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How to Become a Tattoo Artist in Massachusetts

Tattoo artists, or body art practitioners, must have more than just good artistic skills. The nature of their art requires that they be knowledgeable in sanitary and safe tool-handling practices, and have an awareness of the human body and how it reacts. For these reasons, tattoo artists in Massachusetts be educated and licensed to practice their craft. Though the state of Massachusetts has established model regulations for body art professionals, it is the responsibility of regional, county and municipal departments of public health to license tattoo artists and determine professional accreditation requirements.

Contact your county or municipal public health department. Massachusetts tattoo artist regulations can differ slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so check with your local public health authority to learn the particular requirements for your city or county.

Complete your education requirements. Though requirements can vary, all licensed tattoo artists in Massachusetts must complete courses in blood-borne pathogens and basic CPR and first aid. You can find these courses at your local American Red Cross or other training providers. These courses generally take no more than one day or a weekend to complete. Many jurisdictions also require that you take a college-level anatomy or physiology course, though many will accept non-college courses that they deem equivalent. Contact your public health provider to find out which training providers offer anatomy courses that are acceptable for certification.

Apply to local tattoo parlors. To be licensed as a tattoo artist, you must be employed by a licensed tattoo or body art establishment and complete a supervised apprenticeship.

Apply for an apprentice license. Many jurisdictions require that you get an apprentice license before beginning your apprenticeship. You must apply to your local public health authority and include documentation proving that you have complete your required education, such as your blood-borne pathogens and CPR courses. Application fees vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Gain experience. In general, you must complete an apprenticeship of at least two years or 2,400 working hours under the supervision of a licensed tattoo artist to qualify for professional licensure.

Apply for a professional license. Once you have completed your mandatory apprenticeship period, you can apply for a professional license. You must apply to your local public health authority and include proof of completion of your required education, as well as documentation proving that you have completed your work experience requirement. Also expect to include information on your employer, an application fee and personal identification, along with passport-style photographs.


Richard Long is an English teacher in Toronto, Canada and has been writing for over five years. He has had work published in "Geist" and "Speak2Me" magazines and is currently completing a certificate in technical communication from George Brown College.