Should you go to tattoo school? 10 Pros and Cons
You want to be a Tattooist but you can’t find an apprenticeship. Should you pay to go to Tattoo School?
Should you go to Tattoo School? Tattoo Schools are a highly controversial topic in the Tattoo Industry. They may teach you the basics but your qualification will not be recognised and may even harm your reputation. Learn about the pros and cons of Tattoo Schools in order to make up your mind.
Whilst a Tattoo School may look like the easy way to enter the industry it is not that straightforward.
Should you go to tattoo school?
There are 20 listed Tattoo Schools in Oregon alone and many more cropping up in other states. Does their proximity to home and easy access [if you have the cash] make them a good idea?
There are extremely strong opinions about Tattoo Schools in the industry.
Most of what you read will be vehemently anti-Tattoo School. Discussion can get so heated and hysterical that it’s hard to find an objective opinion.
If you are trying to make your mind up that doesn’t help.
Eric Perfect speaks for most Tattooists on the issue…
“They’re not changing tattooing for the better—artistically, health-wise, legal wise.”
However. I don’t think the argument is quite so cut and dried. There are some circumstances where Tattoo School could be helpful.
The other side of the coin is put forward by Bill Pogue, founder of The Worlds Only Tattoo School. Shreveport, Louisiana
“Most apprenticeships just don’t work out – unfortunately. That’s why we exist!”
Bill has been teaching Tattooing since 1968 when there were only a handful of Tattooists in the US
So, I’m going to try and lay out a calm list of pros and cons so that you can make your own mind up.
You’re a grown up. Right?
Should you go to Tattoo School? The PROS
1 – It may be the only option
Some states [ie Oregon] insist on a Tattoo School Certification for you to get a tattoo licence. It’s mandatory to get that piece of paper which leaves people with little choice but to enrol. A multitude of Tattoo Schools have sprung up to service this need.
Not everyone can find an apprenticeship either. You may be located somewhere with no Tattoo shops, be unable to move or have some reason that makes finding an apprenticeship tricky.
2 – Damage Limitation
Many people who go to Tattoo School are extremely determined to enter the industry.
If they can’t access information or an apprenticeship they are going to try and teach themselves by trial and error.
This kind of experimentation never ends well and generally results in a whole bunch of godawful tattoos all over friends and family. At it’s worst, it ends in a bunch of godawful communicable diseases all around friends and family.
It’s much better to get some education than try and work it out yourself.
These guys were going to tattoo anyway. Better and less dangerous to do it with a little more knowledge, even if that knowledge is limited.
3 – You will be taught about Blood Borne Pathogens
One thing that Tattoo Schools tend to be big on is the health aspect of Tattooing.
They are regulated by local laws so have to focus hard on this aspect of the job.
If you learn one thing at Tattoo School, it’s going to be a reasonably in-depth approach to cross-contamination and infection issues.
If this stops one person from thinking they can sterilise their tubes in a bit of bleach that’s got to be a good thing.
4 – You do your first Tattoo in a supervised environment
Starting to Tattoo is daunting. You need support and guidance. A Tattoo School can guide you through this and ensure that you aren’t going to cock it up. This can be a good way to build up your confidence if you have been practising on pig or fake skin but haven’t graduated to working with clients yet.
People who go to Tattoo Schools to get a free or cheap tattoo, understand that they are getting student work and are happy with that. It’s a win/win situation.
5 – Networking and support from others at the same stage
You will be learning with a class of other people who are at the same stage of their tattoo journey as you.
This peer support could be helpful for keeping you going as you all progress together after you leave.
Support from others going through the same thing at the same time generally doesn’t happen with an apprenticeship.
Should you go to Tattoo School? The CONS
6 – The Cost
Tattoo School is EXPENSIVE!. You will be shelling out multiple thousands of dollars for a couple of weeks of training that will only move you forward a small way.
They are generally set up as a business that knows that they have an audience desperate to break into Tattooing.
The worst Tattoo Schools are exploitative of this desperation and charge top dollar for substandard and unhelpful courses.
You need to carefully check out the quality of what you would be getting if you were to enrol
|NAME OF TATTOO SCHOOL||COURSE LENGTH||COST|
|The Worlds Only Tattoo School. Louisiana||2 Week Master Plan Tattoo Course – Modular||$7100|
|Garden Of Ink Tattoo School. Oregon|
|Master Tattoo Institute
|160 Hours Online only||$4000|
|Ink Theory – Salem||5 months||$10500|
7 – Some Tattoo Schools are a Pyramid Scheme
Some schools have a business model where you graduate and then work in their chain of shops as an apprentice. This may sound like a great idea and a good way to get experience.
However, working there immediately blacklists you from working in other tattooists in the area because they wouldn’t want to hire someone from the Tattoo School.
This effectively could mean that you are stuck within the ecosystem of the Tattoo School business model work-wise.
You have little protection from exploitative working practices
You can’t work elsewhere so may have to accept your conditions of employment.
Often the only way out is for graduates to open a shop themselves with very little experience, producing poor quality work and over saturating the local market.
8 – Tattoo School Can Damage your reputation
This is the biggest problem with going to Tattoo School. It may damage your reputation before you even begin.
Established Tattooists hate Tattoo Schools so much that admitting that’s where you learnt will have you laughed out of a shop.
Chad Knight says…
”The certificate they are given isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. No legitimate shop will recognize it to give you a job. Quite the opposite actually. It tells a potential employer that this person took a shortcut into the business and questions the integrity of that individual.”
So this is an important thing to think about when making a decision.
9 – Tattoo School Teachers may be of poor quality
The saying goes “Those that can, do. Those that can’t teach”
If someone was a great Tattooist they would earn more money from Tattooing than from teaching. For this reason, many of the Tattooists working in Tattoo Schools are not of the highest quality.
It’s really important to learn from someone who knows what they are doing and can teach you the right way. That way you learn good technique right from the start.
10 – Tattoo Schools Teach Too Quickly
Some tattoo schools offer a couple of weeks of practical Tattooing experience. This is WAY too short a time to learn how to master this difficult and complex craft.
Even a 20-week course is a really short amount of time.
A full-time apprenticeship takes around 2 to 3 years of solid graft so a few weeks at Tattoo School is not going to come anywhere close.
Why are Tattoo Schools bad?
Tattoo Schools are frowned upon in the Tattoo Industry. However, there are pros and cons to attending. Like every industry there are good and bad schools. Some are exploitative. None will furnish you with enough knowledge in the short time available to graduate as a skilled tattooist.
Your next step.
So you can see that there is a wide variety of quality amongst Tattoo Schools.
Some are set up to fleece eager young people wanting to enter the industry. Others may offer more helpful services and a higher quality of course and information.
If this is something you are seriously considering then you need to do a STACK of research before making a decision.
Reach out to former students and find out how they got on after graduating. Don’t just read the testimonials on their glossy websites. Track them down on social media and get in touch with them.
- What did they think of the course?
- Would they do it again?
- Did it help them?
- What are they doing now?
- Really find out before parting with any money.
Is Tattoo School worth it?
Despite the grand promises, you won’t come out of Tattoo School as a ready-to-go Tattooist.
However, it could be the first small step on your journey.You won’t be able to just set up a shop or find a studio position and start working. It’s a lot of money to pay for what you get.
You need to consider this seriously.
You will still have a mountain of learning to do after you graduate.
However, Tattooing is a journey where you never stop learning.
You will still need to find a shop to take you on where you can learn more and develop your skills in an apprenticeship atmosphere. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to just walk in as a fully-fledged Tattooist.
However, the truth is that people who went to Tattoo School probably don’t tell prospective employers where they learnt to Tattoo. I would assume they will be operating under the radar and just getting on with business.
So I’ll leave the last word to Bill Pogue from The Worlds Only Tattoo School
“As far as not being able to be hired on graduation. OH. What a surprise. Many of our grads are in your shops fck heads!!
Good luck with your decision.
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