Hairdressing qualifications vary among jurisdictions and the types of hair services that the hairdresser wishes to offer. In many places, a person must be licensed by a government agency before he or she can cut, color, or style hair professionally. This licensure process usually requires the aspiring hairdresser to complete an educational program, an apprenticeship, or a combination of the two. Other types of hairdressing qualifications include professional certifications in which a hairdresser demonstrates competence in certain areas of hair care, coloring, or styling and receives recognition from a trade association or industry vendor.
In jurisdictions that license the practice of hairdressing, those who wish to practice the trade may be able to choose from two or more licensing programs. For example, in the United States someone who performs hair care services may hold a cosmetologist’s license, a barber’s license, or even a natural hair braiding license. Each one of these hairdressing qualifications is distinct, with its own licensing criteria and scope of practice.
While the exact requirements and practice limitations vary by the laws in the state where a person chooses to work, in general cosmetologists must complete an educational program that requires at least nine months of full-time study. Cosmetologists are permitted to perform a wide array of beauty services, including cutting, styling, and performing chemical services on the hair, as well as non-hair services such as manicures, facials, and makeup applications. Barbers, on the other hand, typically have a shorter training course and are primarily trained to perform hair care services. Natural hair braiders may have the most limited scope of practice, as they are trained primarily in the art of hair braiding and are thus typically not licensed to cut or color hair.
In addition to educational hairdressing qualifications, some hair care professionals may also complete an apprenticeship. In the United Kingdom, an apprenticeship is a common way of earning hairdressing qualifications that lead to registration as a professional hairdresser. Some jurisdictions in the United States also offer the option of participating in a cosmetology or barbering apprenticeship as an alternative path toward licensure. In addition, new hairdressers may have the option of participating in an apprenticeship after completing their initial training, which can help them to improve their skills and marketability.
Some professional associations for hairdressers, as well as manufacturers of various types of hair care equipment and products, sponsor certification programs. These programs award credentials to hairdressers who have achieved specific skills or proficiency in the use of proprietary equipment and products. While these hairdressing qualifications typically do not affect a hairdresser’s licensing status, a hairdresser can include them on his or her resume or curriculum vitae as professional achievements.