How to Become a Professional Barber in California

How to Become a Professional Barber in California

If you’re looking for a career that allows you to work closely with people, build specialized skills, and work in a friendly environment, barbering may be the ideal career path for you.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for barbers will grow about 11% between 2021 and 2031, faster than the average for all jobs.[1]

How do you become a barber in California? What are the requirements to become a a licensed barber? In the state of California, barbers are licensed by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Barbering is slightly different than cosmetology, as it focuses more on the cutting, trimming, and shaving of men’s facial hair, beards, and mustaches, in addition to the cutting, styling, and grooming of men’s hair. Barbers use hair cutting shears, electric clippers, scissors, razors, and other styling implements.

How to Become a Licensed Barber in California

In all fifty states, including California, and the District of Columbia, you must have a barber or cosmetology license if you cut hair in exchange for money. There are specific steps you must take to become a professionally licensed barber in California.

1. Find a Board Approved Barber Program

The first step is finding a barber school that is approved by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Exploring the various barber schools in California can provide an insightful starting point for your journey into this profession, helping you to select a program that aligns perfectly with your career ambitions. There are many schools to consider, so you should research the quality of training you will receive. Will the program be taught by seasoned professionals who are experienced in helping clients and teaching curriculum? What is the reputation of the schools you are considering attending? What kind of quality will the barber training include? Will you learn everything you need to know to succeed in your hairstyling career? Remember you must be talented at hair cutting and barbering techniques, and also be good at managing your business and growing your repeat client list. A high-level barbering program will teach you all about hair styling and coloring, shaving, and facial hair trimming, as well as the business side of barbering.

2. Complete the Required Class Hours for Your Licensure Exam

In California, the first step to become a licensed barber is completing a training program of at least 1,000 hours. This is a little more than 7 months for a full-time enrollment. You may also complete these hours under an apprenticeship under a licensed barber.

For those wondering how to become a barber with no experience, the key lies in choosing the right training program that guides you from the basics to advanced barbering techniques.

The required 1,000 hours consists of technical instruction, practical hands-on training, shaving and facial hair trimming training, and health and safety. After the training program is completed, you must take a written exam, overseen by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and National Interstate Council of Board of Cosmetology (NIC). You cannot take the licensure exam before completing the required technical and practical training hours.

3. Take the Barber Licensure Exam and Pass

Effective January 1st, 2022 you need only pass the written exam to become a licensed barber. The practical exam is no longer required, per California Senate Bill 803 (SB 803). Once the exam is processed, you will be mailed your barber license. Students may sign up to take the barber licensure exam at a location of their choice.

The number of questions on the written exam are as follows:

Barber licensure exam: 85 scored questions, 10 pretest, 120 minutes to complete.

4. Maintain Your Barber License

California does not require further education to maintain your barber license. You will need to pay a renewal fee every two years, beginning in the first odd-numbered year after you earn your barber license. The licensure program is beneficial for customers and barbers alike. It helps ensure that barbers are qualified to cut hair professionally and follow health and safety guidelines. This certification gives consumers more confidence they are getting a quality haircut and/or shave when they go to their local barbershop. Achieving professionalism in barbering not only involves mastering cutting and styling but also understanding how to be a professional barber by learning about customer service and business management in the barbering industry.

How Much Does a Barber License Cost in California?

How much is a barber license? The cost for a barber license for 2024 in California includes a $125 application fee and a $110 licensing fee every two years for renewal. Additional costs may include the barbering training program and any test preparation materials.

Do You Need to Renew Your Barber License in California?

In the first odd-numbered year after getting your barber license, you must renew your license with the current renewal fee. Every two years thereafter, you must renew your license.

Do You Have to Take Additional Classes to Renew Your Barber License?

In California, there is no requirement for continuing education to renew your barber license. Once you earn your barbering license, you only need to pay the renewal fee very two years.

Though barbering and hair styling classes aren’t required after you become a licensed barber, attending hairstyling seminars and workshops can help you to improve your skills, expand your professional network, and keep up on current hair styling fashions.

Get Barber Training from Paul Mitchell the School at Campus, in Sacramento

Understanding how to become a barber in California is crucial, and it starts with fulfilling the state's licensing requirements, which are designed to prepare you for a successful career in this field. If your goal is to become a professional barber, and work in a barbershop or salon, or even open your own barbershop, Campus can help you reach that goal. We have a world-class barber training program at our Sacramento campus. To learn more about the Paul Mitchell the School at Campus training program, or ask questions about financial aid, contact our Admissions team today to schedule a virtual tour.

[1] Note: The data provided above are from a source unaffiliated with Campus, formerly known as MTI College, are for informational purposes only and represent the employment field as a whole. They are not solely specific to Campus graduates and, by providing the above information, Campus makes no representation, direct or implied, or opinion regarding employability.