According to the California Employment Development Department, there were approximately 5,100 licensed barbers employed in California in 2012. By 2022, the Department projects there will be 6,100 employed barbers, representing an increase of nearly 20 percent – and this doesn’t even include shop owners and other self-employed barbers! This projected growth will open up 230 new positions for barbers in California each year.
Barbers in California are legally defined as licensed professionals responsible for performing a variety of services that are designed to improve the appearance and condition of customers’ hair, including cutting hair and adapting current styles to their customers’ wants. Many barbers also curl, color, and straighten hair using chemical solutions and equipment.
The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology regulates licensure and the practice of barbering in California. If you want to become a licensed barber in California, complete the following steps:
|Complete a Barber Program or Apprenticeship|
|Apply for a California Barber License|
|Take and Pass the Required Barber Examinations|
|Maintain your California Barber License and Explore Job Opportunities|
Step 1. Complete a Barber Program or Apprenticeship
The first step in California’s barber licensing process is to complete an approved program of education and training. You may satisfy this requirement by completing a program through a Board-approved school of barbering that consists of at least 1,500 hours of study or by completing an approved apprenticeship program.
Approved Barber Program
You may complete a barber program through a dedicated barber school or school of cosmetology, provided the program has been approved by the Board. The Board maintains a list of approved schools of barbering. You can view the list here.
The Board requires that all approved barber programs include the following curriculum:
- Technical instruction and practical training in hair dressing
- Permanent waving and chemical straightening
- Hair coloring and bleaching
- Hair cutting
- Preparation and performance
- Technical instruction in health and safety
- Laws and regulations
- Health and safety considerations
- Disinfection and sanitation
- Anatomy and physiology
Approved Apprenticeship Program
The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology Apprenticeship Program is a training program that allows you to earn a salary while studying to become a barber. Your apprenticeship must be completed under the guidance and supervision of a Board licensed barber and in a licensed salon, and you must be entered into an indenture agreement that is signed by you (the apprentice), the salon owner and trainer, and the salon program sponsor.
A barber apprenticeship is a full-time, two-year program (3,200 hours, plus another 200 hours of classroom instruction) that must also include supplemental instruction in the classroom. To qualify for the Board’s Apprenticeship Program, you must:
- Be at least 16 years old and have completed at least the 10th grade
- Possess a valid social security number
- Contact a program sponsor on the Approved Apprenticeship Program Sponsors list
- Have a licensed establishments and trainer who is willing to train you
- Complete a 39-hour pre-apprenticeship training program from an approved program sponsor
To start the process of completing a barber apprenticeship in California, you must contact a program sponsor in your area. Your sponsor will then assist you in filling out the proper documents and application for apprenticeship.
Step 2. Apply for a California Barber License
Once you have successfully completed an approved barber school program or apprenticeship, you must complete, sign, and submit the Barber Application for Examination, along with an initial license fee of $125. You can also complete an online application.
Once the Board has received and reviewed your application, you will be notified of your eligibility to sit for the barber examinations, which are required for licensure as a barber in California.
Step 3. Take and Pass the Required Barber Examinations
To qualify to take the California barber examinations for licensure, you must be at least 17 years old, and you must have completed at least the 10th grade. You should allow about 6 to 12 weeks for the Board to process your application and send you a scheduling letter regarding the next available examination dates. All examinations are held at either the Exam Location North, which is in Fairfield, or the Exam Location South, which is located in Glendale. You can expect to be scheduled to take the examinations on the same day.
The barber examination for licensure consists of two parts: a practical part and a written (theory) part. The Board utilizes the national barber examinations through the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). You can find more information about the NIC national barber examinations here. You can also learn more by reading the Candidate Information Bulletin for the practical examination and for the written examination.
Once you have successfully taken and passed both examinations, the Board will issue you a California barber license.
Step 4. Maintain your California Barber License and Explore Job Opportunities
All barber licenses in California must be renewed on odd-numbered years. You can complete the Personal License Renewal form and pay the $50 renewal fee or complete the renewal process through the Department of Consumer Affairs’ BreEZe online system.
There are no continuing education requirements for maintaining your barber license in California, although that certainly doesn’t stop many barbers from pursuing education through formal classes, seminars, tradeshows and the like as a way to stay current in this exciting and dynamic profession. For example, the California Barbers Association and the California Cosmetology Association are great resources for continuing education opportunities.
Further, classes or a degree in an area such as business management may be the best way to prepare to become the owner of your own barber shop in California.
Just a few of the barber shops located throughout California include:
- Baxter Finley Barber & Shop, West Hollywood
- California Barber & Styling, Torrance
- Wilson’s Classic Barber Shop, Redlands
- Anthony’s Barber Shop, Sacramento
- Lucky Men’s Club and Barber Shop, Folsom
- Richie’s Barbershop, Santa Barbara
- The New California Barber Shop, Los Angeles
Barber Salaries in California
The average salary for barbers in California was $25,397 in 2014 according to the state’s Employment Development Division (EDD). California’s barbers earning in the 75th percentile (top 25% percent) made $28,725 on average, which is nearly 1.5 times more than their colleagues in the 25th percentile (bottom 25%), who earned $19,302 on average.
Much of this difference will be due to the barbers’ level of experience, since experienced barbers tend to be highly skilled and command higher salaries. Top earners represent those with the most experience, so this illustrates how dramatically a barber can improve earnings over the course of their career – and this doesn’t even count barbershop owners and other self-employed barbers who are known to earn much more.
These salary figures are dramatically lower than the actual take home pay of barbers in California. Tips add significantly to their income, and official salary statistics do not take tipping into account.
Barber salaries by city in California:
Los Angeles – $44,000
San Francisco – $55,000
San Diego – $41,000
California Barber Employment Levels and Job Prospects
California has a large number of barbers compared to the rest of the country. In particular, the Los Angeles area had the third highest employment level of any metropolitan area in the country in 2013 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The EDD expects the number of California-based barbers to increase to even higher levels during the ten-year period ending in 2022 just to keep pace with growing demand. This growth level of 19.6% is 1.5 times higher than the national rate of increase. Barber job growth levels will be even higher in three of California’s counties:
San Joaquin County 1%
San Diego County 6%
Tulare County 0%
This agency estimated the number of California-based barbers working as employs to be 5,100 in 2012. Nearly half of them were located in Los Angeles County. The San Benito and Santa Clara Counties area was home to 730 of these tonsorial artists. However these figured do not include those that own their own shops or that are otherwise self employed.
The US Department of Labor provides 2013 salary information for Los Angeles area barbers in the table below: