How to become a Barber – What training is available?




So you want to learn how to become a barber? If you’ve spent any time at all on social media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube over the last few years, you will be aware that the barbering industry has exploded.

Not only with the emergence of men’s grooming products and the advent, due to the Covid19 pandemic, of the home haircut, a lot of people now fancy the idea of becoming a barber.

But many of these people doing the home cuts have realised that there is more to being a barber than buying a set of clippers from Amazon.

And with the popularity of the skin fade, the beard sculptures, and the different styles, that men now have, there has never been a better time to become a barber.

apprenticeship in hairdressing

Not only that but barbering is an extremely rewarding career, not only from a financial point of view but from a creative one too. And speaking as a barbershop owner, there is a serious lack of good quality barbers on the market at the moment.

But how do you learn to be a barber? There are a couple of different paths you can take, but the most important thing you need is a want and a desire. Because many barbers who have been in the industry for a while will tell you that it becomes a way of life and without that hunger and drive to be the best you can be, it may feel like an uphill struggle. And it really only down to one person if you succeed or not….and that person is you.

So how do I become a barber?

Here we will look at a couple of ways for you to become a barber:-

A Barbering Apprenticeship – Getting an NVQ

If you were to take an apprenticeship in barbering you are looking at a period of 2 to 3 years. And at the time of writing, you need 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent.

This is the typical route for people around the age of 16-18 and your first task is to find a barbershop that is willing to take you on before you can apply to a suitable college.

What can you expect from a barbering apprenticeship?

Firstly, you won’t be picking up a pair of scissors anytime soon. You are likely to spend the first six months making tea, sweeping floors, and answering the phone.

This may seem counter-productive to your ambitions to become the next big thing in the barbering world but it is actually a crucial time. You need to spend this time watching and learning. This is why it is critical to be in a good, busy, successful barbershop.

TOP TIP It’s a good idea to offer your help free of charge before you even approach the subject of an apprenticeship, so you can assess the standard of the shop and its staff.  

Once on an apprenticeship, your actual training to cut hair will take place once a week at the college which will guide you towards an NVQ Level 2 in barbering.

And bear in mind it could be a good six months before the shop let you loose on any paying customers. So you will hear the phrase ‘stick the kettle on’ or ‘put the brush round’ a lot more often than ‘skin fade please’ in those early months.

how to become a barber

When you have completed your apprenticeship you will be able to shampoo and condition hair to a professional standard, cut hair using various barbering techniques and perform shave services to a safe and high standard.

And just as importantly, you will be able to demonstrate a level of professionalism and safe working practice that paying customers will not only notice but will also value.

What does a barbering apprentice earn?

Technically you are classed as an employee of the barbershop and so entitled to be paid a wage. This means that you earn as you learn and although apprenticeship wages are not great, you won’t be racking up a great big student debt at the end of your training.

This wage is governed by the National Minimum Wage, but this can often be supplemented by the tips you may receive in the barbershop, or from your family and friends as you practice your newfound skills on them.

  • It’s essentially free training on the job.
  • You gain a recognized NVQ qualification at the end of it.
  • You will have a good grounding in the technicalities of barbering.
  • You get to watch good barbers at work every day and ask a lot of questions.
  • You will spend a lot of time doing, what you may consider, non related stuff
  • You may become frustrated at how long the process takes.
  • The wages are very low.


The best thing about this route is that you will get a real sense and feel of a barbershop environment and how it works on a day-to-day basis. There is also very little cost for you other than your time and energy.

A Private Academy Course – Fast track your way to success

A hotly debated topic on many of the barber forums is the subject of privately run barbering courses. These tend to be offered by barbershops or various academies and not only vary in length but also in the quality of the training too.

Some tend to be a little on the expensive side as well. This is why it is crucial for you to do your due diligence and check out what is on offer and what you will learn.

How long do these barbering courses run for?

A quick search on the internet and you will see there are many of these private academy-type courses tailored for beginners as well as some stand-alone, clipper, fading, and shaving courses as well.

Some of the fast-track courses can be anything from 6 to 8 weeks long, while the NVQ qualification type courses tend to be around the 12 weeks duration.

How much are private barbering courses?

The cost of some of these courses can seem a little high, but you must bear in mind that, generally, you are investing your money in the highest standard of training. As opposed to the day release of the apprentice route, you tend to have smaller class sizes, more skillful trainers, and a much more individually based approach to the training.

how to become a barber

And like any venture where you are paying out a large amount of money, you should check out the course completely before you send them any money.

You should only be looking at training schools which specialise only in barbering. Get the details of the trainers and check them out on the internet to make sure they have a barbering history behind them.

How do I know if the Academy is any good?

Ask lots of questions. When you start your enquires, have a list of questions to ask. Any worthwhile training school should, if you request it, supply you with a few names of past students, so with the beauty of Facebook, you can contact them to find out about their training experience with the school.

Another thing to bear in mind is that some academies don’t supply models for you to practice on. If this is the case you may want to avoid them. Otherwise, you will be roaming the streets trying to find willing participants.

Another thing to enquire about when approaching various academies is to ask if they can supply you with any contacts in the industry, which will help you get your foot on the ladder once you complete the course.

The pitfalls of Academy-type training.

Many people in the industry have a hard time accepting academy-trained barbers into the profession. And I think that this problem is perpetuated by both sides.

On one hand, a barber who has been learning his craft for many years, finds it difficult to accept that someone can learn to cut hair to a decent standard in such a short period of time.

And on the other side is the person who after completing a 12-week course demands £150 per day to grace your shop with his overinflated ego and his godlike presence.

being a barber

Speaking as someone who’s been barbering for over 40 years, I can see both sides of the discussion.

Some people when they leave these training facilities can’t wait to get their Instagram followers up into the thousands and quickly realize that having thousands of people liking their airbrushed creations doesn’t pay the bills.

Although some are natural barbers (if there is such a thing) many are not and quickly get discouraged if their profile is not in Barber Evo or Modern Barber within a few months.

Plus the average customer doesn’t care about your followers, all he cares about is that you pay him the attention he deserves and he leaves the shop happy.

But also, on the other hand, the training at some of these academies is amazing, and with the excellent training available a barber can often get years of training condensed into a few short months. And there is also a thing called natural talent. I’ve seen some barbers who have been cutting only for a few years, turning out some incredible creations.

  • Smaller class sizes means more one to one training opportunities
  • You will gain more experience in cutting techniques in a much shorter time.
  • Highly skilled trainers who are solely focused on barbering
  • Some barbershop owners look down on academy trained students. Especially the fast tracked ones


If you can afford to pay for academy training, it is a great fast way to get into the trade. Just bear in mind that your real training, will be the customer-based type and this can only be learned from the day-to-day working of barbershop

Remember to become a good barber takes time

If you were to choose this as your career, you will have a job for life. But remember becoming a consistently good barber takes time. As you gain more experience your speed will increase as will your confidence, as well as your reputation.

Never stop learning and as I’ve often found you can learn something even off of the worse barbers (normally what NOT to do).

How much can a barber earn in the UK?

This is impossible to answer as it will be determined by your level of skill, your ambition, and your business sense. If you go on to own your own shop, the sky’s the limit. There are so many opportunities out there that were not around when I started. Developing your own product brand, your own YouTube channel, to owning a shop with 10 chairs working flat out every day, the list is endless.

being a barber

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, how to become a barber. I hope this gives you some idea of how to start in this profession and if you do I hope you enjoy it as much as I have for over 35 years.

Now if you do decide to become a barber, remember this. Every day will be different, and every day will be challenging, but every day you will be so glad you took that first step and became a barber.

Further Information

To find out more about Apprenticeships click HERE

The Great British barbering Academy Click HERE

The Wahl Academy Courses Click HERE

The Total Barber Academy Click HERE

About the author

Latest posts