Ontario Barber Certificate, Ontario Barber Diploma, Ontario Barber License, Ontario Hairstyling License, How to become Ontario Stylist,

Diploma vs Certificate… What’s the Difference Anyways?

Interested in taking a hairstyling or barbering course and not sure which to choose? 

This article breaks down the difference between common course formats and what to expect.

Here we will explore the difference between

  • Diploma Programs
  • Certificate or Workshops
  • Look & Learn or Showcases

Disclaimer: the following course formats are commonly recognized courses offered throughout the province of Ontario, Canada. Keep in mind that education is mandated at the provincial level and may vary from province to province.

Specifically in Ontario, in order to write your Ontario Hairstyling Licence, you will need 3500 hours signed off by a journeyman of the trade.  However, any hours a student accumulates within a government approved program within a registered Private Career College will count towards those 3500 hours.

Diploma Program 

An Ontario Hairstyling Diploma program is a government approved program that enables you to gain the necessary knowledge, skills and training that will be required for you to write your Hairstyling Licence to become a hairstylist or barber.  It is the first step you should take to start a career in the beauty and hair industry. 

Course Format and Duration:

In Ontario, ministry approved Hairstyling Diploma or Hairstyling and Barbering Diploma programs are a minimum of 1500 hours.  

What to Expect: 

The program’s 1500 hours breaks down into 510 theoretical hours and 990 practical hands-on hours. You’ll likely work on a salon/shop floor working on live client interactions under supervision from your instructors while you continue to master your speed and skills. 

Ideal for: 

An Ontario Hairstyling Diploma program is ideal for students new to the industry who desire to earn their Ontario Hairstyling License and for those who eventually want to open up a salon or barbershop in Ontario. 

You can expect to dedicate at least 10 months studying on a full-time basis or at least 2-3 days a week if the college offers part-time classes. 

Offered through: 

Registered post-secondary institutions commonly referred to as hair colleges, beauty schools or cosmetology schools. To search a database of approved hair schools in Ontario visit Private Career College Search Service 

What students receive after program completion: 

You will graduate with an Ontario Hairstyling Diploma with all your hours counted towards your apprenticeship quota of 3500 hours. The college will prepare you for your ministry examinations for licensure.


Course Format and Duration: 

If offered by a manufacturer or distributor, certificate programs are considered continuing education programs and usually span between 1 day upto 1 week duration. 

If offered by an independent barbershop, salon or college, government mandates that the program needs to be within 40hrs and less than $1000 CAD. 

Courses can be look-and-learn or workshop style or can be a combination of both. 

What to Expect: 

Look and Learn Demo 

The educator will likely work on a manikin or live model guiding you through how the haircut/colour/styling technique is executed and may involve visual media such a head sheets or image projections. 

The audience normally sits in an intimate space around the presenter. Small look and learns can range from under 5 people to larger venues which can hold up to 50-100 people, with the aid of live-video projection and audio-visual equipment. This format is ideal if you are strong visual learner or if you already have experience in the industry and a keen eye to understanding the motions and steps. 

Hands-On Workshop 

The educator will act as your personal coach and guide you step-by-step, often even holding your hand to help you execute various techniques and methodologies. Class sizes are intimate, typically with 12 students or less, allowing the educator to guide your angles, pressure and elevations so that you are executing techniques with accuracy. 

You may work on mankins, models or both in the course format. Ideal for multi-modal learners who prefer to have hands-on tactical experience as well as audio-visual learners. 

Ideal for: 

Advance certificate courses are ideal for hairstylists and barbers who are already practicing hair and wish to upgrade their skills or to gain inspiration on new trends and techniques. 

If you are new to the industry and looking to get your feet wet, some colleges will offer a foundations course to get you familiar in the area of study. It is a great way to gauge your interest before taking the deep dive and enrolling into a full-time diploma program. 

Offered through: 

Independent stylists or barbers (influencers), salons, barbershops, haircare and colour manufactures, beauty product distributors and some hair colleges. 

What I get after I complete the course: 

You will earn a certificate upon completion to add to your portfolio. Certificate programs are considered special interest and therefore do not count towards your Ontario licensing and apprenticeship hours. 

Look & Learn / Showcase 

A hair or barber showcase usually involves a line up of notable artists and influencers in the hair and barber industry doing live demonstrations on models typically in a stage setting. Like this one from Community Barber Showcase.

Course Format and Duration:

Usually 1-day event spanning a few hours. 

What to Expect: 

A high energy show-style setup with audio-visual and staging, usually hosted by an MC introducing the line-up of guest artists. Typically anywhere from 1-5 presenters are presenting at the same time, demonstrating and interacting with the audience with an opportunity for live Q&A.  

Ideal for: 

Established hairstylist or barbers looking to gain inspiration and pick up new trends and techniques from big names at an affordable cost. 

Offered through: 

Private groups, non-profits, manufacturers or distributors. 

What I get after I complete the course: 

Inspiration, networking opportunities, or sometimes an opportunity to purchase tools and hair goods. 

Regardless of the type of course you choose to fit your schedule and learning style, the hair industry is ever-evolving. Trends change every 6-8 months and it is important to keep up to date on the latest trends to stay competitive and relevant. 

Kudos for taking the first step – are you ready to be inspired?

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