Traditionally, barbershops are the stomping grounds of men and a place signifying manhood. Today, barbering is experiencing a renaissance, and barbers are finding employment in barbershops and salons, and often even opening their own shops. The salon and barbershop industry is one of the top 50 industries in Pennsylvania by employment, with more than 4,500 establishments employing more than 26,000 people, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.
For traditional men, Pennsylvania is also home to two barbershops that made it onto Men’s Health Magazine’s list of “The Manliest Barbershops in America.” Groomed, located in Philadelphia, is an epicenter for international travelers. The owner has created an international culture, infusing his barbershop with hints of Moroccan and Turkish barbershop culture. This unique atmosphere, along with the cherry wood surroundings and complimentary shoe buffing, makes Groom one of the best barbershops in the United States. Also, operating since 1922, Ralph’s Barbershop features a distinct piece of Pennsylvania culture: the very chair General George S. Patton used in his barber experience with Ralph’s grandfather.
For guidance on how to become a licensed barber in Pennsylvania, follow these simple steps:
Clearly, if you’re interested in beginning a barbering career, Pennsylvania is a great place to be. Before you being your career as a barber in Pennsylvania, you will need to be licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners. The Board regulates the education and examination standards used to license barbers in the state.
Step 1. Graduate from a 1,250-Hour Barbering Program
As long as you are at least 16 years old and have completed 8th grade, you can register as a barbering student in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Board allows two options for achieving barbering training experience: completing 1,250 hours in a licensed barbering school, or completing 1,250 hours in a licensed barbershop.
The Pennsylvania Board requires that your barber college provide you with adequate training, including training in the following barbering subjects:
- Honing and Stropping – 25 Hours
- Shaving with a Straight Razor – 240 Hours
- Haircutting, styling, and hairpieces – 535 Hours
- Shampoo and Scalp Massage – 25 Hours
- Hair coloring – 25 Hours
- Massaging (Facials) – 25 Hours
- Hair Waving or Curling – 25 Hours
- Scalp and Skin Disease – 50 Hours
- Pennsylvania State Barber Law, Rules, and Regulation – 50 Hours
- Sterilization and Sanitation – 50 Hours
- Hygiene – 25 Hours
- Bacteriology – 25 Hours
- Electricity – 25 hours
- Professional Ethics and Barbershop Demeanor – 25 hours
- Manager Barber: Instructions, Shop Management, etc. – 50 Hours
If you choose to have your license requirement training in a barbershop, you will need to be underneath the direct supervision of a licensed barber teacher for your entire training. Further, you will need to submit an initial Registration of a New Barber Student form, along with having your teacher submit a Quarterly Hour Report form. In this training, you will need to complete all of the same training content as you would at a barber school.
Step 2. Submit the Pennsylvania Licensure by Examination Application
You will need to submit the licensure by examination application directly to Pearson Vue, the testing vendor. This application will serve two purposes: as your application to take the licensing exams, and as your application for a Pennsylvania license upon your passing of the licensing exams. To submit this application, simply follow these steps:
- Download and Read the Pennsylvania Barber Candidate Handbook
- Submit Application for Professional Licensure by Examination
- Attach Barber School Training Affidavit
- Proof of High School Education
- Submit $10 License Fee, $63 Theory Examination Fee, and $77 Practical Examination Fee
You may mail the checks and your application together to the following address:
Pearson VUE c/o Dasher, Inc.
PO Box 1652
Harrisburg, PA 17105-1652
The Pennsylvania Board has right to alter the list of states from which it will accept reciprocity applications, so you will want to check the Board website regularly. As of 2014, if you held a barbering license in one of the following states, you could apply for a Pennsylvania license based on reciprocity:
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
However, if you hold a barbering license from another state, you will need to submit the same application for examination and licensure as initial license applicants. To apply for a Pennsylvania license based on reciprocity, or without examination, complete the following steps:
- Submit an Application Form or Apply Online
- Submit Proof of Original License
- Pay $55.00 License by Reciprocity Application Fee
You may submit all of your reciprocity application materials to the Pennsylvania Board at the following address:
State Board of Barber Examiners
PO Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649
Step 3. Pass the Pennsylvania Practical and Theory Licensing Exams
Once you complete the examination and license application, Pearson VUE will send you an approval to test letter. This letter will give you detailed instructions for contacting Pearson VUE to schedule your exams. You will need to pass two exams to achieve your Pennsylvania barber license: the practical skills exam and the theory exam. You may study for these exams by looking over the Pennsylvania Content Outlines and Skills Listing publication.
Practical Skills Examination
During this exam, the testing vendor will ask you to complete different, randomly selected barbering skills. You will need to bring your own kit and a live model with which to complete the tasks, and you will have two hours to finish the exam. The following barbering skills will be tested on during this exam:
- Infection Control and Safety
- Skin Care
- Hair coloring/Bleaching/Highlighting
- Permanent Waving
- Chemical Straightening and Relaxing
Theory Skills Examination
This exam consists of 130 multiple-choice questions, and you will have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete it. This exam will include, but not be limited to, the following barbering theory subjects:
- Rules, Regulations and Safety (25-30%)
- Hair/Scalp Structure and Care (5-10%)
- Shaving/Beard Design (6-10%)
- Haircutting and Styling (25-30%)
- Chemical Services (20-25%)
- Skin Care (4-8%)
These exams are available at the following Pennsylvania locations:
- Pittsburgh (East and West)
Pearson VUE will provide you with your official scores on the day of your testing. They will also send your examination scores to the Pennsylvania Board. Upon reception, the Board will issue you your Pennsylvania barbering license.
Step 4. Start Working as a Licensed Barber in Pennsylvania
As a licensed barber in Pennsylvania, you may now look for work at local barbershops or salons that service men. If you’re looking for some of the top-rated barbershops in Pennsylvania, consider some of the following options:
- The Art of Shaving – Pittsburgh
- Pat’s Hair Styling for Men – Bleu Bell
- Groomed – Philadelphia
- Chops Barbershop – Harrisburg
- Dave’s Barber Shop and Salon – Philadelphia
Further, if you want to advance your career and open your own barbershop, you can apply for a Pennsylvania barbershop license. This way, you get to choose the style, theme, and culture of your shop, keeping it on the cutting edge of men’s fashion or maintaining a traditional vibe. IF you want to attain a barbershop license, simply complete the following steps:
- Fill out the Barbershop Licensure Application
- Submit $110.00 application fee made to the “Commonwealth of PA”
- Have a barbershop inspection
- Meet minimum equipment and general requirements (found on application)
Step 5. Renew Your Pennsylvania Barber License Biannually
Your license will expire on April 30th of every even numbered year. This means that ever two years, you will need to renew your license. The Board will mail you notification of your license renewal two to three months before your license expiration date. All you need to do to renew is submit the license renewal form, along with the $109.00 barber renewal fee, to the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners.
Barber Salaries in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry estimated that there were 2,680 licensed barbers in the state in 2010. The Department predicts that fifty new barber jobs will become available each year on average during the ten-year period ending in 2020 – and this doesn’t include those who will go into business for themselves.
Although both state and federal agencies report salary levels for barbers, these figures underestimate the take home pay of these professionals because they do not take customer tips into account.
The average 2013 barber salary in Pennsylvania was close to the national average. As is the case in most areas, barber salaries in Pennsylvania varied depending on their level of experience. There was a $12,710 difference in the average salary among entry-level and experienced barbers, with the most experienced earning $31,460 and those new to the field earning $18,750 on average.
Barber salaries in Pennsylvania by city:
Philadelphia – $43,000
Pittsburgh – $35,000
Allentown – $37,000
Expected Earnings Among Philly’s Barbers
Philadelphia’s barbers are exceptionally well paid. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that they had the third highest average salary of any city in the country. At $33,570, the average salary among Philly’s barbers was 21% above the national average.
While the average entry-level barber salary in Philadelphia was similar to that of barbers in much of the rest of the country, experienced barbers in Philly earned an average salary that was more than $40,000 higher than that of entry-level barbers. Philly’s most experienced barbers earned $57,050 as compared to $16,980 for barbers just starting out.
The US Department of Labor provides additional detail on the salary levels of Philadelphia’s barbers, including an analysis of both the metropolitan division and the multi-state Philadelphia area: