Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists provide haircutting, hairstyling, and a range of other beauty services.

Duties

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists typically do the following:

  • Inspect and analyze hair, skin, and scalp to recommend treatment
  • Discuss hairstyle options
  • Wash, color, lighten, and condition hair
  • Chemically change hair textures
  • Cut, dry, and style hair
  • Receive payments from clients
  • Clean and disinfect all tools and work areas

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists provide hair and beauty services to enhance clients’ appearance. Those who operate their own barbershop or salon have managerial duties that may include hiring, supervising, and firing workers, as well as keeping business and inventory records, ordering supplies, and arranging for advertising.

Barbers cut, trim, shampoo, and style hair, mostly for male clients. They also may fit hairpieces, perform facials, and offer facial shaving. Depending on the state in which they work, some barbers are licensed to color, bleach, and highlight hair and to offer permanent-wave services. Common tools include combs, scissors, straight razors, and clippers.

Hairstylists offer a wide range of hair services, such as shampooing, cutting, coloring, and styling. They often advise clients, both male and female, on how to care for their hair at home. Hairstylists also keep records of products and services provided to clients, such as hair color, shampoo, conditioner, and hair treatment used. Tools include hairbrushes, scissors, blow dryers, and curling and flat irons.

Cosmetologists provide scalp and facial treatments and makeup analysis. Some also clean and style wigs and hairpieces. In addition, most cosmetologists actively recommend professional hair care products or salon hair care products.

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Work Environment

Barbers held about 82,300 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of barbers were as follows:

Self-employed workers                                         75%
Personal care services 24

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists held about 683,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists were as follows:

Personal care services 47%
Self-employed workers                                         44
Retail trade 7

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work mostly in a barbershop or salon, although some work in a spa, hotel, or resort. Some lease booth space from a salon owner. Some manage salons or open their own shop after several years of 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.

Work Schedules

Many barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work full time; however, part-time positions are also common. Those who run their own barbershop or salon may have long workdays. Work schedules often include evenings and weekends―the times when barbershops and beauty salons are busiest. Those who are self-employed usually determine their own schedules.

Education and Training

All states require barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists to be licensed. To qualify for a license, candidates are required to graduate from a state-approved cosmetology program.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for some positions. In addition, every state requires that barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists complete a program in a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school. These programs are mainly found in postsecondary vocational schools and typically lead to a postsecondary nondegree award or certificate. Most of these workers take advanced courses in hairstyling or in other personal appearance services to keep up with the latest trends. Those who want to open their own business also may take 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, but generally, a person must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Reached a minimum age of 16
  • Received a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Graduated from a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school

After graduating from a state-approved training program, students 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 and 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.

Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow licensed barbers and cosmetologists to get a license in another state without needing additional formal training or state board testing, but such agreements are not common. Consequently, people who want to work in a particular state should review the laws of that state before entering a training program.

Personality and Interests

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.

Pay

The median hourly wage for barbers was $14.50 in May 2019. 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 $9.76, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.23.

The median hourly wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists was $12.54 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.86, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $24.94.

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for barbers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Personal care services                                         $14.44

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Personal care services                                         $13.08
Retail trade 10.37

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists may receive tips from customers. High quality work and customer service usually contribute to greater tip totals.

Many barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work full time; however, part-time positions are also common. Those who run their own barbershop or salon may have long workdays. Work schedules often include evenings and weekends―the times when beauty salons and barbershops are busiest. Those who are self-employed usually determine their own schedules.

Job Outlook

Employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. The need for barbers will stem primarily from an increasing population, which will lead to greater demand for basic hair care services. In addition, demand for hair coloring, hair straightening, and other advanced hair treatments has risen in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue over the coming decade.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities are expected to be good. A large number of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the occupation for other reasons. However, workers should expect strong competition for jobs and clients at higher paying salons, of which there are relatively few and for which applicants must compete with a large pool of experienced hairstylists and cosmetologists.

For More Information

For more information about barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists, including education and training, visit

American Association of Cosmetology Schools

Beauty Schools Directory

National Association of Barber Boards of America

For information about state licensing, practice exams, and other professional links, visit

National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology

Professional Beauty Association

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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