How to Become a Barber: Schools, Training & Salary

It’s time to get a trim today and talk about how to become a barber! Whether you’ve always wanted to work in a barbershop or if you’ve really just wanted to use the foot pedal on one of the barbershop chairs, we’ve got something for you today.

How to Become a Barber

How to Become a BarberAs a barber you will work in the personal care industry and cut and style men’s hair. It’s very common for barbers to perform other grooming services like shaving, beard trimming and even the occasional facial when the client requests it.

For the most part your job will consist of using electric clippers, scissors, combs and razors to trim, trim and style the hair of your client. There will be times when you are required to order supplies, clean the barbershop and perform other duties to keep business coming in. Some barbers are trained in performing services for women although it’s not all that common for women to walk into a barbershop asking for the latest hair cut and a blow out.

There are five major steps that are required to become a barber, so let’s find out what they are now!

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or GED

Most states now require barbers to have a high school diploma or GED in order to take part in a barbering program at an accredited school as well as adding that to the state requirements for licensing upon completion of any barbering program.

Some high schools these days even offer students courses in personal care as an elective that will transfer to a program or college for credit. That may be something that you want to look into if you are still in high school. Having a little extra experience is always a good thing in our book!

Step 2: Assist a Professional Barber

If you can find a way into a barbershop as an apprentice or assistant to a skilled barber, we highly suggest doing so. Again, experience is always a good thing and the more you have the more you’ll know and hopefully the better you will then be at your job. This is also a really good way to determine if becoming a barber is really what’s right for you before spending time and money on a program that may not be what right for you.

When you are assisting in a barbershop, you will pretty much be able to do everything that you would once you were a licensed barber, well except that actual hair cutting and what not. You’ll be able to see what it;s like to clean, order supplies, manage clients for the other professional barbers and interact with people. Talk about on the job training! By the time you are done with your barbering program and take your state board examination you’ll be ready to hit the ground running towards a career in the industry.

Step 3: Complete a Barbering Program

You will be able to enroll in a barbering program through a community college or a private barbering/beauty school. One thing that we’d like to suggest is the importance of finding a program that is offered through an accredited facility and one that covers the areas that are needed to pass your state boards. You will earn a diploma, certificate or an associate’s degree if a community college is attended.

During the barbering program, you will get first hand experience in the proper ways to cut hair, shape hair, style and color as well. Your barbering course will also over state and federal laws plus cover the necessary steps required to operate under sanitary and protocols. It seems that programs of this nature may take a year to 18 months to complete.

Step 4: Get Your State License

The licensing requirements will change state to state, but two things will remain the same regardless of where you will actually obtain one. The two mainstays of the licensing process are the need to have a high school diploma and to have completed a barbering program at an accredited facility. You will more than likely have to pass an exam that will have a practical along with a written test that will ensure that you know the important sanitation and safety measures to take.

Step 5: Find a Job

You’ve gone through the paces of needing to earn a certificate and got you license! Now you can go out and get a job at a barbershop. You’ll have to start at the bottom and work your way up, but we know you can do it and you’ll be an excellent barber in no time!

Qualities of a Successful Barber

We want you to be the very best barber that you can be, so we talked to a couple of guys that we know in the field to see which qualities are helpful to become a successful barber. Here are some qualities that may help you become a successful barber:

  • Creativity: Having an eye for creative detail is definitely a helpful quality to have as a barber. You’ll have to keep up to date with all of the current trends and will need to know how to perform all the right procedures in order to achieve the look the client wants.

  • Customer Service Skills: Your clients are your bread and butter, so have pretty great social skills is going to be an important part of success when you are a barber. There will be times that it will be really hard to to deal with customers, but it’s part of the job and being pleasant is a necessity…even if it it means that you make faces about the client when they aren’t looking.

  • Listening Skills: A good barber will be able to listen to what the client wants out of their experience in the barbershop and deliver it. A happy client is a returning client, so listen up!

  • Physical Stamina: Standing behind a barber chair all day every day can be a bit tiring. Your feet will hurt, your back will ache and your hands will likely be a little tired of all the buzzing from your clippers. So be sure to eat your Wheaties every day before work to ensure that you can keep up with your clients.

  • Cleanliness: As a barber you’re going to have hair, your tools and hair products all over the place at times, it’s just a part of the job. Another very important part of the job is keeping your work station as clean and sanitary as possible. You’ll want to do this to make sure that you are following proper health and safety procedures. It’s a good idea to keep a neat and tidy personal appearance too as it makes you look more professional.

  • Time Management Skills: It’s very important to have good time management skills as a barber. You will have to finish up with your current client before the next one walks in, clean up between clients and make sure that any other job duties you have are completed in a timely manner. Clients also like when they are taken care in a timely manner while receiving great service. They will be more inclined to come back if they have a good experience without it taking a super long time.

How Much Does a Barber Make?

How much should you expect to earn for all the cutting, trimming, shampooing and occasional styling of hair? Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, barbers are reported to earn a median annual salary of $25,010.This yearly salary projection doesn’t include any extra tips that you may receive from your clients or any variations that may occur as a by product of the area in which you work or if you own your own barbershop.

There are also salary reports on the BLS website for newer barbers with figures coming in at $17,370 a year. On the other end of the spectrum we have the salary expectations for the barbers that have been around the barber pole a few times. The more experienced barbers are earning a yearly salary of $44,190.

Barber Salary

Building Up Your Clientele

Part of becoming a successful barber is having a nice clientele base that comes to you for a trim on a regular basis. How do you build up a clientele like this though? Well, you’re in luck because we are going to tell you now!

The first step in building a good clientele is going to be finding a barbershop to work in that will be place that your clients will want to come back to. Your barbering skills are definitely a draw to clients, but they aren’t going to be too keen on coming back to a shop that isn’t comfortable and clean, so keep that in mind.

The next step to building a good client base is knowing what potential clients are looking for in a barber. Try to make sure that your skills are as up to date as possible and that you know what all the news style trends are. If a client feels that you know what you’re doing they will want you to handle their grooming. They are also more inclined to refer you to their friends that are in need of awesome barbering skills. You have an endless supply of clients if you have all the right skills.

Keep business cards with you all the time and give them out to anyone that you think could use your services. It goes without saying that you don’t want to come off as rude, so try not to insult their current hairstyle or barber. Get your name out there and people will start trickling in. You can even start a little incentive program and give new clients a discount if they come in with your card or something of that nature.

Remember that as a barber you are your own marketing manager. Every client in your chair serves as a walking business card for you, so treat them right, do a good job and be pleasant to be around. You’ll have a full schedule book before you know it and you’ll be putting those time management skills we talked about to good use too!

Tips for Selecting a Good Barber School

So, we know that you’re going to have to attend a barber program at a community college or specialized barber school. What we need to know now is what to look for in a school and what is important to your success. We did our research and asked some of our barber bubs what they felt is worth considering in a school. Here are the top three tips for selecting a good barber school:

Tip 1: Look for Experienced Instructors

One of the biggest advantages a new barber can have during those early days of training is definitely going to be the guidance of having a skilled and experienced instructors. You can try to get to know the staff at the school you’re interested in attending by taking a tour and asking a lot (like a whole lot) of questions. A few things you’ll want to ask about are going to be the experience had by the instructor. Do they have experience as a barber and with men’s hair of varying types? It’s also a good idea to find out what the teacher to student ratio is. It’s best if the ratio is on the small side so that you make sure that you get plenty of solo time with your instructor when needed.

Tip 2: Practice Makes Perfect

It’s ideal to enroll in a barber school that will allow students ample time to practice the skills that will be used upon graduating. You’ll need to know how to use clippers, scissors and a variety of other tools in order to successfully do your job, pass the program and obtain your state license. So, find a school that dedicates a good amount of time on the use of all of those skills you’ll be learning about.

Tip 3: Preparation is Key

The final tip that we have for you today is going to focus on how well the school of your choice will prepare you for the workforce. A good program will teach you valuable business skills, prepare you for working in an actual barbershop and prime you to ace your state board exam.

If you can find a barbering school or program that offers all of these things, you’ll be set up nicely and should go on to lots of success.

Here are some schools you could consider:

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Fun Facts About Barbers

We love random facts about the careers we tell you guys about. Sometimes we find funny facts and sometimes we find straight up weird facts. Today, we have a mix of the weird and fun facts about the barber profession. Get ready to learn something new and different today!

  • Barbers used to earn a higher pay than salaries! Yep, the guy that clipped your side burns used to make more than the one that would cut your body open to perform medical interventions. Surgeons eventually got a pay raise and finally made more than barbers once they started servicing on war ships during British naval wars.

  • There used to be a law in England that you had to shave your head or your beard. You couldn’t walk around looking like a total ragamuffin and if you did you’d have to pay a fine.

  • Old school barbers used to get really, really friendly with their clients. They used to get so friendly that they would give them enemas when requested. What’s a little enema between friends, right?

  • If current day barbers think they have it bad, they should probably think again! The barbers of yesteryear used to be required to drain boils and fistulas, lance cysts, clean their clients ears and scalp and massage the necks of clients. Can you say “gross”?

  • The traditional red and white swirl pole that marks the presence of a barber pole actually has a pretty interesting back story. When barbers would finish up surgeries during the Civil War, they would wrap the bloody bandages around the poles outside of their place of business. This served as a notice that the barber was open for business and thus the barber pole was born.

  • Barbering became a profession all the way back in 296 B.C. Rome around the Greek colonies. Barbershops became the hot hangout among the upper crust in Roman society and was quickly known as “the” place to hear all the juicy gossip and news.

  • The bible referenced barbers too and suggested that men shave their heads and beards.

  • Barbers served as dentists once upon a time too. Talk about being a jack of all trades!

  • Archaeologists have unearthed barbering tools dating back to the Bronze age in Egypt

Movie Time with Jay the Barber

Jay the Barber is a really cool dude that has his own YouTube channel that is dedicated to the barbering profession and anything that Jay is doing in his work. He provides a lot of videos that new and experienced barbers will find to be very helpful. He has a 2 part video session in which he answers coming from his followers on social media, his YouTube channel and his website. He answers each question in great detail and tells views what they need to know about how to become a barber and much more.

We know that both question and answer videos are a little (ok, lot) on the long side, but you’ll learn a lot from what Jay has to say and even get some answers to questions that you didn’t even know you had. So, grab a snack, a drink and kick up your feet! Watch the movie below or click here to hop over to YouTube.

Final Grade

Think of this section like the taper level on the pair of clippers that you’ll eventually use on your future clients. The areas that we are going to discuss here with you are important and graded accordingly. Take a look and take some notes because this section may really help you at a later date.

Degree vs. Debt: B

The degree to debt ratio is about average for those entering the barbering profession. The barber program that you have to take isn’t nearly as much as a degree from a college and can usually be paid off before you complete the course if not in one lump sum prior to even beginning the program. It’s unlikely that a loan would be necessary to pay for your schooling so don’t let the fear of student debt get in the way of what you want to do in life.

Difficulty of Degree: A

It definitely will take some skill to get through barbering school, but it’s not incredibly difficult from the looks of it. The best advice we can give here is to study hard, pay close attention and practice as much as you can. You should make it through just fine and come out a pro, ready to take your state board examination.

Happiness Quotient: B+

The barbers that we know seem like pretty happy dudes and seem to really enjoy their jobs. It’s kind of a cool job that will allow you to use your creativity, be around creative people and interact with clients all the time. Seems like a job that would be pretty nice to use.

Job Outlook: B

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also has job growth information that is a pretty important component of the success that one experiences in a career. The BLS doesn’t disappoint when looking into the job outlook for barbers and it looks like the job growth expected here is about 13% from 2012 to 2022. This is a pretty sweet spot for growth and is right about average, which means that there are jobs to be had and it’s not a dying profession. Basically as long as there is hair on people’s heads to be cut, you’ll have a job.

Check Out Some Similar Careers

Amazing Barber and Hairstylist Organizations

Dana’s Styling Salon

Dana’s Styling Salon, in Pittsburgh, PA is owned by Dana Ramsey, who is also an educator, motivational speaker, and author, whose work includes contributions to Soul Pitt Quarterly.

Beauty Changes Lives Foundation

The Beauty Changes Lives Foundation, in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of how careers in beauty, wellness and hair transform lives for the better. In May 2014, the Foundation created a scholarship assisting 20 recipients in attending qualified cosmetology schools.

The Barber’s Toolshed

The Barber’s Toolshed, is a Merrimack, NH barbershop. In addition to several experienced barbers, the shop even features beer to drink while you get your hair cut!

Al’s Barbershop

Al’s Barbershop in Los Altos, CA has operated since 1923, and under the current name since 1948. The shop has moved buildings, but the owners faithfully recreated the interior, including the 1923 barbers’ chairs. What a historic barbershop!

Sources and Recommended Reading

We’re glad you stopped by to visit us today and read our career guide for barbers-to-be. If you still have some lingering questions and want them answered, take a look at some of the websites that we’ve listed below. Good luck with your new career if you decide to go down the hairy path of a barber!

One comment
  1. Anita Mas

    October 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    It would be interesting to become a barber. I hadn’t realized that they had organizations for that, but it makes sense. They like to make sure that you have the right training for that kind of thing. I wonder how long it takes to get that training.


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