Cut Into a New Career: How to Become a Barber

Man in a barbershop getting his hair cut

Barbering is a skillful craft that blends creativity, technical expertise, and interpersonal relations with an undeniable joy for making people feel good about their appearance. If you’re interested in becoming a barber yourself, you’ll do far more than just master the art of clipper work, straight-razor shaves, and sensual scalp massages; you’ll also become a confidant to your clients. A barbershop is a gathering point, a place of camaraderie, where clients share stories, challenges, and laughs – and you’ll be right at the heart of that environment.

Of course, before you wind up working behind the barber chair, you’ll have to follow a series of steps – from deciding to pursue this profession true-heartedly, to gaining the right education and training, to acquiring your license and beyond. Luckily for you, I’m here to help you figure out the process. 

Here’s a guide to how to become a barber, from the education you need to get to finally landing your first job.

The Key Steps to Take to Become a Barber

Becoming a licensed barber requires a definite process and series of steps that each aspiring barber must undertake. Here is an in-depth look into the steps to becoming a professional barber.

High School Preparation

The journey can start in high school, where you can focus on honing your interpersonal skills and hands-on abilities. High school courses such as health, business, and art classes can be useful in developing a foundational understanding of hygiene, entrepreneurship, and creativity—essential skills in this profession.

Some high schools also have trade programs, which allow you to spend half your school day learning how to be a barber (or learning a different trade). These programs can be great ways to kickstart your career before you even graduate. 

Attending Barbering School

After high school graduation, you can enroll in a state-approved barbering program. These programs typically take 9-12 months to complete if taken full-time. Here, you study the theory of barbering alongside practical skills, such as haircutting, shaving, coloring, and scalp and facial treatments. 


After completing your course, next is undertaking an apprenticeship at a local barbershop. This gives you the chance to put the skills you learned in barbering school into practice. 

It can give you an invaluable experience where you have the opportunity to learn how to interact with clients and understand their needs, attend to them efficiently, and apply practical barbering skills under constant supervision and guidance.

Applying for Licensure

You can then apply for your barbering license with your state’s Board of Barbering or Cosmetology. This involves taking both a written and a practical examination. The written exam covers the concepts studied in school and during apprenticeship, while the practical exam assesses your ability to physically perform barbering services. 

Remember, each state has its own specific requirements. Make sure to check out the state board’s website before jumping into the exam. That way, you can increase your chances of passing on the first go.

Finding a Job

Once licensed, take the much-awaited first step in your barbering career by starting to look for job opportunities. This can start with a job at your local barbershop, where you can continue to hone your skills and build your client base. 

Continuous Education

The final step in your journey is committing to continuous learning and staying updated with the latest trends and techniques in barbering. 

This commitment not only refines one’s skills but is also a requirement in most states for license renewal. For instance, you can take specialty certifications such as master barber, which gives you an edge in the market.

What to Know About Education and Courses for Barbers

No matter how good you think you might be at cutting your own hair, you can’t simply pick up a pair of scissors and start finding clients. Barbering requires you to get an education in the trade first. 

Barbering programs are designed to equip you with the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to start your career. The course you need to become a barber is generally called a Barbering program or a Barber/Cosmetology program. These are offered by trade schools, community colleges, and sometimes, as part of high school vocational training programs. 

Typically, these programs take nine months to a year to complete, and upon graduation, you receive a certificate or diploma.

Technical Classes

Barbering programs are certainly intensive, but they are also immensely rewarding. Most will cover a range of topics, including the history of barbering, hair and scalp care, shaving techniques, haircutting styles, and the use and care of barbering tools. 

Other Classes

Barbering programs also often include basic color theory, anatomy, customer service, and even basic business skills. These elements can be especially valuable when starting out, as they prepare you to handle a variety of client needs and make you keenly aware of the importance of communication – with both clients and colleagues.

Internship Experience

An often overlooked but crucial element of a barbering program is the practical experience gained during required internships or direct apprenticeship programs. This hands-on application is typically completed in a functioning barbershop or salon environment under the supervision of experienced professionals. 

This provides invaluable insights into the day-to-day operations of a barbershop, honing interpersonal skills and increasing your confidence.

Requirements to Become a Barber

When it comes to stepping into a new career, understanding the requirements is crucial. In the case of barbering, there are a few key considerations. These revolve primarily around education, licensing, and maintaining your licensure. 

Let’s cover some of the key requirements to become a barber so that you can launch a new career.

Age and Education

The minimum requirements to become a barber do vary from state to state, but some general qualifications typically include being at least 16 years old and having a high school diploma or equivalent. It is important to check the specific requirements of your area to make sure you’re on the right track.

Some states require you to be 18 to become a barber, while other states may not require a high school education. Before launching into this career path, make sure to do some digging as to what’s required in your state.

Barbering Education/ Apprenticeship

In terms of education, while some vocational schools provide comprehensive training, barber programs in accredited schools are the most common route for those wanting to enter the field. 

Most of these programs require you to complete at least 1,000 hours of coursework as well as hands-on training. This comprehensive training covers various aspects like shaving, hair cutting, hair styling, and beard trimming, along with health and safety procedures.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why is there a need for so much training?” The reason is pretty straightforward—barbering is a hands-on role requiring technical skills. You’ll be handling tools like scissors, razors, and clippers, and there’s an art to using these effectively. Plus, understanding health and safety regulations ensures you’re maintaining a clean, safe environment for your customers.

Barbering License

Post education, the next vital step is getting licensed. This usually involves passing a state board exam, which typically comprises both a written and practical component. For the practical test, you might be asked to demonstrate a haircut or shave, for example. And don’t worry—throughout your education and training, you’ll be amply prepared for this!

Ongoing Education

Keep in mind that your learning as a barber doesn’t stop once you get your license. Many states require ongoing education for license renewals to ensure barbers stay updated on the latest industry trends, techniques, and safety standards.

Skills and Qualities Necessary for Success

As a barber, it’s not just about knowing how to cut and shave. Specific personality traits and technical skills play a major role in how successful you can become in this field. Here’s a deeper dive into some of these must-have skills and qualities.

Interpersonal Skills

A barbershop is as much about the experience and atmosphere as it is about the haircut. Barbers need to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for their clients. They often engage in casual conversations with clients, and being a good listener often leads to better customer satisfaction. Building rapport with clients helps to promote repeat business and can lead to superior customer reviews.


Barbering requires a lot of attention to detail. Whether cutting a trendy hairstyle or giving a traditional shave, taking your time to ensure precision is vital. And of course, with less experienced clients or younger children who may not sit still, being patient can really pay off.


Clients often rely on barbers to suggest new styles or looks. Keeping up with the latest trends and being willing to try new techniques can make you stand out as a barber. 

For instance, always keep an eye on popular culture and fashion trends, using them as a source of inspiration for new hairstyles.

Technical Skills

Perfecting techniques like clipper cutting, scissor over comb, and razor cutting came through rigorous practice during my training. Strive for precision, balance, and creative flair when working with these tools.

Business Acumen

This is crucial for those aspiring to open their own barbershop one day. I’ve learned that understanding how to manage finances, market my services, and build customer relationships is just as vital as providing top-notch haircuts.

Self-Taught Barbers: Can You Teach Yourself?

The world of barbering is one that invites creativity and a love for personal grooming, and you may find yourself asking: “Can I teach myself to be a barber?” The straightforward answer is: technically, yes; you could certainly pick up clippers and practice on willing friends. 

There are even numerous online tutorials to guide you through basic cuts and shaves. For example, websites like YouTube have a plethora of step-by-step videos showcasing hair styling techniques.

However, while this might be a way to cultivate an interest in barbering or to learn to groom your own hair, becoming a truly trained and professional barber involves much more. Below, I’ll break down a few reasons why this is the case. 

You Have to Understand Safety and Hygiene

Not only do barbers need to know a wide variety of cutting and styling techniques, they also need to understand essential aspects of sanitation, hair and scalp health, and different skin and hair types. 

You Need a License to Practice

Beyond skill, there’s also the matter of licensing. Almost all states require barbers to have a license to work legally, and often the only way to obtain that license is by completing a state-approved barbering program and passing a state board exam. The process ensures that you’re not only proficient in various technical skills but also knowledgeable in safety and sanitation requirements, which can’t be compromised. 

Therefore, while you can definitely self-teach to a certain degree to carve a career in barbering, it’s crucial to get a formal education, practice under experienced professionals, and acquire a state license. This journey not only ensures that you have diverse professional skills but also proves to potential employers and customers that you’re a professional who upholds the highest standards of service and safety.

Starting a Barber Career: How and Where to Begin

Starting a career as a barber isn’t as daunting as it may initially seem. After pulling through the hard work of getting trained and certified, here’s how and where you can get your feet wet in the barbering profession.

Step 1: Go Job Hunting

Job hunting might sound rather dull and stressful, but it allows you to lay the groundwork for the career you’ve been working towards. Keep an eye out for job openings in barbershops and salons. Leverage the power of the internet, check online job portals regularly, attend career fairs, and also don’t forget the old-fashioned job search method of dropping by local barbershops with your resume in hand. 

Step 2: Have a Professional Portfolio

Showcase your best work! If you’ve documented your progress throughout your training, this will be straightforward. Potential employers will often want to see real examples of your skills. So, collect before-and-after pictures of haircuts and trims you’ve done, and make sure each picture is clear and professionally presented.

Step 3: Network, Network, Network

Networking is a powerful tool that can open doors you didn’t know existed. Connect with people in the industry, attend industry events, join barbering associations, and get involved in online barbering communities. Building relationships can turn into opportunities down the road.

You can network at in-person events or online. Either way, the goal is the same: to build connections and boost your career.

Step 4: Start in a Barbershop

As for where you can start your career, it really depends on what kind of environment you think you’d thrive in. Many new barbers start in traditional barbershops to gain experience in a fast-paced environment. Working in a barbershop can give you the opportunity to learn from experienced barbers and build your clientele. Salons and spas can also be good launching pads, often offering a more relaxed environment. 

If you’re passionate about expressing your creativity in men’s grooming and dedicated to providing excellent customer experiences, consider working in luxury or boutique barbershops. Such establishments often provide services beyond regular trims and cuts, like hot towel shaves, facials, and even spa treatments.

Average Salary of Barbers

Delving into the financial aspect of the job, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of the potential earnings as a barber.

The median pay for barbers is approximately $33,000 per year. However, there are barbers who make significantly more and barbers who make less as well.

The reason why this number can vary so much is that there are outside factors that can influence your salary. Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that can impact how much you’ll earn as a barber.


A variety of factors can influence a barber’s salary. First among these is location. For instance, in states like Washington, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, where the cost of living is higher, barbers can expect to earn more for their work.


Secondly, the number of years of experience in the field substantially impacts your earning potential. As a fresh graduate from barber school, your initial earnings may be on the lower end of the pay scale. But don’t be discouraged! With time and as your skill set and client list grow, so should your income. 


It’s also valuable to note that many barbers work on a commission basis or rent a chair in a salon. So, part of your earnings will depend on the number of clients you serve. Engaging with clients, providing exceptional service, and mastering stylish cuts can all help build a loyal customer base. 


As a barber, you might also receive tips from your clients, which can significantly supplement your income. On a good day, for example, if you served 20 customers, with each tipping an average of $5, you would have an additional $100 in your pocket!

Snip Your Way to a New Career 

As we come to the end of this comprehensive guide, it’s important to remember that becoming a barber is far more than just mastering the craft of cutting, styling, and grooming. It’s about making connections, creating an environment where your clients feel comfortable, and continually learning and adapting to new trends and techniques.

Navigating the journey to become a barber can feel overwhelming, with many steps to take and details to consider. Be it the schooling, meeting the state licensing requirements, or developing essential skills and traits, it all contributes to shaping a successful barber. 

Stepping into the dynamic world of barbering can feel overwhelming, but remember, every expert started just where you are now. Identifying your unique skills is a fantastic first step towards becoming a successful barber. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our expert career coaches for personalized guidance as you embark on this exciting career journey, we’re here to support you every step of the way!

FREE Email Course

High-Powered Resume Writing

Craft a resume that gets interviews!

Just 1 week to a new resume

Get Personalized Career Help Fast!

Email a career expert with your questions

Get personalized expert advice within 24 hours