What’s the Deal with Tattoo Schools?

It seems like tattoos are now mainstream, with TV reality shows, celebrities sporting ink, and over half the population now having some kind of tattoo. With the increase in popularity, there’s an increase in people who want to become tattoo artists. But how does the average person who enjoys the art become the artist? Well, there are now tattoo schools for those people.

Someone decided that creating tattoo schools would be the best alternative to the traditional apprenticeship that pretty much every tattoo artist goes through. However this has caused a huge uproar in the tattoo community. Most feel that the mentor/mentee relationship is what makes a great tattoo artist. It can take anywhere from three to five years for an apprentice to complete their training, and these tattoo schools are pushing out “tattooers” in as little as two weeks.

The tattoo schools require thousands of dollars in tuition, whereas a traditional apprenticeship requires nothing but your time and energy. You work off your apprenticeship by sweeping, mopping, cleaning, answering phones, all the things that a person needs to learn to work in a shop. The schools are claiming that if you complete their curriculum, you’ll graduate with a certificate stating you are a certified tattooer, and that you will be able to find a job at any shop. If you walked into a shop with that certificate, tell them you graduated from a school, they’ll laugh and kick you out. While this may seem cruel to some, but it shows the employer that this person applying for a job took a shortcut into the industry, and that is a question of integrity. Since these “graduates” can’t find a job at a real tattoo shop, they have to either open their own shop, or work at a shop that the school owns. These graduates are saturating the industry, opening shops and turning out mediocre tattoos at best.

Nick, Modesto Location


Along with the outrageous cost of these schools, most of the teachers have only been tattooing for a few years. Some of them are even students that graduated, and are now teaching. Most tattooers agree that even if the schools had legitimate, well experienced people in charge of educating these students, it still wouldn’t be okay. Not only are they employing under qualified teachers, the “schools” aren’t legitimate. They aren’t zoned as schools, not accredited in any way, and aren’t approved by the board of education. Tattooing may be a trade, but it’s not like going to cosmetology school. If you make a mistake on someone’s hair, it grows back. If you mess up someone’s tattoo, that’s for life.  

When an artist takes on an apprentice, they’re able to figure out of that person is actually committed to the art of tattooing. Not everyone has what it takes to become a tattooer. It takes passion for your craft and dedication. With these new tattoo schools popping up all over, any person can walk in and say “I feel like becoming a tattooer”, try their hand at it, push out second rate tattoos, then decide it’s not for them and walk away. Most tattooers are in it for life, because they enjoy their work and do it for the art, while the people attending the schools do it so they can find jobs and make money. If during an apprenticeship, the mentor feels the mentee isn’t fully committed or taking the trade seriously, they’ll drop the mentee. As long as you pay for your schooling, you can complete some kind of training and start tattooing.

<— Aaron, Elk Grove location

The people who are creating these schools are breaking one of the most sacred acts in the tattoo community. Since we are in what seems like the golden age of tattooing, the industry is trying to protect itself and keep its integrity. The founders behind the schools don’t care about that, they care about making money. If you’re thinking of becoming a tattooer, the best way to go about it is with a traditional apprenticeship. It takes longer, but you’ll be all the better for it. You’ll be respected in the industry, and your fellow artists will know that you didn’t take the easy way out.

Be sure to check out www.notattooschool.com for more information.