Barbers are individuals whose occupation is to cut hair, give shaves, and trim beards. Some barbers prefer to refer to themselves as Hairdressers or Hair Stylists. For the most part, all three terms are synonymous, although there is a general connotation associated with the term "barber" that denotes working on male clients only and doing so in a no-frills manner, as compared to "hairstylists", who are commonly thought of as focusing more heavily on hair coloring, perms, styling, and texturing for both makes and females. In fact, barbers are licensed to do all of these things and in many cases perform one or more of these services in addition to cutting hair.
Barbers are responsible for providing a number of barbering services to customers. These services may include any or all of cutting, trimming, shampooing, tapering, curling, coloring, and styling hair; trimming or shaping the contour of beards; and giving shaves to individuals. Barbers are also licensed to work with artificial hair replacement products such as toupees. The basic services provided by all barbers and the ones they perform most often, are "haircuts", which include not only cuts, but often trims, shampoos, and styling of the hair as well. Very often barbers also fit hairpieces to their customers and offer them scalp treatments and facial shaving. In several states, barbers are also licensed to color, bleach, or highlight hair. In some venues, barbers even include skin care and nail treatments in their repertoire.
The tools used by barbers include scissors, clippers, combs, blow driers, and razors. They also use supplies such as lather for shaving; shampoo for washing; dyes and bleaches for coloring; and various hairdressings, conditioners, and lotions for styling. Barbers are usually responsible for taking care of their tools and maintaining them in good working order. Very often they are also responsible for ordering their supplies and maintaining an adequate stock. In some cases, barbers sell lotions, conditioners, or other hair care supplies to their customers. Barbers who own or operate their own shops or salons have additional duties of a managerial nature that may include hiring and firing workers, supervising them, keeping business and inventory records, and arranging for advertising.
There are actually many tasks that barbers need to perform on a daily or regular basis. Some are part of the direct service they provide to customers, while others are background duties more in the line of upkeep, routine maintenance chores, and infrastructure support. Some of the additional duties they need to perform include the following:
- Drape and pin protective cloths around customers' shoulders
- Discuss desired treatments and haircut styles with patrons
- Keep abreast of the latest styles and hair care techniques
- Recommend home treatments to customers to alleviate hair problems
- Record service charges and/or receive payments
- Clean and maintain work tools
- Make customer appointments
- Update records and complete required reports
- Clean work stations and sweep floors
- Clean towels using washing and drying machines
A standard 40-hour work week is most common for this occupation, although many barbers sometimes work longer hours, especially those who are self-employed. Barbers need to tailor their work schedules to include those times when it is most convenient for their customer base to take advantage of their services. For this reason, their work schedules often include evenings and weekends.
Barbers normally work in clean and pleasant environments because the more pleasant and comfortable the surroundings, the greater their likelihood of attracting customers. Barbers spend an overwhelming amount of the day on their feet, which requires stamina and can be physically taxing.
In order to be successful, barbers need to have a good fashion sense. In addition, they need strong "people skills", as their job involves constant and close interaction with their customers. Good barbers maintain a neat personal appearance at all times, and the highly successful ones are also effective salespeople. Those who plan to operate their own shops or salons also need good business skills.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), job employment for barbers is not expected to change dramatically throughout the upcoming decade. Job prospects will be strongest for hair care workers who cater to all segments of the population: men, women, teens, and aging baby boomers. Demand for more specialized forms of hair treatment is expected to drive more customers toward multi-service hair salons and fewer toward traditional barber shops.
Accompanying employment growth will be a healthy competitiveness for jobs and for clients, particularly in higher-end hair salons. Those seeking jobs in these types of settings can expect to face keen competition. There is a fair amount of turnaround in this profession, and jobs openings will regularly come about based on a need to replace retiring barbers or those who leave the workforce for other reasons. In general, opportunities will be strongest for job candidates who have previous experience in the field.
Barber Schools, Certification, and Licensing
Every state requires barbers to be licensed. In most states, licensure requires barbers to hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) and to successfully complete a state-licensed barbering or cosmetology program. Programs of varying duration and intensity can be found in many types of school. Full-time barbering programs typically last around nine months and often lead to an associate degree or certificate. Many professionals take advanced coursework in hairstyling in order to keep up with the latest trends. Some also take courses in sales and marketing.
After graduating from a state-approved training program, prospective barbers must take and pass a state licensing examination in order to obtain their license. In many states, cosmetology training can be used for credit toward a barbering license and vice versa. In some states, there is a single license which covers both professions. It is important for barbers wishing to work in a particular state to first review the laws and licensing regulations of that state before embarking on a training program or taking other steps to prepare for licensure.
- National Cosmetology Association
- National Association of Barber Boards of America
- National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences
- Hair News Magazine
- American Salon Magazine
Most barbers work in barber shops or hair salons. About half of them are self-employed, and many are owners of their shop or salon. Some others lease booth space or a chair from the shop owner. Barbers can also be found in day spas, resort spas, and nursing or other residential care homes. Although every city and town has barber shops and hair salons, employment of barbers tends to be concentrated in the most heavily populated areas.
Schools for Barbers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.