Let’s say you’re a soldier who has been injured in battle. You go to see your barber and ask for a short back and sides, with a little off the top, and hey, while you’re there, you might as well have your damaged arm amputated.
Barbers already had the necessary equipment for slicing off various injured and unsavable body parts, so once upon a time, they doubled as surgeons.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case anymore. Your training to become a barber isn’t going to involve finding out the best way to cut off a leg with advanced gangrene. However, there’s still a lot to learn. The question is, how long it takes you to learn the tricks of the trade and qualify as a barber?
On average, your journey to becoming a qualified barber can take a school year (if you study full time) to two years (if you study part-time or become an apprentice).
Of course, you still must pass the state exam at the end of your studies or apprenticeship, and then your career awaits you. And at least your customers will only want their hair or beard trimmed, and you won’t have to slice off a damaged hand or foot.
Assume a Commitment of 1,500 Hours
As a general rule, it’s going to take around 1,500 hours of classes to qualify as a barber. Some states require fewer hours of classwork to become certified, while some require a little more.
Related read: How Long Does it Take to Become an Esthetician?
At the end of the day, make sure you don’t make corners when you want to cut hair. This is why, in a way, just how long it takes to complete those hours depends on you.
Full-Time or Part-Time Study
Sometimes life gets in the way of your study plans, and this can happen no matter what you study.
You might have family commitments, and you might need to work (in addition to your studies) to support yourself. So, the time takes to complete 1,500 hours of training depends on whether you can commit to full-time or part-time.
Allow for One School Year of Full-Time Study
You can complete your hours in the course of one school year, which works out to be nine or ten months, and the exact length will vary depending on the teaching schedule of the school you’ve chosen, as well as their vacations.
Related read: How Much Does Cosmetology School Cost?
Part-time will draw the process out, and you might need to complete your training over two years or even longer.
Training on the Job
When you can’t commit to full-time study and wish you could just start work as a barber (and start earning), you can explore the possibility of an apprenticeship. This is also good if you want to be a barber, but do not within a formal education system. So how does this work?
Earn While You Learn
Some states (such as New York) offer the ability to become certified as a barber while apprenticing under an authorized and experienced barber, meaning your training will be mostly practice instead of mostly theory.
Related read: Is Being a Cosmetologist Worth It?
A typical apprenticeship takes two years to complete, and you can earn an income (which is likely to be minimum wage) while you train. There are a few things to remember:
- You must still pass the licensing test in your state to work as a barber after your apprenticeship. Some independent learning might be needed to achieve this, in addition to what you’ve learned on the job.
- There is no guarantee of a job at the barbershop where you apprenticed.
- Some barbershops might only accept one apprentice at a time, meaning there can be a waiting period, or that you might not be able to work at your first choice of barbershops.
This option isn’t for everyone who wants to become a barber, but it might be the best if you can’t afford traditional tuition and need to earn while you learn.
Barber Licenses Are Not Always Transferable When You Move
Each state licenses and regulates barbers, and you can find that your application for a license will be declined if your training doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for that state. A barber’s license isn’t transferable; you will need to reapply when you move to a new state.
Some states have a reciprocal arrangement when their training and licensing is similar, which makes it easier if this arrangement exists between the state where you qualified, and the state you plan to move to.
You Might No Longer Be Qualified When You Move
But what about when that arrangement doesn’t exist? Let’s say you qualified in New Hampshire and then moved to California. Your 800 hours of training are not enough to be licensed as a barber, where 1,500 hours is the minimum.
Related read: Can a cosmetologist become a barber?
It’s often not convenient (or maybe not even possible) for you to go back to school for another 700 hours of coursework, so if you want your training to be adaptable, it’s better to go above and beyond the minimum number of hours, if you train in a state at the lower end of the required hours scale.
Additional Training and Obligations for License Renewal
You’ve completed those 1,500 hours of training, been granted a license, and found work as a barber (yay! congratulations!).
If you have completed your training but haven’t taken your exam yet, here is our free cosmetology practice test to help you find out if you are ready. Or better yet, check out our cosmetology exam prep kit to help you prepare!
This might not mean that your training is over, though. Luckily, any ongoing training requirements for your license renewal aren’t going to take up too much of your time. It really depends on the state that has issued your license, and sometimes any additional training is totally optional.
For example, Florida requires the mandatory completion of a training unit about HIV/AIDS for the renewal of your license, which deals with infection control procedures for working with customers who might be affected by HIV/AIDS.
A training unit like this will take a few hours to complete, so these requirements aren’t exactly a huge commitment.
You will be informed of any ongoing training units needed for the renewal of your barber’s license in your state, so it’s really important that the contact details you’ve given to your state licensure are kept current, otherwise, you can potentially jeopardize your ability to renew your license.
Some states might decline to renew your license if you have any outstanding legal fines in your state (including unpaid child support), so make sure that all your financial and legal obligations are kept up to date.