Hairstylists and Barbers - What They Do

Hairstylists and barbers cut and style hair and perform related services. They are employed in hairstyling or hairdressing salons, barber shops, vocational schools, health care establishments and theatre, film and television establishments.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:


  • Suggest hairstyle compatible with client's physical features or determine style from client's instructions and preferences
  • Cut, trim, taper, curl, wave, perm and style hair
  • Apply bleach, tints, dyes or rinses to colour, frost or streak hair
  • Analyze hair and scalp condition and provide basic treatment or advice on beauty care treatments for scalp and hair
  • Clean and style wigs and hair pieces
  • Apply hair extensions
  • May shampoo and rinse hair
  • May perform receptionist duties and order supplies
  • May train or supervise other hairstylists, hairstylist apprentices and helpers.


  • Cut and trim hair according to client's instructions or preferences
  • Shave and trim beards and moustaches
  • May shampoo hair and provide other hair treatment, such as waving, straightening and tinting and may also provide scalp conditioning massages
  • May book appointments and order supplies
  • May train and supervise other barbers and barber apprentices.

Job titles

  • barber apprentice
  • hairdresser apprentice
  • hairstylist apprentice
  • barber
  • hair colour technician
  • hairdresser
  • hairstylist
  • wig stylist
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:


  • Some secondary school education is required.
  • Completion of a two- or three-year hairstyling apprenticeship program or completion of a college or other program in hairstyling combined with on-the-job training is usually required.
  • Several years of experience may replace formal education and training.
  • Employers may require applicants to provide a hairstyling demonstration before being hired.
  • Trade certification for hairstylists is compulsory in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified hairstylists upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.


  • Some secondary school education is required.
  • Completion of a two-year apprenticeship or other barber program is usually required.
  • On-the-job training may be substituted for formal education.
  • Trade certification for barbers is available, but voluntary, in British Columbia and the Yukon.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to barbers, as qualified hairstylists, upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read emails and text messages from clients and coworkers. For example, a client may send a text message saying they will be late for an appointment. (1)
  • Read instructions, precautions and other short text entries on labels, product inserts, clients' history cards and forms such as supplier invoices. For example, they read instructions on product inserts to ensure they are following correct colour application procedures. They read instructions on labels for maintaining, sanitizing and disinfecting equipment. (2)
  • Read short memos, notices and bulletins to learn of upcoming events and changes to workplace practices. For example, hairstylists working in large salons may read notices outlining changes to prices, hours of work and housekeeping procedures. (2)
  • Read information about products in catalogues and brochures, both paper-based and online. For example, hairstylists read about the benefits of using organic products, and changes to hair colour products. They compare and evaluate descriptions of products to determine which products to carry in the salon or to achieve a specific result. (3)
  • May read manuals to learn about policies and procedures. For example, hairstylists working in retail chains read policy manuals that describe dress codes, hours of work, workplace safety and hygiene. (3)
  • Read training and course materials, and articles in trade magazines, both paper-based and online, to stay informed about industry trends and developments, to learn new techniques in hairstyling, cutting and colouring, or for information about running a small business. (3)
  • May read regulations, chair rental contracts and agreements outlining salaries and commissions. For example, hairstylists renting chairs from salon owners read contracts with clauses outlining fees charged to hairstylists to cover costs such as the use of furniture, utilities, capes, towels and shampoos. Self-employed hairstylists working out of private residences may read city bylaws to determine licensing requirements and allowable business practices. (4)

Document use

  • Locate information on labels on product packaging to learn about ingredients, storage techniques and safety hazards. (1)
  • Complete and read a variety of forms, both paper and software based. For example, they record appointments in daily schedules, enter operating data such as number of clients served, and complete inventory forms. (1)
  • May sketch hairstyles and the facial features of clients to help them visualize how various hairstyles would suit their bone structure and looks. (1)
  • Follow procedures using diagrams and photos to illustrate new styling, cutting and colouring techniques, for example, how to section and cut hair, or where and how to place foils. (2)
  • Review specifications on colour charts and tables to locate product names, identification numbers, processing times and mixing ratios for peroxides and colouring agents. (3)
  • Enter information into tables and forms in software programs developed specifically for the industry for organizing client appointments and schedules, client management, inventory and sales control, marketing and accounting. (3)
  • Enter information into spreadsheets and accounting software such as QuickBooks for sales transactions, daily/monthly/yearly sales and inventory.(3)


  • Write short reminder notes and comments on client history cards, for example, to record products used or problems with hair colouring results. (1), (daily)
  • Write short notes to coworkers or salon owner about supplies needed. (1)
  • Write texts and emails to clients and coworkers. For example, hairstylists may text clients to change an appointment or to ask why they are late. (1)
  • May write text for company or personal website and blog to advertise services or inform clients about special promotions and upcoming events. (2)
  • Write questions and responses on blogs and forums to exchange ideas about fashion trends. (2)
  • May write emails to suppliers and manufacturers expressing opinions about specific products and services. (2)


Money Math

  • May make payments for supplies such as shampoos and conditioners using purchase orders, cash, debit, and credit cards. (1)
  • May prepare bills and collect cash, debit and credit card payments for hairstyling and related services. They charge set rates for the services performed and add applicable taxes such as the goods and services tax. (2)
  • Calculate pricing of products using the cost price plus a percentage mark up, for example, 40%.(2)

Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting

  • Determine prices of services based on factors such as length of hair and amount of materials needed. For example, long hair takes significantly more colour, time and other materials.(2)
  • Schedule appointments of varying lengths to accommodate clients and minimize slack time. They choose dates, times and intervals between appointments to ensure sufficient amounts of time are available to complete scheduled services and minimize down time and client wait times. (2)
  • Reconcile payments and commissions received from salon owners to their financial records. (2)
  • May reconcile cash floats and prepare financial summaries. They separate, count and record cash and credit receipts. They calculate totals for deposit slips and closeout books. (2)

Measurement and Calculation

  • Measure amounts of fluids such as colouring solutions, peroxides and disinfectants using graduated beakers and tubes. (1), (daily)

Data Analysis

  • Compare measurements of time, temperature and fluid volume to specifications outlined in product information sheets and colour charts so that they can control the outcomes of hair colouring treatments. (1)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate lengths of hair being cut. They eyeball lengths and use their fingers, combs and clipper guards as approximate guides. (1)
  • Estimate the requirements for supplies, such as shampoo, conditioners and hair colouring products based on current inventory levels and the number of clients they expect to serve. (2)
  • Estimate the amount of time it will take to complete appointments. They consider the services being delivered, the condition of hair, times specified on product information sheets and the amount of time previously needed for similar tasks. (2)

Oral communication

  • Greet clients in person, listen to voice mail messages and respond to questions over the telephone. They use the telephone to provide clients with pricing details, hours of operation and availability of appointments. (1)
  • Talk with clients about a wide variety of topics including lifestyle, hair style preferences, application techniques, new products and fashion trends. For example, they discuss the hair style choices best suited to clients' facial features and life style preferences and promote advertised specials. They provide clients with information about the safe use of tools such as irons and blow dryers and exchange incidental information such as the names and ages of children to establish relationships. (2)
  • Exchange information with helpers, co-workers, and supervisors. They may speak with other hairstylists during in-house training sessions to learn how to achieve desired hair colours and styles. They may speak with supervisors about shift schedules, hours of work, product sales and changes to policies and procedures. (2)
  • Discuss and compare new products and product lines with suppliers to make choices about products to carry in salon and to use on clients. (2)
  • Mentor and train apprentices. They instruct apprentices how to wash and condition hair; mix colouring agents, peroxides and other materials; how to use equipment such as hair straighteners, blow dryers and different types of scissors and brushes; and how to interact with clients in different situations. (3)
  • Talk with distressed and unsatisfied clients to provide reassurances and resolve conflicts. For example, they may reassure and calm distressed clients with badly damaged hair by explaining hair restoration techniques. They may negotiate agreements and resolve misunderstandings with clients who are unsatisfied with their hairstyles. (3), (daily)


Problem Solving

  • Fall behind schedules because of delays created by late and double-booked clients. They apologize to clients inconvenienced by delays and request help from co-workers to get back on schedule. (1)
  • Discover that clients have contagious skin and hair conditions. They speak with clients to determine the seriousness of their conditions and may ask them to leave to avoid infecting others. They then sanitize and disinfect equipment and tools that may have been contaminated. (2)
  • Discover that clients are dissatisfied with the services they have received. They talk to clients to determine the source of the dissatisfaction. They may re-cut, re-colour and restyle hair as requested. (2)
  • Find that chemical treatments result in unexpected hair colours. After consoling the clients, they use peroxides to remove the unwanted colour and then apply colouring agents and special conditioners to obtain the desired colours and minimize hair damage. They offer the client price discounts or free products and note the incidents in clients' history cards. (2)

Decision Making

  • Select tools and products to create specific hairstyles. They select from a variety of tools such as electric clippers, rollers and styling irons and from products such as colouring agents, peroxides, shampoos and conditioners to create various hairstyles. (1)
  • Decide how to mix colour based on skin tone, hair colour and hair texture. (2)
  • Decide how to modify hairstyles to meet a client's needs and expectations. They consider client preferences and lifestyle, and how hairstyles can be modified to complement facial features and skin tones. (2)
  • Choose methods to repair and colour chemically damaged hair. They consider clients' hairstyles, colour preferences and hair conditions when choosing products that would be most restorative. (2)
  • Decide which products and product lines to carry based on personal and client preferences as well as knowledge of and experience with the product. (3)
  • May set fees for services such as colouring, perms, cuts and styling. They consider the fees charged by competing hairstylists and factors such as the locations of their salons, the sizes of their existing client bases and numbers of walk-in clients they get. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • Judge the performance of hair care products such as colouring agents, shampoos and conditioners by considering the effects these products have on clients' hair. (1)
  • Evaluate the condition of hair and scalps to determine treatment and hairstyle options. They evaluate the health and condition of hair by observing features such as the hair porosity, elasticity, density and texture. They assess the condition of scalps by noting cuts, abrasions and signs of psoriasis and head lice. (2)
  • Judge the suitability of client hairstyle choices. They consider bone structures, facial shapes, hair growth patterns, ear and nose sizes, skin tones and eye colours. (2)
  • May assess the competence and attitudes of helpers and apprentices. They observe the workers' technical skills, efficiency and attitudes when interacting with co-workers and clients. (2)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

  • Hairstylists organize their daily activities to accommodate scheduled and walk-in clients. Hairstylists and barbers working in larger salons and retail chains do not normally schedule their own appointments. They accept clients without appointments as time permits. Self-employed stylists organize their own schedules and appointments.
  • Hairstylists who own their own salons plan and organize schedules for other hairstylists. They organize, direct, assign tasks and evaluate apprentices and helpers. They make decisions about marketing and networking to increase their client base.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember schedules for a couple of days at a time.
  • Remember colouring agent product codes, application times, mix proportions, and ingredients.
  • Remember clients' names, their colour and style preferences and incidental information such as their hobbies and the names and ages of their children.
  • Techniques for doing things such as a new way of French braiding hair.

Finding Information

  • Locate specifications such as application times, colour codes, grey coverage and ingredients by scanning product labels, packaging and information posted at manufacturers' web sites and by talking with suppliers and other hairstylists and barbers. (2)
  • Find information about fashion and fashion trends in magazines and on websites and by talking with suppliers and other hairstylists. (2)
  • Locate information about clients, such as their hairstyle and colour preferences and the names and ages of children by asking them questions and reviewing client history cards. (2)

Digital technology

  • Use text messaging software to confirm appointments with clients. (1)
  • Use calculators and mobile apps to complete numeracy-related tasks such as calculating the cost of a service including sales tax. (1)
  • Operate point-of-sale equipment, such as electronic cash registers, bar scanners, scales and touch screens. (2)
  • Use communications software to send and receive email confirming appointment times and to advertise specials or upcoming events. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers to locate information on new products by accessing websites operated by suppliers and product manufacturers, to research fashion trends and products, and to access forums and blogs. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access training courses, seminars and Youtube videos. (2)
  • Use digital cameras, smartphones and software applications to take and upload digital photographs. (2)
  • May use databases. For example, they may use salon- management software to input client and product data, such as inventory quantities, appointment times and client histories. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software. For example, self-employed hairstylists may use salon- management software to input and track sales and commissions, and to produce and print reports such as payment method summaries, product sales summaries and income and expenses statements. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Hairstylists and barbers work independently to carry out their tasks. In larger salons, they may work with receptionists and helpers who provide support within established work routines. They may have to coordinate the use of equipment and work space.

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is very important to hairstylists and barbers because they need to be familiar with changing hairstyles and new products such as organic shampoos, conditioners and colouring agents. They learn about style trends by reading both paper-based and online fashion and trade magazines and noting the hairstyles worn by style leaders such as celebrities. They also learn by talking with co-workers and colleagues and by participating in training offered by major product suppliers. Hairstylists working in larger salons and shops may receive regularly-scheduled in-house training.