Barbers held about 50,200 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of barbers were as follows:
|Personal care services||25|
Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists held about 558,700 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists were as follows:
|Personal care services||47|
Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work mostly in barbershops or salons, although some work in spas, hotels, or resorts. Some lease booth space from a salon owner. Others manage salons or open their own shop after several years of gaining experience.
Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists usually work in pleasant surroundings with good lighting. Physical stamina is important because they are on their feet for most of their shift. Prolonged exposure to some chemicals may cause skin irritation, so they often wear protective clothing, such as disposable gloves or aprons.
Most barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are full time, although part-time work is common. Work schedules may vary and often include evenings and weekends—times when barbershops and beauty salons may be busiest. Those who are self-employed and operate their own barbershop or salon may have long workdays, but they usually determine their own schedules.
All states require barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists to be licensed. To qualify for a license, candidates typically must graduate from a state-approved barber or cosmetology program and pass an exam.
Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists usually must complete a state-approved barber or cosmetology program. Admission to these programs varies by state, with some requiring a high school diploma or equivalent. Programs typically involve a mix of classroom studies and hands-on training and lead to a certificate or other postsecondary nondegree award. Some states require health and safety training as part of these programs.
Workers may continue to take advanced courses in hairstyling or in other personal appearance services throughout their careers to keep up with the latest trends. Those who want to open their own business also may benefit from taking courses in sales and marketing.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists must obtain a license in order to work. Qualifications for a license vary by state. Generally, a person must meet state-specified minimum age requirements, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have graduated from a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school.
After completing a state-approved training program, graduates take a state licensing exam that includes a written test and, in some cases, a practical test of styling skills or an oral exam.
In many states, cosmetology training may be credited toward a barbering license or vice versa, and a few states combine the two licenses. A fee usually is required to apply for a license, and continuing education units (CEUs) may be required with periodic license renewals.
State reciprocity agreements may allow licensed barbers and cosmetologists to get a license in another state without needing additional formal training or state board testing. Contact your state licensing agency for details.
Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists typically have an interest in the Creating, Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a barber, hairdresser, and cosmetologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Creativity. Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists must keep up with the latest trends and be ready to try new hairstyles for their clients.
Customer-service skills. Workers must be pleasant, friendly, and able to interact with customers in order to retain clients.
Listening skills. Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists should be good listeners. They must listen carefully to what the client wants in order to make sure that the client is happy with the result.
Physical stamina. Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists must be able to stand on their feet for long periods.
Tidiness. Workers must keep a neat personal appearance and keep their work area clean and sanitary. This requirement is necessary for the health and safety of their clients, as well as to make the clients comfortable enough to want to return.
Time-management skills. Time-management skills are important in scheduling appointments and providing services. For example, routine haircuts do not require the precise timing of some other services, such as applying neutralizer after a permanent wave. Clients who receive timely hair care are more likely to return.
The median hourly wage for barbers was $14.41 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.79, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.60.
The median hourly wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists was $14.26 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.03, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.40.
In May 2021, the median hourly wages for barbers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Personal care services||$14.37|
In May 2021, the median hourly wages for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Personal care services||$14.26|
Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists may receive tips from customers. These tips are included in the wage data shown.
Most barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work full time, although part-time work is common. Work schedules may vary and often include evenings and weekends—times when beauty salons and barbershops may be busiest. Those who are self-employed and operate their own barbershop or salon may have long workdays, but they usually determine their own schedules.
Overall employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 93,800 openings for barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.
The need for barbers and hairdressers will stem primarily from population growth, leading to greater demand for basic hair care services. In addition, an increased demand for hair coloring, hair straightening, and other advanced hair treatments is expected to continue over the projections decade.
Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists continue to compete with providers of specialized services, such as nail and skin care. Consumers often choose manicurists and pedicurists and skincare specialists for these services, rather than to visit hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists for them. Still, employment is expected to grow to meet increased demand for personal appearance services.
For more information about barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists, including education programs and state licensing, visit
American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS)
National Association of Barber Boards of America (NABBA)
National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC)
For information about other professional links, visit
Professional Beauty Association (PBA)