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Barbering Versus Cosmetology: Which Is Right For You?

If you're interested in a career cutting hair, does that mean you want to study in a cosmetology program or a barbering program? Most people aren't exactly clear on the differences between them. And, adding to the confusion, the definitions sometimes vary from state to state, since licensing is a state matter.

But although it's important for you to check your state's specific description, there are still some general differences between these programs. And if you're thinking about going to college and getting licensed, you need to know whether barber classes or cosmetology school is right for you.

What Type Of Hair Interests You Most?

The curriculum at a barber college generally focuses more on short hair styles and men's hair. This, combined with the fact that barbers can shave clients, means that a barber's clientele are often male; the word barber, in fact, comes from the Latin for "beard."

Working with longer and more traditionally-feminine hairstyles is usually the realm of the cosmetologist. However, with so many women today sporting short haircuts and men interested in more elaborate and fashionable hair, there is room for more variation in both jobs now.

Are You More Interested In Facial Shaving Or Makeup?

This is the biggest difference between what a licensed barber and a licensed cosmetologist is allowed to do, and it may be one reason why more men go to barbers and more women go to cosmetologists (although this is less true today than in the past). Barbers are allowed to do facial shaving; cosmetologists are not. Cosmetologists are usually licensed to do manicures and cosmetic application; barbers are not. However, it's worth checking the specific laws in your state, as they can vary.

What Is The Pay Outlook?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, barbers are paid a little more than cosmetologists, with an average hourly wage of $12.06 as opposed to $10.91. Of course, there's a lot of variation in pay, and competition will be higher for work at higher-paying salons or barber shops; still, working as a barber is likely to lead to a little more money in your paycheck.

Do You Want To Open Your Own Business?

It's certainly possible for both barbers and cosmetologists to open their own shops. However, it's more common for barbering programs at colleges to include business courses in the curriculum. If what interests you most is being your own boss and opening your own business, then barber college might be a better choice for this reason.