How to Apply for a Tattoo License – PA

Pennsylvania is one of the states in the US that does not require tattoo artists to obtain a license in order to operate. However, its individual counties and some cities have their own requirements in place to open tattoo shops or tattoo establishments and certification requirements that professional tattoo artists must abide by.

Pennsylvania body art by tattoo artist

In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to get your license and provide some tips on how to make the process easier.

PA Requirements for Tattoo Establishment Owners and Tattoo Artists

The state board of health does not require a certification to apply tattoos. However, many counties require a certification or registration to become a tattoo artist. You will need to check with your local department of health to see if they require tattoo artists to register.

Pennsylvania’s largest county, Philadelphia county, requires tattoo artists to apply for a Certification.

NOTE: The information that follows is for Philadelphia county only:

  • In Philadelphia county, certification costs $40.
  • The certification expires every three years from its issue date. Renewing a certification will require you to pay $40.

The Application

In most Pennsylvania counties and cities, all tattoo professionals must have a valid license in order to operate. The application process for a tattoo license is relatively simple and can usually be completed online.

To get a Philadelphia Apprentice Certificate, you will need to submit the following:

 A copy of your Bloodborne Pathogens training certificate. Training options can be found here, here, and here.

A cashier’s check or money order for $40 made payable to Philadelphia Health Department - EHS

A letter (stating that a licensed tattoo artist is taking you on as an apprentice) signed by both the tattoo artist and you, the apprentice.

Any basic First Aid training certificate

To get a Philadelphia Certificate, you will need to submit the following:

A copy of your Bloodborne Pathogens training certificate.

A cashier’s check or money order for $40

Official documentation showing that you’ve been tattooing full time for at least 3 years with certified body artists (for new Philadelphia artists only).

To get a Philadelphia Apprentice Certificate, you will need to submit the following:
  • A cashier’s check or money order for $40 made payable to Philadelphia Health Department - EHS
  • A letter (stating that a licensed tattoo artist is taking you on as an apprentice) signed by both the tattoo artist and you, the apprentice.

To get a Philadelphia Certificate, you will need to submit the following:

  • A copy of your Bloodborne Pathogens training certificate.
  • A cashier’s check or money order for $40
  • Official documentation showing that you’ve been tattooing full time for at least 3 years with certified body artists (for new Philadelphia artists only).

If you need a replacement certificate, send a cashier’s check or money order for $65 payable to Philadelphia Health Department - EHS, along with a written statement explaining why you need a replacement certificate. Submit this with your application. 

If your county has additional regulations, you can find them here

Generally, once all of these requirements have been met, applicants will be issued a license which must be renewed every two years. By following these simple steps, individuals can ensure that they are operating legally and safely when providing tattoo services in Pennsylvania.

Turn in Your Application

Applications and payment must be submitted by mail. Again, the example below is for tattoo professionals and tattoo shops in the city of Philadelphia, PA only.
Applicants can mail their applications and application fee to the local department of health at:

Philadelphia Department of Public Health – EHS
Environmental Engineering Office
321 University Avenue – 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19104

You will check a box on your application whether you want them to mail the certificate to you or if you want to pick it up in person.

Within 30 days of turning in your complete application, they’ll mail the license to you or tell you to come pick it up.

Things You Should Know:

It is illegal to tattoo a minor without the consent of a parent or legal guardian. If you are found guilty of providing tattoo services to those under the age of 18 years old (without parental permission), you can be jailed for three months, pay a fine of $100, or both.

Tattooing and body piercing pose the risk of serious infection. Therefore, it is important that you take all sanitary measures and meet all the requirements as detailed by the local and Pennsylvania Department of Health to ensure that communicable diseases are prevented (and that your customers are aware of the risk).

Opening a Tattoo Business in Pennsylvania

In addition to ensuring that all tattoo shop professionals have the appropriate licensing and have completed a training program to acquaint them with proper safety standards, all tattoo shops must meet the following requirements to operate the businesses as well.

  • All shops must have required facilities, including adequate ventilation and lighting, hand-washing facilities, and bathrooms 
  • There need to be cabinets for the storage of skin tattooing instruments and other equipment, along with washable floors (because this is a prime environment for bacteria and other disease to proliferate, it is required by law that all facilities meet stricter rules for sanitation than other businesses might)
  • Ceilings and walls of tattoo parlors should be painted with light colors
  • There must be hand brushes, fingernail files, and enough tables to work with in the tattoo shop
  • Tables should be at least 10 feet away from waiting customers
  • Tattoo parlors must be larger than 100 square feet

There are certain health standards and rules that tattoo shops must meet in order to obtain and maintain their licenses as well. Check with your local health officer for more information but in general, all permanent and temporary establishment facilities for tattooing must meet the following requirements :

  • All employees must complete the most comprehensive training programs prior to beginning work
  • Personnel will inspect the shop monthly
  • All employees must have training on blood borne pathogens, skin anatomy, and CPR
  • Shops must meet all other OSHA standards required by law for doing business

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

examples of students own tattoo

Learning the steps you need to take to get licensed is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
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  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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