Do Barbers Really Need a License?


“These barriers [licensing] make it harder for people—particularly minorities and those of lesser means and with less education—to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs.
“If lawmakers … want to help more Americans find jobs, they should start by reducing or removing burdens that do little more than protect some people from competition by keeping others out of work.”
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Union Leader likes my bill HB1431 about barbers’ licenses

(Licensing barbers: Just a snip off the top

What is the point of licensing barbers?

That is not an absurd question when one has a look at the State of New Hampshire’s barber license requirements. The state requires that barbers take 800 hours of classroom instruction or 1,600 hours of apprenticeship for at least 12 months and pass an exam. Once those hurdles are leapt, a barber must practice for a year before being legally allowed to open his or her own shop.

Supposedly, the point of licensing barbers is to protect the public health. There is merit to the claim. Sanitation is as much a concern as competent techniques. It does not follow, however, that the state’s current requirements are essential to protect the public health. Might someone learn to be a safe and competent barber through a shorter apprenticeship combined with self-study? Of course.

And it is hard to see how the public is made safer by requiring a licensed barber to work for someone else for a year before opening his or her own shop.

Earlier in this legislative session, the House caused quite a bit of outcry among barbers and cosmetologists with a proposal that would have abolished state licensing for those occupations. It did not pass.

Instead, the House approved an amended version of House Bill 1431. It would maintain the state licensing of barbers, but allow people to learn by alternative methods. Anyone who can demonstrate competency by passing the state exam after undergoing the current requirements or “equivalent training and experience” could obtain a license. And any licensed barber could open his or her own shop immediately. It also would allow people to cut hair for money in their own homes without performing extensive and unnecessary renovations.

The bill is not perfect. It would allow a license to those “demonstrating the minimum skills needed to perform the art of barbering.” It might be better to read “the minimum skills and knowledge needed to perform the art of barbering,” although “skills” is open to interpretation and could include basic safety and sanitation requirements.

On the whole, this bill would maintain public health protections while reducing barriers to entry, which makes it worthy of passage.