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Published on March 1, 2011.
Explore a Growing--and Cutting--Career as a Barber

Whether we admit it or not, we are all concerned with our appearances. And with a job as a barber, you can play a vital role in keeping your customers looking their best.

Job Duties

Barbers do more than just cut and trim their customers' hair. They also offer advice on how their customers might best wear their hair based on facial features and other factors. Many barbers also perform scalp treatments and offer facial shaves. Most of a barber's customers are male, and a good barber can develop a loyal customer base that can provide steady work. Some barbers can suggest hair treatment for customers beginning to lose their hair and may even have the ability to work with a customer's hair piece.

In some states, barbers are permitted to work with hair dye or bleaches to highlight or color hair. Depending on your certifications, barbers in full-service shops may offer additional services such as shampooing, skin care or nail services.

A large percentage of barbers are self-employed, while others might work for national or regional companies that offer personal care services. Some barbers work at hotels, resorts, or health spas. Barbers normally work a 40-hour work week, but they may have evening and weekend work hours to accommodate their customer's schedules. Their work environment is usually clean and enjoyable.

Job Skills

Barbers work closely with their customers, so an outgoing, pleasant personality is beneficial. Barbers should enjoy working with their hands and have the ability to stand for long periods of time. Barbers should also keep up with the latest hair and styling trends and be aware of new products.

Barbers who are self-employed might find business and managerial skills helpful. They often handle the finances of their business and may manage employees if they have a large shop.


Your salary as a barber can vary depending on your employment situation. A barber who is self-employed might pay themselves after all other costs have been taken care of, and they may also receive tips. Barbers employed by a company might work for a base salary, but also receive a commission and tips. The size and location of the shop where you work may make a difference, and the number of regular customers can also affect the salary you receive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 the median annual salary for barbers was $24,050, and the top 10 percent made in excess of $40,580.

Training and Education

All states require that barbers be licensed by the state prior to working in the profession. Requirements vary by state, but most require a high school diploma or GED, and a written examination on barber skills. Some states also have an oral and a practical exam so that barbers can demonstrate they have adequate skills in the profession. Many states also require that the applicant have a certification from an approved state barber school.

Many vocational schools offer programs leading to certification in barbering skills. The programs may differ from school to school, but most are about 9 months in length.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 53,500 barbers were working in 2008. The personal appearance industry made up of barbers, hair stylists, cosmetologists, and similar occupations had about 822,000 employed in 2008.

Job Outlook

The barber career field is projected to expand about 12 percent over the next 10 years, which is considered about average. The personal appearance field is projected to expand about 20 percent, which is much more than most occupations. Much of the growth is projected to be due to population growth, and the retirement of people currently working in the field.

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