Licensed Tattoo Artist: Job Description And Education Requirements

Most people have tattoos, but very few know how to become a licensed tattoo artist. While there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to learn the trade, most apprenticeships last about one year and require students to complete a specific set of classes.

Upon completing any apprenticeship, you will need to pass an examination administered by your state’s licensing agency before applying for permanent licensure. Lets us show you what is required.

Licensed Tattoo Artist Job Description

A tattoo artist is a person who specializes in the art of designing and applying tattoos. Tattoo artists are responsible for creating clients’ designs and applying pigments and dyes to help create the final product. 

A licensed tattoo artist’s work environment may differ depending on whether they are working independently or with an established studio.

Tattoo artists are responsible for maintaining a safe and clean work environment, including wearing gloves when contact with damaged skin is possible and autoclaving disposable tattoo equipment and tools after each tattoo application.

Tattoo artists also ensure that all work surfaces are properly disinfected to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis, HIV, and other communicable infectious diseases.

Licensed Tattoo Artist Job Description

  • Be trained to perform safe and effective procedures at all times during your appointment
  • Have knowledge of anatomy, skin types, and diseases/injuries
  • Maintain proper hygiene practices such as cleaning after each procedure
  • Perform quality control checks before accepting new clients


  • Tattooing
  • Artistic ability
  • Customer service and communication skills.
  • Tattoo removal


Tattoo artists need to have a wide range of skills to succeed. They may be required to:

  • Create designs that are unique and original
  • Use a variety of tools, such as needles and ink pens
  • Make sure their clients are comfortable throughout the process

Work Environment

Tattoo Shop

This is the most common place for tattoo artists to work, but there are others. You could also work in a hospital, prison, or military setting.

Private Studio

Suppose you want to be your own boss and have ultimate control over what you do daily and control the payroll; this could be an option for you.

Education Requirements

Tattoo artists are licensed by completing a training program and passing an exam that measures their ability to understand and follow formally established health and safety protocols, not their creative ability to design or apply body art. 

State licensing and certification requirements vary. Sometimes, there are no national regulations, and requirements are left to the county or city government. 

Usually, the tattoo must be over 18 years old. Licensed or certified tattoo artists may need to renew their credentials every few years.

Licensing Or Certification Requirements

The licensing standard for tattoo artists may require them to complete an apprenticeship or training under the supervision and guidance of another recognized professional in the field. 

This may take 1-2 years. Some states mandate that apprentices have a special license or permit, usually obtained by filling out an application and paying a fee.

Some applications for licensure or other government credentials may require the submission of a photograph, fingerprints, and personal history to conduct a background check. Proof of training may also be required.

While the government does not monitor the creativity of a licensed tattoo artist, the tattoo parlor clientele certainly considers this aspect critical. 

A licensed tattoo artist is not required to have formal art training or hold a degree in any particular field of art or design; however, mastering the art of drawing and working with inks used for body art is important. 

Mastery of artistic and technical skills ensures that the recipient of the tattoo leaves with an aesthetically pleasing tattoo that has been professionally administered.

Tattoo Artist Salary Information

The average salary for a tattoo artist is $29,000 per year. However, you can increase your earning potential through education and experience.

In 2019, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual median salary of $64,490 for all other artists and related workers not listed individually, including tattoo artists. 

According to the BLS, little or no change in jobs was expected for this group of artists and related workers between 2019 and 2029.

Read Also: Become a Composer: Education and Career Roadmap

How to Become a Licensed Tattoo Artist

Find A Tattoo Apprenticeship

Tattoo apprenticeships are available at many colleges and universities, but you can also find them in high schools or community colleges.

Obtain Licensing

Suppose you desire to become a licensed tattoo artist; you will need to pass one of the following:

  • A state-level exam (for example, if your state requires certification).
  • The National Board of Medical Examiners’ examination (for example, if your state doesn’t require certification).
  • A national board’s examination (for example, if no state requires certification).

Research The Field

Tattooing is a growing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field has risen by 1.8% since 2008. 

The job is competitive and rewarding, but it also requires artistic ability since tattoo artists must be able to draw or paint images on clients’ skin. The legal regulations surrounding tattoos vary from state to state.

However, some states require that any tattoo artist who performs work for someone else must have their own business license and liability insurance policy, which can cost hundreds of dollars per year.

Find A Tattoo Apprenticeship

  • Get a tattoo apprenticeship at a shop.
  • Find a tattoo apprenticeship at a school if you’re interested in doing it as an art major or in another field that requires working with your hands and using them to create something beautiful on someone else’s skin.

Obtain Licensing

To obtain a license, you must be at least 18 years of age and pass a state or national criminal background check. You can apply for an apprentice license in your state or nationwide through the National Tattoo Association (NTA). 

A number of states also require that you have completed an apprenticeship before applying for a full-fledged tattoo artist’s certification.

The cost of getting started varies depending on where you live and which type of licensing agency is responsible for issuing it: some states charge between $50 and $200 per application, while others charge upwards of $500. 

If you plan to work as an independent contractor (as opposed to opening up your own shop), some agencies may offer discounted rates; however, these discounts often come with restrictions as well. 

For example, some agencies won’t accept applications from people living outside their area unless they live within driving distance from one another.


Do You Need A License To Tattoo In Florida?

Persons who practice cosmetic tattooing, permanent makeup, micro-blading, or micro-pigmentation, students/apprentices who tattoo other people as part of their tattoo training, and tattoo artist are licensed outside of Florida.

Do You Need A License To Tattoo In California?

All body art establishments, such as tattoo parlors, piercing shops, permanent makeup businesses, and micro-blading businesses, must have a public health permit.

Do You Need A License To Tattoo In Iowa?

(CPR/AED) training will not be accepted. Participation in employer-employee training will not be accepted. All artists are required to pay a $75.00 annual non-refundable fee.

How Do I Get A Tattoo License In NY?

To get a tattoo license in New York, an individual must successfully complete a three-hour infection control course and an infection control exam administered by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Medical Academy.

Is It Legal To Tattoo At Home In Florida?

Does my tattoo license allow me to tattoo at the customer’s home? No. Conventional tattooing and cosmetic tattooing, including permanent makeup and micro-blading, can only be performed in a licensed tattoo parlor.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Tattoo Artist?

There are no set entry requirements to become a tattoo artist, but there are paths to becoming an accomplished tattoo artist. Many tattoo artists start with an apprenticeship.

Can I Tattoo At Home In California?

It’s illegal to have a tattoo parlor at home and do it yourself without a license,” said Sydney Elliott, media coordinator for the Department of Health. The Department of Health must license tattoo artists and their tattoo businesses.

Can You Do Tattoos At Home?

It is against the law to perform tattoos in unlicensed locations, such as their home. It is also against the law for a licensed tattoo parlor to allow someone who does not have a license to tattoo in that place.

What Is Required To Become A Tattoo Artist In California?

You must be 18 years old. You must complete a Cal/OSHA Compliant Bloodborne Pathogens Training Course (PDF). You must submit an application (fillable PDF form) to Environmental Health.

How Much Is A Tattoo License In Iowa?

The annual assessment and inspection fee for tattoo equipment is $250.00. Operators must obtain a permit for their tattoo facility from the Iowa Department of Public Health.


Becoming a licensed tattoo artist is a great career choice. It’s an exciting field that can provide you with many opportunities to create custom artwork, work with clients and build your business. 

If you would love to become a tattoo artist, then take this information to heart to get what it takes to achieve this status in today’s tattoo world.

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