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Ah, the barber shop. Most everyone in North America recognizes the barber's swirling, candy-cane striped post as an invitation for a shave, a hair cut, and a good old-fashioned chat. Barbers are one of North America's best loved traditions, known as the hairstylists of men and boys. Barbershops are traditionally family operations, often having a few generations of men at work side by side, trimming mustaches, shaving beards, and keeping crewcuts nice and short.

The role of the barber has changed over the past few years. While they still use straight razors to get a clean shave, barbers are now open to cutting women's hair, and provide styling instead of just simple cuts to all their clients. Barbering isn't limited to family members, and they're no longer exclusively men - women are now training to work as barbers, too.

Along with shampooing, cutting, and shaving, barbers give advice on products, hair treatment, and scalp care. They consult with each customer to discuss the desired change. And a good barber listens, gives unobtrusive advice, and follows orders as much as possible. It is the rare customer who tells the barber, "I don't care what you do. Do whatever you want." Usually a customer has a set idea, and it is up to the barber to get the cut as close to that vision as possible - even if the barber disagrees with the decision.

Barbers often act as confidants and friends. The relationship that develops between the barber and the customer can be intimate, as the client feels relaxed and safe under the barber's capable hands. Therefore, barbers must be sure they are patient, gentle, and talkative people, who are excellent listeners when necessary.

Barbers must be professional, creative, and dedicated workers. They have a lot of stamina, and good attention spans. They know that each haircut is as important as the last, and do their best to leave their clients satisfied, relaxed, and ultimately, happy.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Successful barbers are creative, confident, and artistically inclined. As well, they are interested in hair trends. Aspiring barbers need to be comfortable with people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. They should be a skilled listener, as well as a good communicator, and should enjoy meeting people, working closely with them, and helping them achieve the hairstyle they want. Barbers should be able to follow instructions and be respectful, patient, and detail-oriented. They need to be well-groomed, polite, punctual, and trustworthy and may require some management skills.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Discuss cut and style options with clients
  • Wash, cut, and dry hair and trim or shave beards
  • Sell products
  • Advise on hair treatments
  • Maintain cleanliness of work area, including equipment
  • Color and perm hair
  • Tend to administrative duties
  • Order supplies
  • The typical day for a barber involves a lot of hair. Washing, cutting, dyeing, and drying... A barber's tasks do depend, however, on the size of the barber shop. In larger barber shops, the barber may be involved only in the cutting and styling, while assistants take care of shampooing. Each day involves some chit-chat, making small talk with clients, as well as engaging in more in-depth discussions. Barbers meet many people everyday, from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. It is not a job that allows for much travel, unless they work as a house-call barber, which takes them all over their community.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Barbers work in film and television studios; upscale barber shops; discount chain shops; family owned barber shops; and independently, traveling to private residences, hospitals, and retirement centers. They work indoors, standing for hours on end. The atmosphere can be hectic, loud, and smell of chemicals. They generally work long days, including evenings and weekends, as they must work around their clients. They work alone, but usually alongside other beauty specialists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Barbers can open up a barber shop, concentrate on hairstyling and color, or start up a private home hair care business. They can enter the film and television industry. They can branch into cosmetology, train as an esthetician, get into product sales, or begin instructing at hairdressing and barber schools.

  Educational Paths  
There are a few routes to take in order to become a barber. First, it's a good idea to finish high school. While it's not mandatory, a high school diploma certainly helps with promotions and management positions in the long run.

The next step is to choose to either enter an apprenticeship training program (this lasts about two years, and involves both in-class and on-the-job training with a mentoring barber) or you can complete a two- to three-year college or private school training program, which may or may not include on-the-job training. Either route will work, as long as at the end of the training, you are able to pass a licensing exam.

The advantage to the apprenticing route is the schools which are affiliated with the programs and provide opportunities in different ways to the students. If you choose to attend a private college, make sure you check out its credentials before you hand over your tuition money.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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