Winston Salem
  • Westside Tech

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Winter Garden
  • West Michigan College of Barbering and Beauty

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Kalamazoo
  • West Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Waco
  • Washington Barber College Inc

    Campus Locations:

    • Arkansas: Little Rock
  • Pearl River Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Mississippi: Poplarville
  • Vogue Beauty and Barber School

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Hiram