Barbers are regulated and licensed in all 50 states (Alabama recently enacted licensure requirements for barbers; the last state to do so in the U.S.). Like other professions involving the health and beauty industry, barbers must be licensed because their work is directly related to public health.
Although each state sets forth the professional scope of the barbers it licenses, in general, barbers are licensed to provide the following services:
- Shaving/trimming the beard or mustache
- Cutting/trimming/shaving hair
- Giving facial and scalp massages with lotions, creams, and oils
- Singeing, shampooing, and arranging hair
- Applying hair tonics
- Applying cosmetic preparations, powders, oils, antiseptics, and lotions to the face, scalp, and neck
- Chemically straightening or waving hair
- Coloring or bleaching the hair
- Cutting, measuring, and fitting wigs, hairpieces, or head caps
Minimum Requirements for Barber Licensing
A Formal Education/Apprenticeship
Individuals who want to meet the requirements for barber licensure must first satisfy the education or apprenticeship requirement set forth by their state’s department of barbering/cosmetology. All states recognize the completion of a barbering program, while some states recognize the completion of an approved apprenticeship in lieu of a barber program. Still others, like New Hampshire, require the completion of a barber program, followed by an apprenticeship.
For example, the New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services allows candidates to qualify through an apprenticeship, provided it is at least two years in duration and is completed under the supervision and direction of a New York State licensed barber.
The duration of a barber program, which may be found through either a dedicated barber school or a school of cosmetology, will vary from one institution to the next. To qualify as a candidate for licensure, candidates must complete a program that is recognized/approved by the board and/or meets the practice requirements set forth by the board.
Similar to cosmetology licensure, the number of required hours varies from one state to the next. For example, the Ohio State Barber Board requires the completion of a program that is at least 1,800 hours in duration, while the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation requires the completion of a formal barber program that is at least 1,500 hours in duration.
Some states also recognize a cosmetology license as meeting part of the requirements for barber licensure. For example, candidates for barber licensure in Tennessee must complete a program of at least 1,500, while licensed cosmetologists in the state may earn their barber license by completing a program of just 750 hours.
Upon the successful completion of a barber program or apprenticeship, candidates for barber licensure must successfully take a state license examination, which generally consists of a written (theory) section and a practical (hands-on) section. Some states utilize the written and/or practical examinations offered through the National-Interstate Council on State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). The Montana Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, for example, utilizes both the written and practical NIC examinations for barber licensure.
Minimum License Requirements
In addition to satisfying the education and examination requirements, candidates must typically be of a certain age to qualify for licensure. In Texas, for example, candidates must be at least 16 years old, while in Washington D.C., candidates must be at least 18.
Most states also require candidates to either possess a high school diploma or GED or have completed at least the tenth grade. Further, candidates for barber licensure may also need to pass a criminal background investigation and pass a medical physical.
Continuing Education Requirements
As a regulated and licensed profession, barbers must renew their licenses through their state board of barbering/cosmetology. Most states require either annual or biennial license renewal. Some, but not all, states require the completion of continuing education for license renewal, such as Connecticut, which requires the completion of at least 10 continuing education credits and Illinois, which requires the completion of at least 15 continuing education credits every biennial renewal period.
Licensed barbers may complete their continuing education requirements in a number of areas, such as safety and sanitation, professional development, or business practices, depending on the requirements set forth by their state board. Many licensed barbers also seek continuing education in areas such as business management and marketing if they have aspirations of opening up and running their own barbershop practices in the future.
What is a Master Barber? Requirements for Licensure
The term “master barber” is often used, although this term may mean different things from one state to the next. Some states recognize master barbers as barbers who have held their licenses for more than 10 or 20 years, while other states allow barbers to take a master barber examination to earn the master barber designation. Finally, some states use the term master barber for those who have completed a lengthy apprenticeship.
For example, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation licenses both barbers and master barbers. To become a barber, candidates must complete a barber program of at least 1,200 hours and take and pass the required license examination. Barbers must then work for at least 15 months as a Maryland licensed barber and take and pass the master barber exam to earn the title of master barber.
Some states use different terms altogether. For example, the Tennessee Board of Barber Examiners uses the term barber manager to describe a licensed master barber who serves as manager of the barber shop. The Board requires at least one barber manager at each barber shop. Barbers who do not hold the designation of master barber or barber manager in Tennessee are considered barber technicians.