The role of the barber is one that has enjoyed an enduring cultural history. The word barber originates from the Latin word “barba”, meaning beard. And though their current profession may be more hair salon than straight razor, barbers are still one of the most common practitioners in the grooming industry.
Though the vast majority of barbershops are small businesses selling men’s haircuts and shave services, there are countless others who work on staff at hospitals, nursing homes, office buildings, military bases, and even on cruise ships or at summer camps.
Given the recent surge in popularity of barbershops and other traditional male grooming establishments, it’s safe to say that barbering is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. If you’re someone who’s interested in or already pursuing a career as a barber, you might be wondering what it takes to become one.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a barber and what it takes to become one yourself.
Barber Job Duties
As a barber, you may be responsible for the following duties:
- Providing aesthetic services to customers such as cutting, trimming, coloring, bleaching, shaving, and styling hair
- Preparing customer’s hair by shampooing it and massaging the scalp with conditioner
- Shaving customer’s face or beard using clippers or other razor instruments
- Cleaning customers’ ears with cotton swabs or other instruments to remove wax buildup
- Providing advice about hair care, including shampooing and conditioning treatments to help clients achieve desired styles at home
- Setting up equipment for services, such as shampoo bowls or chairs
- Cleaning and sanitizing workstation before each client arrives for service
- Scheduling appointments with clients and confirming the appointment time and arrival time with client via phone or email
Barber Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for barbers is $37,047. The highest earners of the profession are bringing home over $60,000 per year.
The employment of barbers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing number of men who want their hair styled on a regular basis and are willing to pay for it.
Barber Job Requirements
The requirements for barbers include:
Education: Most states expect barbers to hold a high school diploma or GED. Some states will permit an individual with no formal education to work as a barber if they have passed the state’s licensing exam. However, many employers prefer candidates who have completed a training course at a school with a barber program. It is also possible to complete a state-approved apprenticeship program in order to work without higher education.
Training: On-the-job training is essential for working in this role. Barbers will learn how to cut hair by watching more experienced professionals. They will also study proper sanitation procedures and safety measures.
Certifications: Once a barber has completed their training period, they are required to apply for state licensing in order to work in some states. No further certifications are required.
The following skills are required for this job:
Physical strength: Barbering is a physically demanding job that requires long hours of standing and hard work.
An ability to multitask: This is a deadline-heavy profession, and multiple clients can demand action within the same limited time periods. You might have to perform various tasks on more than one client almost simultaneously, taking a phone call on one matter while shampooing another—and making mistakes because you’re overwhelmed or distracted is not an option.
Strong interpersonal skills: Barbering is a service profession, so strong interpersonal skills are essential. Barbershop owners need to be able to deal with all kinds of people, from those who may be shy or uncomfortable in the barber chair to those who may be feeling very chatty and even argumentative. The ability to stay calm under pressure and work through difficult situations will help keep your business running smoothly.
Haircutting skills: These are learned through training and experience. Barbering schools usually offer a 1-year certificate program that combines hands-on training with theory.
Manual dexterity: Barbers must be able to cut hair precisely, while holding small items such as scissors and combs.
Business sense: In addition to working with customers, barbers must also manage a business, which includes paying bills, keeping books, and staying on top of trends in hairstyles.
Barber Work Environment
The barber environment is an extremely busy one with lots of exposure to the public. It is essential that barbers demonstrate knowledge and enthusiasm about hairstyles, fashions, coloring techniques, and haircare products; they must also be good listeners who are interested in their clients’ wants and needs. Many days, barbers spend most of their time standing behind a chair. They may have to lift heavy items, such as boxes of supplies, which can lead to injury if not done properly.
Barbers usually have flexible work schedules. Some start early in the morning and others start late in the afternoon.
Barber Career Advancement
Once a barber has mastered the craft he can move on to a variety of advanced roles in the industry. For example, barbers can become hair stylists. Hairstylists take the barbershop concept to the next level by offering a more comprehensive customer experience. They do everything barbers do, but they also offer hair coloring, hair products, and in some cases, styling products.
Barbers and hairstylists can also become managers in their own shops. They hire and train new barbers and stylists and oversee the overall operation of the shop. Barbers and hairstylists can also become educators in their field, whether by starting their own schools or by teaching classes.
Here are three trends influencing how barbers work. Barbers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Healthier Hair Care Options
Consumers are also becoming more concerned about the products they use to care for their hair, and as a result barbershops and salons will need to adapt their services accordingly.
For example, a study found that 55% of women and 40% of men would be willing to pay more for hair products if they were free of harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and triclosan—all which have been linked to health concerns.
More Attention on Male Grooming
A recent trend in male grooming has seen an increase in interest among consumers for quality products that cater to their specific needs.
Men are increasingly willing to spend more money on premium products that they feel will deliver the results they want, with many citing increased comfort and convenience as important factors when choosing new hair or skincare products.
Digital Tools for Cutting Hair
Thanks to new digital tools, barbers are no longer limited to simply using their own hands and clippers when it comes to cutting hair.
These new tools allow them to work more efficiently, while also providing an opportunity for barbers to market themselves as tech-savvy individuals who understand modern trends.
How to Become a Barber
1. Planning Your Career Path
A career as a barber will offer you the opportunity to work with people on a daily basis. Being a barber is not only about providing great haircuts and shaves, but also about providing customers with a positive experience every time they walk through the door. It is this close interaction and ongoing client relationships that can make the work rewarding. A job as a barber also provides a creative outlet.
Barbers can work at traditional barbershops, salons, and spas, but it can be financially rewarding as well as more flexible to start your own business. If this sounds like the right path for you, consider saving up some money and building marketing skills before launching your own business.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for barbers should emphasize their skills and experience working with hair, as well as their interpersonal abilities. It’s important to showcase your ability to create unique styles for your clients, so highlight any training you had in this regard. You can also show off your creativity by including photos of your best haircuts.
When describing your past work experience, it’s important to include the skills you used in each job. For example, if you’ve cut hair in a salon setting be sure to emphasize your ability to listen to clients’ needs while using technical skills like coloring and styling. Similarly, if you’ve worked as an independent barber or stylist be sure to focus on the communication skills that are critical in this position–this may include taking appointments over the phone or interacting with customers at scheduled appointments.
Be sure to list all relevant licenses or certifications that you have attained as well.
3. Applying for Jobs
One of the best ways to get a job as a barber is to gain experience through an apprenticeship program. Barber schools offer you the chance to spend some time in a professional shop, learning the tricks of the trade. Keep in mind that this will cost you, so do your research to find out what programs are most worthwhile before committing.
If you decide to go the traditional route, search for barber jobs online or by using social media sites. You can also try reaching out to local barbershops directly to ask if they have any positions available.
4. Ace the Interview
A barber interview will consist of questions about your experience, management style, and what you’ve accomplished in the past. The interviewer may ask you about your experience and interests outside of the workplace. Consider sharing anecdotes and specific examples from your previous work experiences. This will show the interviewer how capable you are of handling situations and working with a team. Tailor specific responses, so your job qualifications will come through loud and clear.
When interviewing barbers, most interviewers will focus on two distinct aspects of the barbering experience—whether you get results and how well you deal with people. Both are equally important to demonstrate to a potential employer. You should try to show that you can manage different types of personalities in team environments and under stress. On the other hand, if you get too involved in dealing with people’s personal problems, you’re unlikely to be able to help the organization achieve its goals.
You could be asked technical questions about hairstyling or cutting techniques, do some research beforehand. You will want to know what type of haircut and brand of products you prefer.