Working as a hairstylist

The Red Seal Program (which sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada) provides the following description of what hairstylists do on its website:

  • Hairstylists shampoo, cut, style and chemically treat hair. They may also provide other services such as scalp treatments and hairpiece services. In some jurisdictions, hairstylists may also provide additional services such as basic natural nail services, basic facial care and ear piercing.
  • To be a successful hairstylist, one must incorporate technical and interpersonal skills. Continuous personal and professional development and client retention are crucial for long-term success. Hairstylists may recommend styles based on trends, clients’ physical features and lifestyle. Critical thinking, questioning and listening skills are important to serve their clientele. Depending on the workplace, recommending and selling hair and skin products may be done by the hairstylist.

About 85% of hairstylists and barbers in Canada are women, according to the National Household Survey.

Employers in this sector include hairdressing salons, barber shops, vocational schools, health care establishments and theatre, film and television establishments.

Hairstylists in the GTA can expect to earn wages of between the minimum wage of $14.00 per hour and a high end of $20.00 per hour. In addition, there is an opportunity to earn additional income, in the form of tips from customers.

A Government of Ontario website reports that the average annual income of a hairstylist or barber is $25,060.

For Labour Market Information on “Hairstylist and Barber”, see also page 42 of “Facilitator Guide 2 Becoming a Certified Tradesperson in Ontario” on the COSTI Immigrant Services website, although some of this information may be dated.

The following article, which includes a discussion of job prospects, challenges, why people enter the trade, and some misconceptions, is a worthwhile read for those considering this trade, even though it was published a number of years ago:

Value of English language proficiency

There is no formal English language proficiency requirement to become a licenced hairstylist or barber in Ontario. However, if a newcomer will be serving an English-speaking clientele, he or she would need to have sufficient English in order to understand and communicate with customers.

Regulation and certification in the hairstyling industry

In Ontario, licencing of hairstylists and barbers is compulsory. As explained on the hairstylist page on the Ontario College of Trades website:

  • Hairstylist is a trade regulated by the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. Qualified individuals may obtain a Certificate of Qualification, which confirms its holder has the skills, knowledge and experience that meet industry standards of practice for the trade.
  • In order to complete an apprenticeship training program in the trade, individuals must become members of the Ontario College of Trades (the College), and apprentices must remain active members for the duration of their apprenticeship. Upon completing an apprenticeship, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) will issue an individual a Certificate of Apprenticeship. Upon passing the trade’s certification examination and meeting the College’s registration requirements, the individual may apply to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in the trade. Hairstylist is classified as a compulsory trade, which means that individuals working in the trade are required by law to be members of the College.

The same page goes on to explain:

  • Apprenticeships take two to five years to complete, depending on the trade. Prior education and related work experience are considered when determining the length of the program at registration. Flexible classroom training options are generally available to meet the specific needs of apprentices and their sponsors.

To be certified as a hairstylist in Ontario requires over 3,020 hours of work as an apprenticeship (possible to do in two years), plus 480 hours of in-school training (for a total of 3,500 hours). Beginning some time in 2018, a practical assessment will also be required, in order to be certified, in addition to passing the Certificate of Qualification Exam. The exam is multiple choice and requires 70% as a passing grade. It covers occupational skills, hair and scalp care, cutting, styling, chemical treatment of hair, colour, wigs, hairpieces and extensions, and sales and marketing.

A high school education or equivalent is also required.

To become an apprentice hairstylist requires an agreement with an employer who is willing to train an applicant.

As explained in a Fact Sheet for Internationally Trained Individuals in Skilled Trades, newcomers who have training and experience in hairstyling from prior to arriving in Canada, may apply for a Trade Equivalency Assessment (TEA), in order to proceed directly to taking the qualifying exam, as on-the-job training may be substituted for formal education. Credentials or other evidence of experience are to be submitted with the application. A translator and a dictionary are allowed in the exam, but it would be very beneficial to have a translator who understands the terminology of hairstyling in both languages. For more information, visit the College’s website.

By 2022, the regulation of hairstyling in Ontario may become much less onerous. As of October 21, 2019, responsibility for apprenticeship and skilled trades was transferred to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, although the Ontario College of Trades continues to jointly deliver key services, on at least an interim basis. The Province’s focus may be changing to “portable skill sets”, allowing certification in narrower ranges of skills. As noted in a Globe & Mail article of July 29, 2019, Barbers in regulatory limbo as Ontario plans new trades framework, “many barbers hope that means cutting hair will be separated from chemical-based hair treatments.”

The following stories concern the requirement of hairstylists and barbers to be certified as hairstylists in Ontario:

Training programs for newcomers in the GTA

The Toronto District School Board offers a free Hairstyling Training Pre-Apprenticeship Program, for which a minimum of CLB 7 English is required. The program is designed for those who want to become licensed Hairstylists but have not achieved the required academic requirements (OSSD or equivalent) to register as an apprentice. The program includes 18 weeks of academic upgrading, 14 weeks of thorough hands-on training followed by an 8-week salon field placement. It usually begins in the Spring, to be followed by the full Apprenticeship program that begins in September. The program fills up quickly and therefore, the application should be made as early as possible.

For a list of college and private schools offering courses in hairstyling in Ontario, visit the following post on the Salon Magazine website: Professional Beauty Education & Classes in Canada.

Currently, in the GTA, there are no OSLT or ELT English language or other training programs, related to hairstyling, which are specifically designed for newcomers.

Job market outlook

The Government of Canada Job Market Report Outlook provides the following for hairstylists and barbers in Ontario:

The employment outlook will be fair for Hairstylists and barbers (NOC 6341) in the Toronto region for the 2018-2020 period.

The following factors contributed to this outlook:

Employment growth will lead to a moderate number of new positions. Not many positions will become available due to retirements. High employee turnover in this occupation could lead to additional employment opportunities. Toronto accounts for an above average share of some of the larger hair salons, which will support job prospects in this region.

Approximately 12,670 people work in this occupation in the Toronto region.