Original post date: October 02, 2014
Article by: Dan Davy

Florida protects its hairy public from rogue barbers by requiring prospective barbers to pay fees and complete extensive education requirements and exams before granting permission to legally operate.  These requirements are one part of what makes Florida’s licensing the fourth most burdensome in the country according to a recent study by the Institute for Justice. 

Prospective barbers must pay costs of $250 for the license and exam fees. These fees nearly double the national average of $130 according to the study.

However, Florida barbers’ most burdensome entry requirement is 1,200 hours—roughly 280 days—of training at a licensed barber school. This amounts to over 8 times as much required education as Emergency Medical Technicians.  For reference, the Florida Barber Academy charges $14,550 including all tuition and fees for its certified 1200 hour program and certification. This education requirement, however, is duplicative as all licensees must pass an exam demonstrating complete mastery over the skill set and the profession’s health and safety issues.

These licensing requirements are a significant and burdensome barrier to entry into a low-income occupation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports barbers earn a modest median wage of $10.38 per hour in Florida.

It wasn’t always so difficult to become a barber. Until 1978 and the passage of Florida’s “Barbers’ Act,” the iconic American tradecraft was not subject to licensing requirements in Florida. The Act claimed licensing was “necessary in the interest of public health, safety, and welfare to regulate the practice of barbering in this state.”

Support for licensing was growing in large part because of concerns over the usage of potentially harmful chemicals and the transmission of diseases by barbers untrained in sanitation and cleanliness.  However, Florida’s licensing laws go far beyond health and safety education by requiring nearly 9 months of technical training, largely in styling and technique.

Florida should eliminate its duplicative barber education requirements. To the extent the public interest is served at all by licensing, the state’s interest should be limited to protecting public health and safety. All individuals who demonstrate a mastery over the basic barber skill set on the state-level exam deserve a chance to compete in the marketplace regardless of their completion of costly, redundant training requirements.

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