State Requirements for Barbers

by William Carpenter; Updated September 26, 2017

In most states, to engage in the occupation of cutting, styling or dressing hair, you must obtain a master barber license from the appropriate state licensing board. Though detailed qualifications are set according to local law, master barber licensing requirements are similar from state to state. To qualify for a master barber license, you must either complete an approved course of study, or work as a barber's apprentice under the direct supervision of a licensed master barber. In some states, a single training option is mandated under law, while in other states you may choose one or the other. Additionally, most states require license applicants to pass a barber examination, which may include both written and practical components.

Barber School

In most states, you can prepare for master licensure by completing a barber program in a state-approved school of cosmetology, or a barber school. Such schools typically have minimal entry requirements; many do not even require a high school diploma. Though barber training regulations vary from state to state, barber programs commonly require 1,000 to 1,500 school hours to complete. To obtain a list of appropriate training programs in your area, contact your state’s barber licensing board.

Barber Apprenticeship

Alternatively, in some states you have the option of choosing to serve as a barber's apprentice. Barber apprenticeships provide on-the-job experience and instruction working in a barbershop under a licensed master barber. Typically, a barber apprenticeship requires 1 to 2 years of full-time work to complete. Additionally, your supervisor must verify that you have received the proper training and can competently perform in all required categories of barbering skills.

If this is an option in your state, the licensing board will likely be able to provide you information on state-approved apprenticeship opportunities in your area. Alternatively, visit the U.S. Labor Department website to view a state-by-state index of government apprenticeship information offices (see "Resources").

License Application

After obtaining the required pre-license training, you must complete and submit a master barber license application to your state’s licensing board. In most cases, licensing boards require documented proof of your training. If you graduated from a barber program, submit a copy of your graduation certificate. If you completed an apprenticeship, obtain written verification of your training from your supervising barber. In many cases, the license application also serves as an examination application. Typically, after verification of your training, an exam authorization notice will be mailed to you.

License Examination

The exam authorization notice includes instructions on exam scheduling procedures, rules and content. While some states only require a written examination, others also require you to pass a practical skills component. Refer to the authorization notice for details on the exam format in your state. After passing the license examination, a master barber license will be issued to you according to local procedure.

About the Author

William Carpenter began writing professionally in 2004, working with nongovernmental organizations and business clients while living in China. He maintains clients in China while writing for a variety of U.S. publications. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Portland State University.