Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists provide haircutting, hairstyling, and a range of other beauty services.

Work Environment: Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists work mostly in a barbershop or salon. Physical stamina is important, because they are on their feet for most of their shift. Many work full time, but part-time positions are also common.

How to Become One: All states require barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists to be licensed. To qualify for a license, candidates are required to graduate from a state-approved barber or cosmetology program and then pass a state exam for licensure.

Salary: The median hourly wage for barbers is $14.41. The median hourly wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is $14.26.

Job Outlook: Employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 19 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a barber, hairstylist, or cosmetologist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Barber and Cosmetologist Jobs

  • Barber, Cosmetologist, Hairstylist - Studio 17 salon and barbering - Parkersburg, WV

    Looking for a talented Barber , Cosmetologist or Hairstylist. Must have wv license or in process of getting wv license. Make your own hours, be your own boss!

  • Barber / Cosmetologist - Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop - Gilbert, AZ

    Trained & certified Barber or Cosmetologist * Great customer service skills can you go above and beyond for every guest, every time * Enjoys working in a fast-paced environment * Knowledgeable and up ...

  • Barber - Cosmetologist - V's Barbershop - Campbell - Campbell, CA

    We are looking for experienced cosmetologists and barbers skilled at cutting men's hair. Work in a fast-paced, busy, dynamic environment with elite clientele who tip well. Guaranteed base wage plus ...

See all Barber and Cosmetologist jobs

What Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

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.

Work Environment for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists[About this section] [To Top]

Barbers hold about 53,000 jobs. The largest employers of barbers are as follows:

Self-employed workers 69%
Personal care services 30%

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists hold about 569,600 jobs. The largest employers of hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are as follows:

Personal care services 46%
Self-employed workers 43%
Department stores 10%

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.

Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologist 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 hours. 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.

How to Become a Barber, Hairstylist, or Cosmetologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists near you!

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 for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

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 for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

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.

Important Qualities for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

Creativity. Barbers, hairstylists, 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, hairstylists, 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, hairstylists, 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 and for making clients comfortable enough so that they will want to return.

Time-management skills. Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists need to manage their time efficiently when 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.

Barber, Hairstylist, and Cosmetologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for barbers is $14.41. 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 $10.79, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.60.

The median hourly wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is $14.26. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.03, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.40.

The median hourly wages for barbers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Personal care services $14.37

The median hourly wages for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Personal care services $14.26
Retail trade $14.16

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 additional hours. 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 for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 19 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 85,300 openings for barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment of Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists

Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.

The need for barbers and hairdressers will stem primarily from population growth, leading to greater demand for basic hair care services. In addition, an increased demand for hair coloring, hair straightening, and other advanced hair treatments is expected to continue over the projections decade.

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists continue to compete with providers of specialized services, such as nail and skin care. Consumers often choose manicurists and pedicurists and skincare specialists for these services, rather than to visit hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists for them. Still, employment is expected to grow to meet increased demand for personal appearance services.

Employment projections data for Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, 2020-30
Occupational Title Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30
Percent Numeric
Barbers, hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists 622,700 742,400 19 119,800
  Barbers 53,000 62,300 18 9,300
  Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists 569,600 680,100 19 110,500


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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