Approximately 20,130 barbers are employed in the United States. A barber's domain is almost exclusively the barbershop. While some barbers may find work in a full-service styling salon, most of these businesses are seeking stylists with broader training and experience. Many barbers are self-employed, either owning their own shops or renting a chair at a barbershop. In the days before beauty salons were so prevalent—and before men frequented them—nearly all men had their hair cut by barbers. Today, these men still comprise a significant portion of barbershops' clienteles, so opportunities for barbers may be better in areas with a higher concentration of older men. Some barbers are employed as teachers/trainers at barber schools, and some may also serve as inspectors for their state's board of barber examiners.
In most states, the best way (and often the only way) to enter the field of barbering is to graduate from a barber school that meets the state's requirements for licensing and to pass the state's licensing examination. Nearly all barber schools assist graduates with the process of finding employment opportunities. As barbershops are few in many areas, calling or visiting a barbershop is an excellent way to find employment. In some areas, there may be barbering unions which may be helpful in one's job search. While a part-time job in a barbershop or beauty shop can be helpful in determining one's level of interest in the field, satisfying the graduation requirements of an accredited barber school and becoming licensed is usually the only way to enter this occupation.
The most common form of advancement in the barbering profession is owning one's own shop. This requires business experience and skill as well as proficiency in the barbering profession, and of course start-up requires capital outlay. Those who are successful as owners do reap higher earnings than barbers who rent a booth in a shop or are paid on a commission basis. Some even go on to own a chain of barbershops. In larger barbershops, there may be opportunities for management, but these are relatively rare. The longer a barber is on the job, though, the larger the clientele (and thus the security and income) becomes.
Barbers can increase their opportunities for advancement by becoming licensed as cosmetologists and working in larger beauty shops that provide more complicated, varied, and advanced services. Opportunities for management or specializing in certain services are increasingly plentiful in full-service salons. Many states require a separate license for cosmetology, but often barbering training can be applied toward a cosmetology license. In a few states, the two licenses are combined into one hair styling license.
Related career opportunities may exist if a barber wishes to become an instructor at a barber school or an inspector for their state's board of barber examiners.
Tips for Entry
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Land an assistant job at a barber shop to learn about the field and make industry contacts.
Conduct information interviews with barbers and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.