Barbers shampoo, cut or trim, and style hair - mostly for men. Also, they shave customers, fit hairpieces and offer scalp treatments and facial massages. Some barbers also colour, bleach or highlight hair and offer permanent-wave services. A few barbers also provide skin care and nail treatments.

They may advise clients on how to care for their hair, straighten hair, give it a permanent wave or lighten or darken the hair colour.

In addition to their work with clients, barbers are expected to maintain clean work areas and sanitise all work implements. They may make appointments and keep records of hair colour and permanent wave formulas used by their regular clients.

A growing number actively sell hair products and other cosmetic supplies. Barbers who operate their own salons have managerial duties that include hiring, supervising and firing workers, as well as keeping business and inventory records, ordering supplies and arranging for advertising.

Experienced barbers may take advanced courses in hairstyling, colouring, and the sale and service of hairpieces. For many barbers, formal training and a license are only the first steps in a career that requires years of continuing education. Because hairstyles change, new products are developed, and services expand to meet clients’ needs, barber need to keep abreast of the latest fashions and techniques.

Barbers usually work in clean, pleasant surroundings with good lighting and ventilation. Good health and stamina are important, because they are on their feet for most of their working day. Because prolonged exposure to some hair and nail chemicals may cause irritation, special care is taken to use protective clothing, such as plastic gloves or aprons when working with these substances.

Most full-time barbers work a 40-hour week, but longer hours are common in this occupation, especially amongst self-employed workers. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends, the times when barbershops can be busiest. Many barbers are self-employed, having their own barbershops, although many now lease booth space or a chair from a big salon or barbershop owner.

Personal Requirements

  • tactful, courteous, patient and even-tempered
  • enjoy working with the public
  • good “people skills”
  • willing and able to follow clients’ instructions
  • business skills, especially if self-employed
  • neat, well-groomed appearance
  • manual dexterity and good eye-hand coordination
  • good health and stamina

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 10 Certificate, however, most employers prefer higher school qualifications

What to Study

Courses in Hair Care are offered at various TVET Colleges (Technical Vocational Education and Training): KZN Coastal, Port Elizabeth, Flavius Mareka, Northlink, South Cape, Tshwane South, SW Gauteng and Vuselela. 

Generally, a person must have graduated from a licensed barber school and be at least 16 years old. Applicants are also required to pass a physical examination.

Applicants for a license are usually required to pass a written test and demonstrate an ability to perform basic barbering services.

A full-time training course in barbering usually lasts 9 to 24 months. A learnership programme can last from 1 to 3 years.

Formal training programmes include classroom study, demonstrations, and practical work. Students study the basic services - cutting hair, shaving customers, providing facial massages, and giving hair and scalp treatments - and, under supervision, practise on customers in school “clinics.”

Most schools also teach unisex hairstyling and chemical styling. Students attend lectures on the use and care of instruments, sanitation and hygiene, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and the recognition of simple skin ailments. Instruction also is provided in communication, sales and general business practices.

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a barbering shop, for example, as a shampooer
  • make an appointment to speak to a barber about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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