Barber License Requirements: What You Need to Know

When you sit in a barber's chair, you can rest assured that your high skin fade or mid-taper is in good hands. The person holding the scissors or clippers is a trained professional—every barber in the country, after all, has to earn and maintain a license to work.

If you decide you want to be the one holding the clippers, we're here to help you navigate the process of earning and maintaining your barber license.



sponsored content, school availability varies by location


sponsored content, school availability varies by location


sponsored content, school availability varies by location


sponsored content, school availability varies by location


sponsored content, school availability varies by location


sponsored content, school availability varies by location

What Are the Requirements to Become a Licensed Barber?

Generally, barbering licensure requirements include completing training through a state-approved barber school or apprenticeship and passing written and practical tests. Beyond that, states may set additional requirements. For example, some states require medical exam results or sexual assault or domestic violence awareness training.

The typical steps to become a licensed barber are:

  • Attend a barbering program or state-approved apprenticeship, if available, to complete training hours.
  • Pass required exams as designated by the state board.
  • Submit a license application and pay a license fee.

Barber Training Hour Requirements

Training hours represent the minimum hours you must spend in barber school. Your state determines how many you must complete before you qualify for licensure.

To ensure you're qualified to provide barbering services, the board needs proof that you've spent significant time learning the trade from qualified instructors in a recognized barbering program. Although the national average is around 1,500 training hours, this number can vary from state to state.

Some states offer an alternate route for getting your license: apprenticeship. In this scenario, you work with a professional barber who provides mentoring and on-the-job training. Apprenticeships often take about double the time of traditional schooling.

Find Specific Barber Licensing Requirements for Your State

Required Barber Exams

No matter where you live in the US, you must pass at least one comprehensive test proving your barbering knowledge and skills. Exam content can be created by your state board or a national exam organization like the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). In other cases, you might have to take the NIC test and a state-specific exam on a topic like relevant laws.

In most states, the exam consists of theory (written) and practical (hands-on) portions. The theory section tests your knowledge, and the practical portion tests your skills. Most states require licensing tests to include, at a minimum, the following subjects.

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Theory Exam: Scientific Concepts

For theory exams, expect to answer questions about scientific concepts such as:

  • Infection control and safety
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Skin and hair disorders
  • Chemicals used in barbering

The theory exam emphasizes equipment like:

  • Razors
  • Scissors and shears
  • Clippers
  • Blow dryers
  • Combs and brushes
  • Towels, drapes, and neck strips

The largest portion of the theory test focuses on haircare services and techniques, including:

  • Consultation
  • Haircare
  • Hair design
  • Shaping
  • Styling
  • Lightening
  • Coloring
  • Waving
  • Texturizing

Other exam topics could include facial hair and skincare services like:

  • Skin evaluation
  • Consultation
  • Draping
  • Shaving and shaving safety
  • Facial hair design
  • Electrotherapy and light therapy

For the practical or hands-on portion, barber candidates are expected to successfully perform the following on a mannequin or live model:

  • Work area and client prep
  • Hair cutting
  • Straight razor shaving
  • Basic facial
  • Blow dry styling
  • Thermal curling
  • Chemical waving
  • Hair lightening and hair color retouching
  • Chemical relaxing

Maintaining Your Barber License

Once you complete your program, pass your tests, and receive your license, you qualify to work as a barber in your state. However, there's still work to do: You must keep your license in good standing by renewing it periodically, usually with a state-determined fee. Your state may also require continuing education credits.

READ MORE: State barber license requirements and renewal

Continuing Education for Barbers

Trends, styles, equipment, techniques, tastes, and standards change over time. Even if continuing education isn't required for license renewal, finding ways to stay current to offer up-to-date services is a good idea.

There's no shortage of continuing education opportunities at barber schools, conventions, trade shows, and seminars.

Select a beauty program and state to view schools