Certification for Tattoo Artists

Some states require tattoo artists to hold a license.
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Gone are the days when tattoos were only seen on bikers, marines and convicts. Now, you’ll find people in all walks of life – even those holding down white-collar jobs – sporting a little ink. In fact, an estimated 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 40 have body art, a recent Pew Research study showed. With such popularity, a career as a tattoo artist might be a good option. But you may be wondering if there are certifications or licenses needed to go into business.

State Licensing

    Licensing is a growing trend in the tattoo industry. State governing boards are now requiring tattoo artists – or at least the tattoo parlor itself – to hold a license. What it takes to earn this license isn’t the same for everyone. Some states require tattoo artists to enroll in an approved training program, while others ask them to complete an apprenticeship under the supervision of a licensed tattoo artist. In some instances, both requirements must be met. Contact the state government to determine if you must hold a license to practice in your state.

Blood Borne Pathogens

    Along with earning a license, states are asking tattoo artists to become certified in blood borne pathogens. In fact, some states require this certification to apply for a tattoo license. Earning this certification often means taking a blood borne pathogens class, where you’ll learn about HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and tuberculosis, as well as the safety measures necessary to protect you and clients from these pathogens. After completing the class, you can then sit for the exam.

CPR & First Aid

    Another trend in some states is for all licensed tattoo artists to be certified in both CPR and first aid. Classes are available through the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. The average class lasts anywhere from two to five hours. Plus, testing is usually the same day as the class, so you’ll walk away with your certification.


    Even if your state doesn’t currently require licensing or certifications, it might be a good idea to seek them out. There’s a certain amount of credibility that comes with a license. It can demonstrate a mastery of skill to a potential employer or customer, which can do wonders for your tattoo business.

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