Practitioners Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the definition of body art?
According to the Cambridge Public Health Department regulation, “Body art shall mean the practice of physical body adornment, alteration or modification by means including, but not limited to, piercing, tattooing, branding, braiding, beading/implantation or scarification, also known as scarring.”
What are the classes and/or certifications that I need to acquire a license?
The department issues both apprentice and professional licenses for tattoo artists and body piercers.
To qualify for an apprentice license, you must complete the following:
- A college-level anatomy and physiology class (or an equivalent course approved by the Cambridge Public Health Dept.)
- A class on disease transmission and blood-borne pathogens.
- A basic first aid course. You must have proof of current certification.
- A basic CPR course. You must have proof of current certification.
To qualify for a professional license, you must:
- Fulfill the requirements for an apprentice license.
- Complete a two-year apprenticeship program under the supervision of a professional practitioner or demonstrate two years or 2,400 hours of full-time experience as a body art practitioner.
What do I need to submit with my license application?
You must submit the following items with your signed and completed license application:
- Copies of course certificates
- A fee. Payment can be through credit card, money order, or check.
- Two forward-facing, passport-sized photos.
- If you are applying for a professional license, you must also provide documentation that you have two years or 2,400 hours of full-time experience as a body art practitioner.
When does my license expire?
All body art practitioner licenses expire on March 31, regardless of when they were issued. View the online Body Art Practitioner License Renewal Application.
What is an apprenticeship program?
An apprenticeship program lasts either two years or 2,400 hours, whichever comes first. The program ensures that an apprentice has mastered the techniques necessary to practice in a safe and health-conscious manner. There is a list of techniques (outlined in the Tattoo Apprentice Task Sheet and Piercing Apprentice Task Sheet) that an apprentice must master prior to qualifying for a professional license. The Cambridge Public Health Department requires an apprentice to work a set number of hours on certain tasks and complete a set number of procedures before he or she can qualify for professional licensure. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 6.4.
What courses meet the anatomy & physiology requirement for tattoo artists?
The Quincy Public Health Department (617-376-1286) offers a popular approved course. This course covers the basic anatomy of the skin, basic functions of the skin, common skin conditions, and possible post-tattoo complications. The Cambridge Public Health Department will evaluate any course you think satisfies the requirement. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 5.6(a).
What courses meet the anatomy & physiology requirement for piercers?
The Fakir School in San Francisco (650-324-0543) offers an approved course. In addition, the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) offers an approved course at its annual conference. These courses cover the relevant anatomy and physiology for piercers, and common post-piercing complications. A college-level anatomy and physiology would also meet the requirement for piercers. The Cambridge Public Health Department will evaluate any course you think satisfies the requirement. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 5.6(a).
What courses meet the blood-borne pathogen, CPR, and first aid course requirements?
Many organizations offer these courses, including the Red Cross, Life Support Systems, and the America Heart Association. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 5.6(b).
How can I prove that I have two years experience?
The Cambridge Public Health Department accepts copies of licenses from other cities or states as evidence of experience. Other relevant documentation includes:
- Letters from shop owners where you have worked.
Receipts from body art supply purchases.
- Any other documentation you feel may be relevant.
All information must be verifiable.
Note: The health department will not look at an artist’s work as evidence of professional experience. The department’s responsibility is to protect the public and ensure that body artists work in a safe and health-conscious manner. Please do not send in pictures of tattoos or piercings with your application. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 5.6(d).
Can I get a license if I don’t have a body art job in Cambridge?
No, the health department cannot grant you a license if you do not have a local place of employment. The department can issue you a letter stating that you have met all of the requirements of licensure and will be granted a license as soon as you acquire a job at an approved establishment.
What are my hepatitis B vaccination options?
You have a few options regarding Hepatitis B vaccinations. You can provide evidence of having received the series of vaccinations, or you can refuse the vaccination requirement for personal or religious reasons. If you refuse for any reason, it must be in writing. Because the health department would prefer that all local artists complete their series of shots, the department offers hepatitis B shots free of charge to any locally-licensed body art practitioner. Contact Jason Webster at 617-665-3848 to set up an appointment. See Regulation of Body Art, Section 5.4.
What are the age requirements for body art practitioners and for clients?
- Body Art Practitioner: The minimum age for a body art practitioner’s license is 18.
- Tattoo: No person under age 18 can get a tattoo, even with parental consent.
- Body piercing: Age restrictions differ based on the location of the piercing. No person under age 18 can have their genitals or nipples pierced, even with parental consent. Teenagers between ages 14 and 18 can be pierced anywhere except their genitals or nipples, if they have parental consent. The only piercing allowed on a minor client under age 14 is an ear piercing, and this requires parental consent.
Updated: March 8, 2022