You need a Missouri tattoo license to become a tattoo artist or to open a tattoo parlor. Tattoos, body piercing and branding all fall under the jurisdiction of Missouri's Office of Tattooing, Body Piercing and Branding. There are several paths to acquiring a state tattoo license.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You can become a tattooist in Missouri by apprenticing yourself to a licensed tattoo artist, putting in 300 hours of work and training and at least 50 procedures. Alternative paths include attending tattoo school, a statement from a former supervisor or having a license from another state.
The Missouri Tattoo License
You can't legally work as a tattoo artist or open a tattoo studio until you acquire a Missouri tattoo license. The Missouri Office of Tattooing, Body Piercing and Branding says there are four paths to qualifying for a license:
- Apprenticeship to a more experienced tattooist
- Supervisor's statement
- Completing a course of study
In all four categories, you must also complete a first-aid and CPR course and provide proof with the application. You must also complete a bloodborne pathogen training program that includes infectious disease control, waste disposal, hand-washing techniques and use of sterilization equipment. Although there's no minimum legal age to get a tattoo in Missouri, minors cannot work as tattoo artists.
Currently, the cost of your license is $100 or $120 if you also want to be licensed in body piercing and body branding. Microblading, which can etch fuller eyebrows onto your face with permanent ink, is not currently regulated by the department.
To earn your Missouri tattoo license through apprenticeship, a licensed tattooist must take you under his wing. Your mentor must register you as his apprentice within 10 days of the start of your training. You can apply for a license when you've completed 300 hours of work and at least 50 procedures.
Your trainer must have a Missouri tattoo license himself or be licensed in a state with roughly similar licensing standards.
If you've worked at least three years as a tattooist in the past seven years, you can submit a supervisor's statement or other evidence proving your experience. Alternative evidence could include tax returns stating your occupational status.
Study and Reciprocity
To qualify through a course of study, you need at least 300 hours of instruction or training. That has to include classes in sanitation, equipment handling, disease control, skin treatment, tattoo design and artistry and clinical practice. You must submit your transcript along with proof that you've had practical experience in at least 25 completed procedures.
You don't need to attend tattoo school in Missouri; tattoo classes in NYC or tattoo school in Atlanta, for example, will work just as well if it's a school licensed or accredited by any state or the federal government.
The final path is reciprocity. If you're licensed in another state with equivalent requirements, you can present the office of tattooing with a copy of your license and a verification letter.
Application Red Flags
The application for a Missouri tattoo license includes several questions to which the state prefers you answer "no". If you answer "yes," you'll have to provide an acceptable explanation if you want your license. Among the questions are:
- Have you ever been denied a professional license or certification?
- Has your license or certification been revoked, suspended, placed on probation or voluntarily surrendered under the threat of disciplinary action?
- Are you currently under investigation about a professional license or certification?
- Is there a pending disciplinary action about your license?
- Have you pled guilty or been found guilty of breaking any state or federal law?
- Have you been disciplined for unprofessional conduct?
- Do you have a medical condition that limits your ability to work as a tattooist?
- Are you in drug or alcohol rehab or have you been in the past five years?
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes: Licensing Required, When
- Missouri Division of Professional Registration: Instructions for Filing an Application as Tattooist/Body Piercer and/or Brander
- Harper's Bazaar: What Is Microblading?
- Missouri Division of Professional Registration: Memorandum Re: Apprenticeships
- Missouri Division of Professional Registration: Microblading Regulation Disclaimer
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com