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Barber Vs. Hairstylist: What Are the Differences?

When it comes to booking a hair appointment, many wonder what the difference is between a barber and a hairstylist. Is there a difference, or are the terms interchangeable?

While both professions specialize in cutting and styling hair, there are differences between a barber and a hairstylist. The two terms exist because the job descriptions differ slightly from each other.

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right professional for your hair needs.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between barbers and hairstylists. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand which professional is right for your next salon appointment.

Key Points

  • Both barbers and hairstylists require accredited cosmetology training and certification from institutions such as NACCAS.
  • Both barbers and hairstylists need licenses to practice in the US legally.
  • Barbers generally specialize in grooming services for men with some exceptions. Hairstylists may serve both male and female clients.
  • The average salary for a barber in the USA ranges between $26,000 and $40,000 per year. A hairstylist’s salary ranges between $23,000 and $24,000 per year.
  • Barbers mainly provide services such as shampooing, conditioning, shaving, trimming, etc. using clippers. Hairstylists mainly provide services such as shampooing, conditioning, styling, trimming, coloring, perming, and sometimes waxing.

Barber vs. Hairstylist: A Comparison Table

EducationAccredited program OR apprenticeshipCosmetology program
SkillsInterpersonal, communication, specialty with short hairstyles and facial hairInterpersonal, communication, schooled in all hairstyles and textures, coloring, perming
ToolsClippers, razor, shaving cream, styling scissorsStyling scissors, blow dryer, chemicals, hair dye, thinning shears, razor
SalaryAverage $33,000/yearAverage $28,000/year
Work EnvironmentSmall, tightknit, busyBusy, long hours
Provided ServicesTrims, cuts, shavesConditioning, dyeing, styling, new haircuts, trimming, waxing
ClienteleMostly men or those who keep their hair shortMostly people with long hair, more women than men, and people who want coloring done.

Who Is a Barber?


Barbers typically work in barber shops, although they can sometimes work in spas or salons. A barber primarily uses electric clippers to provide close-to-the-scalp styles and trims.

A barber also provides shaving services as well as facial hair maintenance like trims, moisturizing, and shaping. Because of these specialties, barbers tend to have more male clients than female, but barbers are not gender-exclusive.

A barber’s services typically only take about half an hour to forty-five minutes, even if a client wants a shampoo, trim, and shave. Speed and precision are the top priorities for barbers, and a great barber can work on all types of hair.

Who Is a Hairstylist?

hair stylists

Typically a hairstylist works in a salon or a spa, which tend to be larger locations than barber shops. This is because the services hairstylists specialize in can take longer than those a barber provides each day.

Because hairstylists have longer time slots for their clients, they are often more expensive. Many people with long hair go to hairstylists over barbers because the services they may want take longer and they may feel more comfortable in a larger space.

Hairstylists are trained to perform some of the same services as barbers: shampooing, conditioning, cutting, trimming, and sometimes even shaving facial hair. However, hairstylists also offer hair bleaching, dyeing, perming, and other chemical treatments.

Major Differences Between Barbers and Hairstylists

Here are some of the primary differences between barbers and hairstylists.


In most of the United States, both barbers and hairstylists need to have completed some form of accredited cosmetology training and earned a certificate from that institution. The National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS) is the most common accreditation association.

A barber would need to complete high school or earn a G.E.D, and then they can find an accredited cosmetology program.

However, barbers can go through either an accredited cosmetology/barbering program or an apprenticeship—both are accepted in most states.


barber vs hairstylist comparison
Barber Vs. Hairstylist

Both barbers and hairstylists require excellent interpersonal and communication skills so their clients feel comfortable and so the professionals can interpret the services the client asks for.

They need to be trained to offer services to people with all types of hair, but barbers mainly perform services on short hair, while hairstylists have clients with more varied hair lengths.


Barbers’ most frequently used tools are clippers and razors, while hairstylists often use styling scissors, blow dryers, and chemical treatments.


The average salary of a barber in the US ranges between $26,000 and $40,000 per year. The average salary for a hairstylist in the US ranges between $23,000 and $24,000 per year.

Provided Services

A hairstylist mainly provides shampooing, conditioning, styling, trimming, coloring, perming, and sometimes waxing. A barber mainly shampoos, conditions, shaves, trims, and uses clippers to create their clients’ desired style.


Both professionals need licenses to legally practice their crafts in the US. Barbers need licensure in their state, which can be achieved by completing an accredited cosmetology or barbering program, a barbering apprenticeship, or sometimes both if the state requires it.

Hairstylists also need a cosmetology license for their state. They need to complete an accredited program and then take a test that involves written, oral, and practical components in order to receive their license.

Work Environment

Differences Between Barbers and Hairstylists

Barbers can work solo in their shop or at a group venue with a few other barbers. Barbers work long hours and see many clients each day. It can be exhausting but rewarding work.

Hairstylists also work long hours but may see fewer clients per day than barbers because the client services at a salon often take more time.


Barber shops are often smaller than most salons and spas, and they are often staples of their community. Clients with shorter hairstyles need to have them maintained more often, so this contributes to the community barbershop being a close-knit and safe place to catch up.

Hair salons can be small and intimate, but more often, there are more stylists and more chairs. There is a sense of community in both environments, and because hairstylists and barbers are usually good at communicating, clients feel relaxed and comfortable in both environments.

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Are Barbers for Men and Hairstylists for Women?

No. However, because most men keep their hair short and trimmed, they typically go to a barbershop over a salon because that best fits their needs. Women can also go to barbers—it depends on which services you’re after.

Hairstylists book men and women. However, most of their clients are women because many women keep their hair long and prefer the salon environment. They can also receive other services at a salon, like conditioning, coloring, and even waxing.

These professionals are for everyone, but the clients line up in such a way that a barber shop meets most men’s hair needs and a salon meets most women’s hair needs.

The idea that barbers are solely for men and hairstylists are solely for women is a common misconception. It’s true that barbers have most male clients, and hairstylists have most female clients.

Now you know the differences between barbers and hairstylists. Although when examined closely, the major differences come from the client’s needs rather than the jobs and training themselves. Barbers and hairstylists are more alike than they are different; it simply depends on what the client needs.