Hair braiding is a fairly new area of cosmetology, as far as licensure and recognition by State Boards. That’s why we encourage anyone thinking about becoming a hair braider to read these quick Q&A’s about this area of beauty. Here, you can learn what hair braiders do, and what considerations you should make before enrolling in a program. You can also review our info about state license requirements, since those can vary widely across states. Of course, don’t leave before you read about career options, salary, and future demand for hair braiders.
The world of beauty and cosmetology is growing and changing rapidly, leading to the development of specialty careers like hair braiding. Hair braiding involves intricately twisting, pulling, shaping, and braiding hair, and it is particularly popular amongst African-Americans and African immigrants. A hair braider is a beauty professional that specializes in the art of twisting, braiding, and tying many small braids all over the head.
Originally, the majority of hair braiders in the United States were African immigrants or African-Americans who learned the craft from family members. In fact, prior to it being part of cosmetology school, hair braiding was taught and passed down within families. A major part of working in this field is staying on top of the various styles and trends of African hair braiding. While some customers choose to have their hair braided in straight rows that hang down, an increasing amount of customers want their braids to reflect their sense of style.
Some states also include the "loctician" job title in a hair braider's job description, which includes dreadlock care, maintenance and styling. This is a natural complement to the hair braiding profession, and many clients even employ both hair braiding and dreadlocks in their hairstyles. Locticians learn how to properly shampoo and prep the scalp and hair, do palm rolling techniques, apply color, set rods, rollers and pipes, and do advanced styles such as fishtails and up-dos.
Braids may be twisted into elaborate designs, curled styles, include beads, be twisted into ponytails, and feature a number of other designs. In some cases, the client has a specific idea of how they want their braids to look. In other cases, you can use your creativity to come up with a design. Hair braiders may own their own businesses or work as a specialist within a larger beauty salon. Depending on the state in which you work, you may or may not have to be licensed to work in this field.
Have you ever wondered about the world of hair braiding and how you can get started in this career? Lots of prospective students are interested in this quickly-growing field, and you can learn all about it below. If the idea of working as a professional hair braider appeals to you, enter your zip code in the search box to your right and choose "Hair Braiding" as your program to find schools that can help you reach your dream. Our Beauty Schools Directory contains information for all of the best beauty schools in your area.
The fact that hair braiding has just recently come into the spotlight has created a big controversy over licensing. While some states specifically address hair braiding — for example, Texas has a license that requires 35 hours of education—others do not address it at all, and some lump it into a cosmetology license.
Eleven states, including Arizona, California, Kansas, and Mississippi, specifically exclude hair braiders from licensing rules. Seven states, including Colorado, Iowa, and Oregon, require hair braiders to obtain a cosmetology license, which requires roughly 1,000 hours of education. There are 22 states that do not have specific laws on the book about hair braiding, and ten that have specialty licenses for hair braiders.
These numbers may change as more states address the issue of licensure. Before you work or advertise your services as a hair braider, we highly recommend checking with your state's board of cosmetology to learn about the laws and requirements in your state.
You need to be able to work with the unique hair texture of African-Americans, as they make up the majority of clients. During the course of your training, you should try to get experience with as many different hair lengths and textures as possible. It is also important to have strong fine motor skills, as hair braiding is intricate work that requires fast, careful handwork. Since it can take several hours to do new braids for an entire head of hair, you should be able to stand for extended periods of time. A good hair braider should also be skilled at communicating with clients to understand what they want. Depending on each customer's wishes, a braider may need to do different-sized braids and different designs.
The route that you take to become a hair braider depends on your state's requirements. In states that do not require licensure, you can likely learn hair the skill from an experienced braider and begin working when you are skilled enough to take on customers.
However, many hair braiders prefer to go to a cosmetology school that specializes in braiding. This makes it easier to find a job, and many customers prefer going to a hair braider that has special training. If you live and work in a state that requires licensure, you may have to get your license from the appropriate licensing board before you can work and advertise your services as a hair braider.
Some states have specific requirements before you can begin to work. For instance, Minnesota requires braiders to take a 30-hour sanitation course, fill out an application, and pay an annual $20 fee. Colorado is one of the few states that require braiders to complete a cosmetology program, where braiders learn all about cosmetology in addition to the practice of hair braiding. Oklahoma requires applicants to complete 600 hours of study, pass an exam, and renew their license every year with a $25.00 fee.
The education required varies widely between states, as you can see. Minnesota represents the end of the spectrum that requires little in the way of education, while Colorado represents the more restrictive end of the spectrum in requiring potential braiders to learn about all facets of cosmetology.
It all starts with taking classes at a school approved to teach hair braiding. Does this career path sound like a good fit for you? Click the "Find Schools" button below to get started.
As this field is growing quickly, hair braiders have many choices of where they want to work after graduating from an accredited school. In the past, many beauty salons did not offer braiding services. As a result, many chose to open their own business, a path that some still choose to take.
You can work in a rented chair or space, or open your own specialty salon. However, more and more beauty salons are hiring hair braiders to meet the growing needs of customers. As a licensed beauty professional, you may be able to apply for hair braiding jobs at salons.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) reports that the states with the highest employment levels for hairdressers, stylists, and cosmetologists are New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, and California (BLS, 2015). New hair braiders may find lots of job opportunities in these states.
Hair braiding is still a fairly new field, and yet it has experienced tremendous growth since it has become more mainstream. As a result, the future demand for hair braiders is expected to grow. As the United States becomes increasingly more culturally diverse, the need for experienced professionals in this field may continue to increase.
The typical workday for a hair braider is similar to that of a hairstylist, although they typically see fewer clients than a hairstylist. This is due to the amount of time required to braid one person's hair.
At the start of a work day, they check out how many appointments they have, who they are, and when they are coming in. This allows you to set out the proper materials, schedule your breaks, and make sure that your station is set up for the amount of clients you have coming in.
After the salon opens, hair braiders begin seeing their clients. A customer can take from 30 minutes (for touch-ups) to several hours (for new braids for an entire head of hair).
Upon completing a customer's hair, braiders verify the customer's satisfaction, discuss when they should come in next, and give the customer care instructions for their braids. Depending on the hair braider's work location, they may also collect payment.
If you have downtime during your day, you may use that time to look for new customers. This may include advertising on social media, asking customers for referrals, and reaching out to past customers.
At the end of your work day, you clean your station in preparation for the next work day.
As hair braiding is such a new career, there is little available information on the amount of money a hair braider can expect to earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups hair braiders in with hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists, and reports an average salary of $27,940 for professionals in this group. There are parts of the country where beauty professionals can typically expect to earn more money. The average salaries for hair dressers, stylists, and cosmetologists, are highest in Washington D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Virginia and Washington (BLS, 2015).