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The Lost Art of Barbering: How to Become a Barber

As Albert Einstein once said, "Long hair minimizes the need for barbers." That's true, but how many people out there want hair like Einstein's?

A Barber's Role

Barbers work mostly on men, cutting and styling their hair. Some also fit hairpieces, provide scalp treatments, give shaves, color and highlight hair, and do permanent-waves. They might even offer nail treatments and skin care services, which many men increasingly enjoy as "metro sexuality" becomes more prominent throughout the country.

Does a Barber Have to Attend Cosmetology School?

In short, yes. Barbers must have a license in order to practice, and qualifying for that license usually requires you to attend a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school.

A full-time program in barbering typically lasts nine months, culminating in an associate's degree. You then take your licensing exam, which can include a written and practical component. In many states, your barbering training counts towards a cosmetology license and vice versa. Some states even combine the two licenses. You should try to earn your license in whichever state you wish to work, since only a few states have reciprocity agreements. This means if you first earn your license in New York and then decide to move to California, you may need to undergo additional training and take a new licensing exam.  This additional training can be done through one of many online schools, making the process more convenient for those who prefer to learn and study at home.

Job Prospects and Salaries for Barbers After Cosmetology School

Because increasingly more hair stylists cut both men's and women's hair, the role of the barber has diminished. It's become a challenge to find those red and white barber poles these days. The average barber earns $26,610 annually, while the top 10% earn more than $40,000.

Barbers in certain states also earn more than others. The top five highest paying states according to BLS, 2008 are:

  • Georgia: $35,320
  • Hawaii: $30,220
  • Delaware: $30,220
  • New Jersey: $29,840
  • Pennsylvania: $29,750

Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey are also among the top five states with the highest concentration of barbers, meaning you have a good chance of finding work in one of those states if you choose to live there.

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