Barber, Hairstylist and Cosmetologist Career Description


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

What they do

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

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.

How to become a Barber, Hairstylist or Cosmetologist

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.

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.

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.


The median hourly wage for barbers was $14.50 in May 2019. 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 $9.76, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.23.

The median hourly wage for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists was $12.54 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.86, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $24.94.

Job Outlook

Employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to decline 1 percent from 2019 to 2029.

The need for barbers will stem primarily from an increasing population, which will lead to greater demand for basic hair care services. In addition, demand for hair coloring, hair straightening, and other advanced hair treatments has risen in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue over the coming decade.

Employment of hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists in the personal care services industry is expected to decrease. Because of specialization, consumers will continue to choose manicurists and pedicurists and skincare specialists for some services, rather than to visit hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists for them.

Similar Job Titles

Barber Stylist, Beautician, Cosmetologist, Hair Dresser, Hair Stylist, Hairdresser, Hairstylist, Manager Stylist, Master Cosmetologist, Stylist

Related Occupations

Dental Assistant, Manicurist and Pedicurist, Skincare Specialist, Fitness Trainer and Aerobics Instructor

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • Associated Hair Professionals - AHP’s primary purpose is to serve the needs of each member, providing you with the tools for success. AHP’s is focused on delivering excellent service and exploring ways to add value to your AHP membership. Great information for students interested in this field.
  • Professional Beauty Association - Members of this organization include stylists, makeup artists, manufacturers, distributors, freelancers, employees, salons, spas, suppliers, beauty schools, and students. Members all share a common passion and goal: to do the work they love—and to be the very best in the business, ‘elevating ourselves, each other, and our industry as we go’. Students, check out the virtual education
  • Salon Spa Professional Association - This non-profit is dedicated to serving the professional beauty industry. Licensed Cosmetologists, Aestheticians.  Nail Technicians, Eyelash Technicians, Salons, Spas and Schools.  This organization also welcomes students, educators, distributors and manufacturers.
  • Beauty Changes Lives - This organization is a non-profit driven to make the beauty profession a first-choice career. Students may be interested in the many scholarship
  • Look Good Feel Better - Look Good Feel Better is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and self-esteem of people undergoing cancer treatment. The program this organization offers is a non-medical, brand-neutral public service program that teaches beauty techniques to people with cancer to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.
  • Beauty Schools - This is a national non-profit association open to all privately owned schools of cosmetology arts and sciences. Our membership includes cosmetology, skin, nail, barbering, and massage schools.  Lots of helpful information for students can be found on this webpage of the website.

Magazines and Publications

Video Transcript

The people who cut, style, and color hair, and sell specialty beauty products are barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists. They creatively enhance each client’s appearance, and keep up with hairstyle trends. Hairstylists and barbers listen carefully to clients’ preferences, and make sure they are satisfied with their results, while finishing in time for their next appointment. Barbers usually serve male clients for shampoos, haircuts, and shaves. Some fit hairpieces and perform facials. Hairdressers, or hairstylists, provide coloring, chemical hair treatments, and styling in addition to shampoos and cuts, and serve both female and male clients. Cosmetologists perform scalp and facial treatments and conduct make-up analysis. While some barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists work in spas or hotels, most work in barbershops and salons. Some lease chair space from a salon owner, others open their own shops after gaining experience. These workers are on their feet for most of their shift, and often wear gloves or aprons when giving chemical hair treatments. Many work full time, including nights and weekends, however part-time positions are also common. Salon owners work long hours and manage employees… inventory… ordering and bookkeeping. Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists must complete a program in a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school and obtain licensure. Full-time programs in barbering and cosmetology usually last at least 9 months.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online