how to become a barber or cosmetologist

Hair Career: How to Become a Barber or Cosmetologist

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People enroll in barber or beauty school with the end goal of getting a job. Unlike some post-secondary education options, an education in a trade school offers a clear path to a rewarding career. However, to become a barber or cosmetologist, it takes more than simply graduating school and passing state board exams. To build a successful hair career, start with an idea of what kind of salon or barbershop you want to work at, then learn how to get there.

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The process of becoming a barber or cosmetologist begins with finding the right school. While students from all schools have to take the same state board exam, their styles and techniques are shaped by the specific beauty or barbering school they learned from. Different schools offer different cultures. How do you research to find the school that is right for you? Ask yourself where you want to work in five years. Visualize yourself at that salon or barbershop. Then, stalk the Instagram profiles of the businesses you like, and find out which schools their barbers or cosmetologists graduated from. (Don’t be afraid to send a DM if you don’t see it in their bios!) Let your hair career goals guide your decision.

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Once enrolled, keep your future vision and goals in mind. In addition to maintaining good attendance and grades, you must actively prepare for life after licensure while in school. Spend some time researching your dream salons and barbershops to understand what they are looking for in employees, and aim to land a job before graduation.

Some schools hold events to help students find jobs. The Institute of Beauty and Wellness, Milwaukee, Wis., hosts barber and beauty career fairs each year to help students network with industry professionals. Career fairs are a great way to get your foot in the door of your dream salon or barbershop. Students should treat career fairs like job interviews. Research who will be there, and prepare to show your future employers why you should be hired.


Career fairs are also a great place to learn and ask questions about what the job is like. Asking questions not only allows you to learn about the business, but it also shows the recruiters that you are curious. Employers often seek out students who aren’t afraid to ask questions, and have a willingness to keep learning and growing.

“We look for somebody who wants to work and actually learn, and can take constructive criticism without getting offended,” Jose Lazo of Showtime Barbershop said at The Institute of Beauty and Wellness January career fair.

Ability to continually learn and grow was a common theme among the salon and barber recruiters we heard.

Now you know how to become a barber or a cosmetologist: start with a vision, go to school, then network and apply for jobs while in school. If you want to begin your hair career journey with us, read about our cosmetology program or barbering program online, or schedule a tour to learn more.

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