If you want to become a professional hairdresser, you'll have a choice between becoming a barber or becoming a cosmetologist. Both barbers and cosmetologists must complete an educational course and pass a state exam in order to receive their license to work professionally in the state. States vary in their educational requirements between the two professions, but barbers typically require slightly less training hours before they can take the state exam.
Both licenses will allow you to cut, style and apply chemical treatments (such as dye) to hair, so either is an appropriate choice for someone who wants to become a full-time hairdresser. However, which is the best option? Below, you'll find information about the differences between barber training and cosmetologist training, allowing you to choose the best route to start your hairdressing career.
Like with training requirements, states vary slightly in what services barbers and cosmetologists are allowed to legally provide. However, a general guideline is that only barbers are allowed to shave clients using a straight razor, and only cosmetologists are allowed to apply makeup and perform manicures and pedicures. Both are allowed to cut hair and perform chemical treatments such as bleaching and coloring.
For someone working as a full-time hairdresser, a barber license offers an edge over a cosmetologist license. If you never plan to give manicures or pedicures to clients in your professional career, then the extra services that a cosmetologist license allows you to perform are superfluous. However, the ability to shave clients and manicure their facial hair is a definite plus for hairdressers with male clients, as you can offer them additional services.
Barber training and cosmetology training share a significant amount of curriculum. Education in cleanliness standards, workplace safety and identifying common communicable diseases in clients (such as lice) are the same for both barbers and cosmetologists.
Much of the material related to hairdressing, like styles and techniques, will also be shared, although cosmetology training will focus more on clients with longer hair compared to barber school. Both barbers and cosmetologists will learn the science of correctly and safely coloring hair as part of training, as this is a service that's commonly requested by both male and female clients.
From there, the courses begin to differ. Barbers learn how to shave clients, whereas cosmetologists learn how to apply makeup and beauty products along with performing manicures and pedicures.
The most important difference between barber training and cosmetologist training, however, isn't in the curriculum. It's in the hands-on training from instructors that you will receive during the course of your education.
Both barber schools and cosmetology schools offer low-cost services to clients as a method of training their students. Students cut hair under the guidance of a school instructor in order to apply techniques they've learned in the classroom. This instruction is vital for learning the skills to prove to potential employers that you can work as a hairdresser.
This is where the biggest difference between cosmetology training and barber training rests: the clients you see are two very different groups of people. The clients you'll get hands-on experience with at a cosmetology school will be mostly women, whereas the clients at a barber school will be nearly all men.
In practical terms, you'll work mostly with longer hair at a cosmetology school, and you're also more likely to gain experience coloring hair. At the same time, however, you'll also have to spend some of your hands-on training on makeup and nails, which takes away from time you could be using to learn to cut hair. At a barber school, you'll spend mostly all of your hands-on learning time cutting shorter hair. You'll have extensive experience cutting short hair, but you may need to practice on friends and family in order to feel comfortable working with clients who have longer hair.
For someone who plans to become a full-time hairdresser, which choice is best? Surprisingly, barber training is often a better choice when you have no interest in makeup or nails—it allows you to give clients a shave after you cut their hair, which increases the number of services that you can provide. In either case, you'll be free to cut and color hair with either license, and can find employment in both barber shops and salons.
If you're interested in a full-time career as a hairdresser, look for barber training programs offered by insitutions like Deluxe Barber College. As an added bonus, you're often able to complete a barber training program more quickly than a cosmetology program, allowing you to enter the workforce faster.