If you have a passion for hair styling and grooming and the patience to help people achieve the looks they want, then a career as a professional barber may be perfect for you. There are also different routes to take to start along the path into this career.
Apprenticeships are the first step on the route to getting a job as a professional barber and can come in different forms. Most pair work in the store with formal education so that you move towards a qualification as a barber before taking on a part or full-time role where possible. Barbers are ideal for people aged 16-18 years although some companies will also offer them to older people looking to retrain into the industry.
Apprenticeships normally take 2-3 years to complete and will see that you have an NVQ or a similar qualification at the end of it. At first, don’t expect to be doing much actual barbering – your role will likely consist of sweeping floors, answering phones and helping out around the shop, maybe jobs like shampooing hair. The idea is to get experience from observing and learning from the experienced barbers.
You will then also attend college usually once a week. Here you will learn the basics of barbering as well as skills such as how to trim and shape facial, colouring hair, giving client consultations and cutting basics patterns into hair. You will also learn about hygiene issues and working with chemicals.
There are two levels of official apprenticeships available through the government scheme which you can apply to if you are 16-18 years old and not already in full-time education:
- Intermediate level – learn to be a junior barber
- Advanced level – learn to be a barber or a senior barber
If you have an unofficial apprenticeship, then you will tend to learn what the barber has to teach so make sure you sign up with someone that has the techniques and approaches you want to learn.
If you want to try and get qualified formally a little quicker and aren’t so worried about the hands-on experience to start with then further education may be the way to go. You can get a wide range of courses available at colleges that typically last 1-2 years. Classes run at different times too, so you can often study part-time alongside working, either in a barber shop or another job to bring in some income.
There are some considerations with formal training. Class sizes are usually around 20 at a time so there’s less 1-to-1 training than with an apprenticeship. Students practice on head blocks and only do 1-2 cuts a week, often sharing models. This can make it a little harder to gain your own skills and rhythms. There’s also a lot of emphasis on technical and theory without as much hands-on experience.
Private intensive courses
This is an option often used when you want to retrain to be a barber and need to do so quickly. These are offered through private academies and can take as little as two months to fully train a barber. But they are a lot more expensive than other options – some courses can cost around £4,000. Bear in mind, though, you will be qualified in a couple of months and can quickly start earning from your new qualification.
The London School of Barbering is one of the premier private academies in the UK and is considered one of the best places to learn formal barbering skills. Class sizes are much smaller, 6-10 students at time and training is done with experienced professional barbers. There is a good balance in technical and theory as well as practical skills that you will use on a daily basis.
Finding a barber job
Regardless of the option you use, you need to start looking for a barber job at some point in this career path. Dedicated barber job websites are now available where you can find all types of vacancies, see https://barberjobs.co.uk. These range from beginner’s apprenticeships through to roles for experienced barbers who are looking to make a change. This helps you get a feel for the kind of jobs available in your local area and what kind of work you can do when you are qualified.